How to Choose Your Perfect Study Abroad Program

Hannah Middleton

Thinking about studying abroad for a semester? We've got six tips to help you pick the perfect destination. Tuition costs, living expenses, cultural fits, how this experience complements what you're learning back home—these are some of the factors that will play into your decision of picking a location and program.

Woman on Rock Platform Viewing City, Photo Credit: Viktor Hanacek

Decide Which Country Is Right for You

  • Personal Safety. Check! - Tell the ‘rents to relax, because you've done your research and the country you're going to visit halfway around the world meets their standards for your personal safety. Or, at least, that’s what you can say to them after you’ve checked out and confirmed the country is safe for international students on Travel.State.gov. You can also suggest to them to stay connected to you with a Revolar wearable.
  • What’s the Culture Like? - The world overseas is vast and exciting. We know how tough it is to pick just one study abroad destination. To make your decision a little easier, think about the qualities you want in your host country. Do you want to study in a big city or small town? Go somewhere conventional or forge your own path and choose a lesser-known destination? Immerse yourself in a culture that's completely different from your own or pick one that's similar? 
  • Your Language Experience - You'll cross paths with hundreds of people on your journey abroad, and you can't count on all of them to speak your language. Basic fluency in the official language of your host country is nice to have. Master fluency makes for a more immersive experience. 

Add Up the Bill

Scientific Calculator, Photo Credit: Kaboompics

  • Tuition Expenses - Airfare. Books. Classes. Tuition and travel costs can vary greatly between universities. Before you set your heart on a school or program, make sure the tuition is affordable.
  • Costs of Living - In addition to tuition expenses, you should also consider the costs of living in a foreign city. You’ll need to think about room and board if it’s not already included in your program, cell phone bills, meals, transportation, your personal expenses, and the country’s exchange rate and local currency.

Maximize Your Opportunities

  • University Rankings and Subject Strengths - Think of the big picture and how your experience abroad will shape your career later on. Meaning, don’t pick a school or country because it’s where your friends are going. Choose a university that has a strong, reputable program in your field of interest and learn from the best. To see top international schools, check out QS World University Rankings by Subject.
  • Volunteering - Are there opportunities to get involved in the community, say through teaching, coaching or sharing a skill set? Volunteering is always a powerful experience, but when done abroad it's an amazing source of perspective and inspiration. It's another way to become less a traveler and more a part of the community.
  • The Wanderlust Factor - If you like routines and getting to know your neighborhood like the back of your 3-subject notebook, this might not apply. But, if being dropped in a new city with a map and your backpack sounds like pure magic, you may want to factor the ease of traveling from city to city or country to country into your decision.

Resources at Your Fingertips

  • Find Funding - If it’s a little outside of your budget, see if you can apply your financial aid package towards your semester abroad. Or, apply for scholarships that are specific to studying in a foreign country. StudyAbroad.com or NASFA.org are good places to start looking for a little extra funding to back your trip.