Ever wonder what’s on the other side of the ocean? College is a time to explore, and it provides students with the opportunity of a lifetime—to go wherever they’d like on the globe. Of course, with a choice like that things may get overwhelming. Once you’ve made the decision to pack your bags and go, choosing a location may take a little more thought. An enormous amount of planning and preparation goes into traveling. It’s easy to overlook the simple things when there’s so much to think about. Studying abroad is an exciting chapter in your life, and it’s important to make the best out it! Here are five things to consider when choosing a study abroad location.
This one may be an obvious one, but a lot of study abroad programs require a certain language course level. This shouldn’t discourage any student as it may mean that the instructors exclusively speak that language. Often when traveling in a tourist area, most locals can speak English. If you’re nervous about the language, opt for countries who speak English or whose languages are closely related to English. Melanie, a senior at Ithaca College, talked about her experience in Australia and shared: “I chose Australia because they speak English and are similar to America in many ways. The culture shock was definitely very minor compared to if I were going to a country with a different first language.” A different culture is always a learning experience. Culture shocks can be seen both negatively and positively; a good tip would be to weigh out your pros and cons with a list.
Slightly less obvious is the location of the study abroad program a student may choose. A person may feel more comfortable being in the center of a country where other cities are easily accessible. Others may want a hearty culture which would more likely be found in the outer regions further from populated cities. If Melanie were to do her trip over again she said she would, “Choose somewhere in England because it is much easier to travel. This is because of how cheap airlines like Ryan Air are and the fact that you don’t have to travel very far to get to another county. In Australia, you have to fly if you want to visit a different country.” While you’re considering locations, think of how heavy your workload may be and if it makes sense to travel a lot or not. Having the option to take the train to other cities is great, but may be overwhelming.
Choosing between the two is tough and is an important step to think of when selecting housing. Home-stays are a great way to immerse yourself in the culture and experience first hand what a family abroad is like, whereas living in an apartment with other students abroad may give you support from others that are going through the same experience. Another important thing to consider is if you have a physical disability that limits your mobility; it is important to consider whether you want to live in a mountainous region compared to a place that’s relatively flat.
Doing research is an absolute must in planning. Staying on top of current events, following the news, and understanding the opinions of the nation’s leaders are all essentials when preparing to study abroad. Certain circumstances may make it hard to travel to that location. Remember, having some street smarts and being vigilant and aware will make any trip abroad much smoother. Always walk with more than one person during late nights and having a buddy when going out during is a good way to be precautious. If you find yourself in an impoverished town, it’s suggested that you hide jewelry during your stay. Being considerate of others and making sure there is easy communication and overall understanding will ease anyone’s trip abroad.
Hannah, a junior at Ithaca College, said, “In regards to safety, my parents were definitely more uncertain on that front than I was. I didn’t want that to prohibit me from having one of the best experiences of my lifetime. London is obviously more of a target than smaller cities, but I feel you can’t let fear stop you from doing what you really want. There were two terrorist attacks in London when I was there, so that made the awful possibility of danger come true. But, the staff of the London center was adamant about checking in on every student and providing us the skills on what to do in those situations.” These programs are made to help you feel welcomed and comfortable wherever you’re traveling. You’ll most likely never be put in a situation alone that you can’t figure out. At times you may feel homesick, but rest assured, there’ll always be someone you can lean on.
It’s surprising how many times currency is overlooked when students are planning a trip abroad. Make sure to check the currency equivalency. This important factor could sway your decision about studying abroad. The Euro is $1.16 in U.S. dollars which makes traveling in Europe a little more expensive compared to China where 1 Yuan is equal to 15 U.S. cents. Financially, this can affect anyone’s trip. Create a budget—following it while abroad is a great way to stay conscious of spending.
From personal experience, weather can make or break anyone’s trip. It never occurred to me to check the weather of my campus. If a do-over was allowed, going to a warm and sunny place doesn’t sound too bad for college. Make sure to do research on any potential trips and don’t believe stereotypes. London is not rainy every single day. Deciding between fall and spring semester is important too. Think about any holidays, events, or festivals that are important in a country and consider the best time to travel.
Affiliated vs. In-school
Affiliated programs are great for students who want a learning experience outside of their school. It can be a great way to meet people not only in the country you may be traveling to but also students from other universities in the United States.
Jaleel chose Amsterdam for a program outside of his college. On choosing an affiliated program, Jaleel said, “IES Abroad is a really nice program that helped us get situated in Amsterdam. They also provide a lot of different trips that we can go on to explore more of The Netherlands. I have a lot of discounted options for trips. [The program] really wanted us to feel comfortable and made sure we had opportunities to get to know other people in the IES program.”
Hannah who went to an in-school program said, “I am a Theatre minor and was able to fulfill the majority of my minor requirements at the London center so that was another huge draw for me.” With that in mind, is it easy for your credits to roll over? Are you on track to graduate on time? Maybe you’d rather want to be on your own and travel on your own terms. Hannah also mentioned, “I took classes with all Ithaca College students, some of whom I knew and some I did not. I definitely wish I got to meet more students outside my school, however, I become friends with Ithaca students who I likely would have never even met on campus and I still keep in touch with all of them. That type of program may not be for everyone because they may want to get out of the Ithaca bubble, but I really loved it and love being able to still share my study abroad experiences today with my friends who I’m back at Ithaca with!”
Studying abroad is a great way to understand different cultures and see exciting new views. Doing plenty of research, watching YouTube videos, and reading articles can give anybody an inside look on traveling. It takes a lot of planning and preparing, but at the end of it, everyone can agree that studying abroad was one of their best decisions. Trying new foods, experiencing different cultures, and seeing new sights await you.
So I bet you’re all wondering, how the heck did Sarah pay 75 bucks for her round trip ticket to Europe?
After constant research, I finally found two study abroad programs I really enjoyed. I compared what was provided in each program, and chose CEA. What finally swayed my chose to CEA was the Grants and Vouchers section on their site. At the time, they partnered with StudentUniverse, to provide promotional vouchers for airfare. I promise it’s legit. Of course, if you’re financial situation isn’t something you need to worry about this might not matter for you.
What I also really enjoy about CEA, is how much information is displayed. When it came down to choosing a location for study abroad I was able to see the classes i’d really be interested in. Which is how I finally chose to go to Paris!
I am beyond excited to see the sights, taste the pastries, and live in another fashion capital.