There are undoubtedly many benefits to choosing a study abroad program that is already pre-approved by your school’s study abroad office. Not only will it make a sometimes scary process smoother as you begin a journey whose path has been well-paved by countless ahead of you, but you can be sure your valuable time and money will be well-spent on a quality program that has already been tried, tested, and given the green light by those whose job it is to know about such things!
But, what if your niche interests are not met by the list of pre-approved programs? Or you have found your absolute DREAM program already only to discover it has no pre-existing relationship with your school’s study abroad office?
There is no reason to have to settle for a less-than-invigoratingly-exciting option when it comes to your study abroad experience. You want this experience, and you want credit for it. So if you have found yourself in just such a position, follow this step-by-step guide to get a new program approved by your study abroad office.
Step 1. Do your research
Before embarking on any major undertaking, it is always, always best to fully inform yourself about the situation, options, and what is involved. Depending upon the status of your study abroad prospects, you may fall into this research timeline at any one of the three stages of the process, but be sure you see it all the way through to the end before moving on to step two.
Review available programs.
Before even considering an outsider program as a viable option, make sure there are no existing programs that adequately meet your needs. Don’t settle for stretching only okay options to fit the bare minimum of your standards by any means, but also don’t disregard potential programs without at least giving them a fair chance. If you have allocated sufficient effort into researching the existing programs and they still don’t come within a stone’s throw of your expectations or alternative program-in-mind, you may then move on to phase two of your research.
Having decided you must look outside the pre-approved list, compile a couple of alternative options to compare and contrast. If you are already set on a specific program for one reason or another you may choose to skip this step, but it is still not a bad idea to get a feel for other like programs out there. If you are conversely in the at-a-loss-for-options boat, you may find there are more programs out there to meet your niche needs than first meets the eye (according to the limited list provided by your study abroad office). So before getting stuck on one specific route, make sure you are aware of all your options in order to assuredly choose “the one”.
Research the heck out of said program.
The last and arguably most important step for getting your new program approved is to know it inside and out. Furthermore, read program reviews from recent alum and staff interviews to get the real inside scoop. If you can’t provide an educated argument, and an answer to all the many legitimate questions your study abroad advisor will likely ask, your chances at success will be slim to none.
Step 2. Gauge your audience
The next step in creating a case for your new program involves thinking about who you will be trying to convince. The manner in which you present your program proposal should vary slightly to cater to your audience and what they will find most motivating. Remember, not only do you need sufficient information to be convincing, but utilizing some persuasive speech tactics to your advantage may prove the final straw in turning a shaky maybe into a sure thing.
Pathos: an appeal to emotion.
If your study abroad advisor is more Miss Honey than Trunchbull, then feel free to tug at some heartstrings. Your goal will be to evoke an emotional response, which may include, but is not limited to:
- Happiness - Tease them with how good it will feel to help you achieve your dream
- Pity/Guilt - Show them how distressed you are that they don’t provide a program that meets your needs (without being whiny)
- Empathy - Allow them to feel your passion for the given program
Ethos: an appeal to logic.
For advisors all about the numbers and stats, filling out your argument with facts and figures will go a long way. Make it obvious why this program is clearly the best choice for you. Be sure to toss in accurate, concrete, quantitative examples of why this program is the way to go by including tidbits like:
- How many international students have gone through the program
- How many different schools/countries they have worked with in the past
- Percentages and lists such as success rates, grade averages, number of courses offered, etc.
Logos: an appeal to credibility.
Because your school has no prior experience with the study abroad program in question, your advisor may need some proof of credibility before consenting to entering into a relationship with them. Booster their image by bringing up any applicable endorsements which could include things like:
- Notable program alumni
- Study abroad awards received
- Respected universities they have existing partnerships with
- Verification on GoAbroad and similar International Education online resources
Step 3. Present your case
Now that you have made a confident decision, collected sufficient information, and determined your best plan of attack, it is finally time to start preparing the argument you will present to your study abroad advisor.
Before even stepping foot into your study abroad office, practice what you plan to say. Even if you have all the information you need, if you stand in front of your advisor stuttering through stats and struggling for words the meaning and importance of what you are saying will inevitably be lost, along with your credibility. It is important to not only be able to present your information clearly, but to also anticipate any questions they may ask in order to have answers ready. Practicing ahead of time will allow you to remain confident and collected and will impress your listener and allow them to really focus on the issue at hand.
No matter how lax your school authority figures may seem at times, they are still big wig professionals with wide realms of influence, so they don’t make decision lightly. You are asking for a lot, and you want them to take you seriously. Save your sweats for 7:00 a.m. calculus tomorrow and opt for your stain-free top. The image you portray will go a long way in influencing their perception of your argument for better or worse.
If you follow these three steps in setting yourself up for success and putting your best foot forward, there is nothing left to do but just be yourself and don’t give up easily. This is what you truly want. If your intentions are good, your passion is true, and you lay it all out on the table, there will be no ignoring what you have to say.
Step 4. Follow-through
While it’s “goodonya” that you’ve come this far, make sure that you stick to it til the very end. No matter the next steps presented to you (or lackthereof), here’s our best advice to make your study abroad dreams a reality.
If your proposal is accepted…
Congrats! Now you probably have a laundry list of tasks and paperwork to fill out before you can officially transfer credits or smoothly attend the program. Get ready for a bit more homework than you anticipated - but don’t worry. Delayed gratification is a real and beautiful thing (and we’d venture to guess it’ll all feel worth it when you’re sitting in a beautiful scenic spot on the cusp of adventure with your new besties). Be sure to get clear and straightforward tasks to complete prior to your departure, as handling academic logistics from abroad is no way to spend your free time.
If it’s rejected…
Tough loss. At this stage, you can follow two divergent paths: one, you can defer from your university for a semester or two and register for the program as an independent young adult. Two, you can go back to the drawing board to see if any other programs, though maybe they’re not a 100% perfect fit, might still be just the adventure you need. Weigh the pros and cons (and costs) of your options, consider summer programs as an alternative, or scrap the study abroad plan altogether in lieu of a volunteer or internship program!
When working to get a new program approved by your study abroad office, as with anything, your results will match the effort you put in. So follow these four steps with vigor and you can be sure you are doing everything in your power to secure the study abroad program of your dreams!