Have you been dragging your feet on the way to class lately? Do you daydream about rattling off phrases flawlessly in another language, or doing research at a field station deep in the middle of the rainforest? There’s a reason that students who study abroad can’t stop talking about it. Spending time abroad not only fulfills academic goals, but also lets you experience a new culture, language, and environment. Nailing down all the details can seem overwhelming, but lucky for you, GoAbroad is here to help! With a directory of over 30,000 study abroad programs and all sorts of helpful tools, it’s easy to turn your study abroad dreams into reality.
Step 1: Find a Program
With so many options to choose from, this can be the most daunting part of your search. Before you have a mini-breakdown, take a deep breath and remember why you want to study abroad. There’s a perfect program out there waiting for you and tons of resources to help you find it. You can start your search for programs based on destination, field of study, and duration on GoAbroad. If you need us to narrow down your search, get in touch with our Online Advisors for help!
Don't forget to take advantage of all the resources you have. Chat up everyone who will be involved in your experience, from your school’s Study Abroad, Financial Aid, and Registrar’s offices to your friends, parents, and professors. Become best friends with Google, delve into program reviews, peruse study abroad articles, sign up for MyGoAbroad, and read as much as you can about your chosen destination.
Keep in Mind:
- Locations. If there are several places you’re interested in, browse some articles or read our comprehensive guides to studying abroad in specific locations.
- Educational Benefits. Be sure to check in with your school to make sure you receive credit for your efforts overseas!
- Cost. Study abroad program costs vary and often depend on the level of support you receive from the program provider or host university. Be sure to factor in things like housing, excursions, food, and airfare when comparing prices; these may or may not be included in the program fees.
Step 2: Figure Out How to Pay for It
We know what you’re thinking. College is already expensive, so how will you find the extra cash to take classes in another country? It’s true that some study abroad programs are pricier than others, but the good news is that programs exist for every budget.
If you’re not planning to self-fund your trip, be sure to involve your parents early on in the discussion to choose a realistic budget for your program. Remind them of the benefits of study abroad programs and that their investment will last far beyond the semester you’ll be away.
Regardless of who’s footing the bill, below are some tried and true methods for reaching your goals:
- Financial Aid. If you’re currently receiving a grant or scholarship, especially if supplied by the government, chances are it can be used for studying abroad. Contact your financial aid office or scholarship provider.
- Scholarships. There’s free money out there with your name on it, you just have to find it! Check out GoAbroad’s scholarship directory and read some articles on finding and apply for scholarships.
- Loans. Get the scoop on loans for study abroad and start comparing providers.
- Crowdfunding. Many students have realized their study abroad goals by using an online fundraising platform such as FundMyTravel.
- Get a Job. Work now, play later. While it may be tough to hit the books after a long shift on your feet, the extra effort you put in now will all be worth it when you hop on that plane.
Studying abroad does take serious budgeting and planning (welcome to #adulting!), but it’s not as daunting as it first appears. Saving is much easier with a goal in mind, and what better goal than knowing you’ll be wandering foreign streets in less than a year’s time?
Step 3: Prepare For Your Adventure
Once you’ve chosen your program and secured funding, it’s time to start planning your trip. This will probably be fun and stressful at the same time, but don’t worry! Your study abroad provider will be key in helping you through this process. Most programs offer assistance with your application, the visa process (if needed), course registration, housing, airport pickup, international health insurance, and even events and excursions. That said, there are still some things you’ll need to take care of on your own:
- Documents. Ensure you have a valid passport and visa for your destination.
- Health Check. Visit the CDC website to find out if you need any vaccinations or medications.
- Packing. Be sure to consider the weather, culture, and airline luggage restrictions before throwing something in your suitcase.
If you feel like you’re forgetting something, you probably are! But learning to go with the flow and solve problems on the fly is what studying abroad is all about, so think of these preparations as good training for your time abroad.
Step 4: Live Your Best Study Abroad Life
Studying abroad is all about breaking out of your comfort zone and experiencing something new. It’s impossible to predict the unexpected, hilarious, and memorable situations you’ll find yourself in once you’re abroad.
Academics may be the reason you’ve decided to study abroad, but they aren’t the only thing you should focus on. For a well-rounded study abroad experience, it’s important to balance school with the cultural learning that happens outside of the classroom. Go to class, study for tests, and be an engaged student, but don’t neglect what’s going on around you either!
Going abroad can be challenging because you’re dropped into a new environment with new cultural norms, but learning about your surroundings is part of the fun. Do your research in advance to learn about local customs, but then try to make friends with locals who can confirm what you’ve learned.
Make an effort to immerse yourself. Challenge yourself to only speak your new language and then be amazed with how quickly your skills progress. Spend every weekend you can getting out into nature and exploring your surroundings. There’s a reason you saved your pennies and traveled across the planet - don’t waste a single opportunity!
Step 5: Return Home a New Person
You may be thinking, “Why do I have to think about returning home already? I’m still just trying to get there!”, but we firmly believe having the end goal in sight will help your overall study abroad process run smoothly. And while we hate to break it to you, you typically do have to come back home.
Your return home is when the real work begins. With new eyes and new perspectives, you now have the unique task of stepping into your global citizenship and creating impact in your communities. Use your new-found confidence to become a campus leader or join a conversation group to keep up your language fluency. And don’t forget to add your experience abroad to your resume!
Use these end goals to motivate yourself to stay productive, sharp, and intentional during your time abroad. The return can be bittersweet; you will bring many things back home, but also leave much behind. Try to actively connect your study abroad experience with your life back home in creative ways, and then start planning your next trip!