Are you a prospective or current college student in the US looking to take your education abroad? Here are some study abroad tips that will help you can make the most of your experience!
Studying abroad is one of the most exciting opportunities available to university students today. It’s a fun way to see the world and learn about other countries and cultures in addition to college coursework!
Going abroad may seem daunting – there’s so many different places and programs to choose from, and moving internationally is a big deal for any student. In this study abroad guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know, from how to pick a program to how to move abroad, and how to make the most out of the experience!
Guest Post by Evan Edler
Are you a college student looking to broaden your horizons? Then studying abroad is calling your name! Study abroad is a program where students travel to another country to attend classes, immerse themselves in a new culture, and gain a unique perspective on the world.
Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, providing students with the opportunity to learn about different cultures, gain new language skills, and develop a sense of independence and self-reliance. Not to mention, it looks great on a resume and can be a major boost to your career prospects!
Imagine spending a semester in Paris, strolling along the Seine River, and indulging in delicious French cuisine. Or studying marine biology in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, snorkeling in crystal clear waters and learning about marine life. The possibilities are endless!
Studying abroad can also be an affordable way to see the world. Many programs offer scholarships and financial aid, and some universities have partnerships with schools abroad that allow students to pay their regular tuition fees.
But studying abroad isn’t just about having fun and seeing the sights. It’s also about getting out of your comfort zone. Living in a foreign country can be a humbling experience – requiring a certain level of adaptability and open-mindedness. But with the right mindset, it can also be an incredibly rewarding and transformative experience.
So if you’re a college student looking to broaden your horizons, gain valuable academic experience, and have the adventure of a lifetime, consider studying abroad! Who knows, you might just discover a new passion, make lifelong friends, and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Now, without further ado, here are some study abroad tips you should consider.
The first thing to consider when planning to take your education abroad is how to pick a program. There’s practically countless options, so let’s take a look at some of the best ones.
Many major colleges and universities in the US have their own study abroad offices – some have their own quirky names, like the ‘Office of Global Engagement.” These are the best places to start your search for abroad programs. You should be able to set up an appointment with a study abroad adviser who can show you what options you have. Some programs, such as engineering or pre-medical tracks, may have limited options, so it’s best to ask about your specific major. Your school’s study abroad office will also be able to help you select courses that fill the right requirements, to make the most of your academic time abroad.
A lot of schools actually run their own programs, so you can go abroad entirely with faculty and students from your own university. This makes the whole experience a bit more simple, and ensures you won’t have any trouble with academics. Some colleges have their own campus hubs in other countries – NYU is a great example, with campuses all over the world. Either way, these university-sponsored programs are a great way to go abroad without some of the most complicated logistics! They’ll walk you through every step of the process.
This is an option for schools that may have smaller study abroad offices, or may not run their own programs. In those cases, it’s common for students to join the programs of other universities. Many colleges that run their own programs invite students from other schools to join them. Smaller colleges may send you to bigger schools that they’ve worked with in the past, or you can search online to find programs you can apply to.
Going with another university offers many of the same benefits as going with your own! Once you’re accepted, you’ll be treated like any other student. Your ‘host’ university will help you with every stage of moving abroad, from preparing to studying abroad. This is also a great way to meet professors and students from a new college, and to expand your academic horizons.
If your university or a partner college doesn’t offer study abroad programs that fit your needs, there are a number of third-party companies that offer their own programs. To participate in these, you’ll need to work with both the company you choose and your college to make sure your coursework is properly transferred. Once you decide to go, you’ll join a network of students from various colleges, and make lifelong friends!
These programs that aren’t attached to any specific college can offer a ton of flexibility compared to others! They can be affiliated with any number of schools abroad, and run programs at any time in the year to fit your schedule. Some of the most popular companies that run abroad programs include AIFS Abroad, EF, and Cea Capa. Start by taking a look at their websites to find the option that works best for you!
One big question when it comes to studying abroad tips is WHEN? The most common time for people to go abroad is the second/spring semester of their junior year. By this time you’ll have a strong idea of your living and social situations, as well as the next steps in your academics. Plus, it’ll allow you a bit of release before your senior year! But this is definitely not the only option.
First, depending on your situation, you may be able to go abroad for an entire academic year! That way, you’ll have even more time to live in another country. You can travel more, and settle in for much more than just a few months. This definitely isn’t for everyone though. It’s a big commitment, so students who might get homesick should reconsider. Plus, it can add a lot of cost to the equation – more flights back and forth, more traveling and spending. Studying abroad will definitely teach you the value of budgeting!
There’s always some great options for you too! Some universities run shorter programs during the school year, like during college breaks. These will give you more of a traveling experience than one living abroad, but are a great way to see the world without compromising your academics! Another option is to travel during the summer. This is the best time to take advantage of some of the third-party companies, as summer is their peak season! You won’t have to lose out on any time at your college, and you’ll still get to spend a significant period of time abroad. Plus, rumor is (but you didn’t hear it here) that summer programs tend to be easier!
Once you’ve done a bit of research or talked to your adviser, you should come up with an idea of which programs are a good fit for you. Now the fun begins! With any luck, you’ll have found a good amount of programs. So, where will you go?
This is one of the most important study abroad tips, hands down.
The vast majority of American students choose to study abroad in Europe. Countries like the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy are incredibly popular. Heading across the pond to Europe has pros and cons. On the one hand, you’ll find a welcoming community of other foreign students! You can live out the travel of your dreams, taking advantage of cheap flights (Ryanair is practically made for students) and easy train connections. If you’re going in the spring, Mediterranean countries can prove just as luxurious as they seem.
On the other hand, when you get on a flight from the US to Madrid that’s full of other students just like you, it may feel a bit less like moving abroad. It all depends on how much of an immersive experience you want to have. Another factor to consider is language. London and Dublin are two of the most popular cities because English-speaking countries are much easier to adjust to. But if you’re up for a challenge, going somewhere you don’t know the language can be very exciting!
Heading to Europe and hoping to travel? Start your bucket list now!
This guide on study abroad tips would be incomplete without mentioning these places that are a bit more of a commute.
Southeastern Asia is an amazing place to study, as its low prices are rewarding for students traveling on a budget. China and Japan are also popular, and are sure to immerse you in a foreign culture. Australia and New Zealand are great places to get further from home without sacrificing the comfort of an English-speaking environment.
And if you’re looking for an African adventure, South Africa has tons of options. Finally, you can’t go wrong with countries like Argentina or Chile. South America is a great place to practice the Spanish you’ve probably been taking since middle school!
Let’s make the decision a little bit more simple. If you want to stay close to home, and to avoid a big culture shock, head to Scotland, England, or Ireland. If you want the European dream you’ve seen on social media, try Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Rome, or Milan. For European travel with a more grounded approach, Copenhagen or Stockholm are great bets. If you want to get some real-world practice in your foreign language skills, fly down to Santiago or Buenos Aires. Go to Sydney, Melbourne, or Auckland if you want the most mileage. And to go for a completely new experience, try Shanghai, Tokyo, Bangkok, or Singapore. You’ll also have to consider the best option for cost, in terms of travel to and from and also when you’re on the ground there!
At the end of the day, it’s totally up to you to find the best city for your needs and interests. You really can’t go wrong with these tips for studying abroad.
Fast forward a few months after you’ve committed to a program, and it’s time to head on over to your new home! Book some flights, and get to planning.
The first thing to worry about is your housing. Most programs should give you university housing, but on the off chance that yours doesn’t, your best bet is websites like Facebook. Look for student-leased accommodations. With any luck, students leaving their homes to study abroad will want to sublease it to you! You can also check in with the university you’ll be studying at, and see if they have any recommendations or resources.
Now let’s get into some tips and tricks to make sure you have a smooth landing. Here’s a roundup of insider advice from Americans abroad.
Take a look at your phone plan. Most American networks charge you by the day for international usage, which certainly adds up when you’re staying for a few months. It’s probably worth it to get a local phone plan or SIM card while you’re abroad. You can get a SIM card in airports, supermarkets, convenience stores – practically anywhere! They may have limited time frames though, and so make sure to do a bit of research before (even if you just Google: ‘best phone companies in [country]’). Or look for a pay-as-you-go plan, so you’ll only have to pay for exactly as much as you use. If you’re going to Europe, I’m a huge fan of the Vodafone X student plan. It’ll cost you 20 euros per 28 day cycle, and covers all EU countries without extra charges.
Here’s a key study abroad tip: make sure your bank account is working for you! The first thing you’ll want to make sure is that you’re not paying foreign transaction fees. They add up more than you’d think! Some ways around this are to apply for a credit card with no foreign transaction fees while you’re still at home, or to set up an account at a bank in your study abroad country. You can set up an account with a major bank, and get a debit card you’ll use for practically everything. Transferring money from American accounts to foreign ones can be a bit tricky, so make sure to get started as soon as you land. And if you’re going to stick with an American card, tell them you’re traveling! You don’t want every grocery store trip to get flagged as fraud.
This is some advice for studying abroad that I wish I knew better before I went.
No matter what college or company you study abroad with, they should tell you exactly when and how to get the proper visas for your time abroad. If you’re at all worried about this, don’t hesitate to do some extra research. The process is different for every country, but most have some common requirements. You’ll most likely need documentation proving that you’re a student, a residential address in the country, bank records showing you have enough money to get yourself back home, and possibly a return flight booked already. If in doubt, bring all the paperwork you have!
Bring a small pharmacy with you. If you’re specific about your healthcare needs, make sure to bring it all with you! I also recommend bringing ibuprofen, cold medicine, and anti-nausea meds. It can be difficult to get certain medications abroad, so it’s easier to bring them with you. If you need any prescriptions, bring them in their original containers with the documentation attached.
On a more fun note, here is some more study abroad advice to consider:
I’d suggest bringing a travel guidebook to the city or country you’re heading to! A good plane read or coffee table book, it’ll also be super helpful. If you can’t think of something to do on the weekend, or want to make sure you’re not missing any of the city, just take a read through.
In the same vein, it’s never too early for travel planning! When you’re procrastinating on winter exams before your spring study abroad, spend a little while on Google Flights or Rome2Rio looking at where you can go by plane or train. See what weeks are cheapest, if you have any long weekends, and even write up a list of places you’d like to go. Everybody wants to travel while they’re abroad, but if you land without doing any research it can be a bit overwhelming and you might miss out!
If you’re a type A planner, take to the internet to learn a bit about the area. Look around your residence on Google Maps and see what’s around, and get an idea of what your commute might be. You can also look up the biggest supermarket/coffee/fast food chains in the country. It’ll be like a familiar face when you get there!
Now let’s talk about packing, which covers some of the most underrated tips on studying abroad. First of all, don’t worry too much about what you’re bringing overseas. Always pack less than what you think you might need – you’ll end up getting clothes that fit the weather and style of your new school anyways, so it’s best to have some room in your bag for the way home. As for luggage, your checked luggage doesn’t need to be great. It just needs to get you there and back. Something like this foldable duffel from Amazon will do the trick without taking up too much space.
What you do want to think about is a carry-on bag, which is all you’ll get on budget airlines like Ryanair or Easyjet. Get a sturdy backpack that will survive any number of weekend trips, and won’t be too much of a pain to have in hostels or trains. The old Jansport in your basement will work just fine, but if you want more of an investment try bags by Cotopaxi, Patagonia, or North Face. They’ll be a bit pricier, but will get you through anything and will last years.
So you’ve unpacked, and you’re settled into your new home for the next few months. What do you do with your time?
First, don’t forget that you’re supposed to be studying! It’s a time for you to have fun, go out, travel, and relax… but you still have to go to class and do your assignments! Don’t let yourself get distracted enough to mess up your plans when you get back to your home college. Plus, going to your classes is a great way to meet new people and make friends! You’ll most likely be in classes with foreign and local students alike, so you’ll have plenty of people to talk to.
To be social, the best policy is the yes rule. If someone asks you to do something, say yes! Go to a bar, get coffee, study together, anything! If it doesn’t work out, at least it’ll make a good anecdote. Less than a month into school I went to Prague for a weekend with 6 people I barely knew, and we’re still close friends today. I’m not saying you should go crazy, but the odd night out can’t hurt.
Be a tourist in your new city! One easy way to explore the city you’re living in is to pretend you’re a tourist. Make it a goal to go to a new coffee shop every weekend, or go for a walk in that one park you’ve never gone to. Lots of universities will get you free or discounted admission into museums or attractions, so check out the best attractions around!
Want to get far from home without breaking the budget?
And, of course, travel! It’s much cheaper in most of the world to travel internationally than it is from the US, so take advantage of that! Pretty much every region has their own budget airlines – Ryanair, Easyjet, JetStar, Vueling, etc. Find the cheapest flights for the best places, spend just a bit of time on Hostelworld, and voilà. You’ve planned yourself a trip! In my experience, even going away every other weekend gave me plenty of time away and at home. Find the right balance for you! If you don’t have the option of traveling internationally easily, look up the best day trips in or around your city and try some of them out! If you’re really at a loss, ride public transportation to the end of the line and find something to do. Get creative!
Another way to get started is to see if you can meet up with other friends who might be abroad. Copenhagen and Athens may seem far apart, but hopping a short flight to say, Vienna, is an easy weekend trip to meet in the middle!
If you’re a more ambitious traveler looking for an international experience, look no further. For prospective college students with severe wanderlust, a semester or two abroad won’t cut it. Fret not, I’ve got the solutions for you. Here are more tips for studying abroad that you should know about.
There are a number of American colleges that are known for their extensive study abroad programs. These universities may offer opportunities beyond the common semester in Europe. Northeastern University has its N.U.in program, in which students spend their first semester abroad before coming to campus in Boston. In 2023 the program is running in 11 locations across Europe, but the offerings change year to year. N.U.in students rate the experience highly, and may even have the possibility of studying abroad again.
New York University (NYU) has some of the most innovative global engagement initiatives around. They have campuses in places like Abu Dhabi, Accra, and Florence, and offer loads of combinations of study abroad programs. Students can spend their first year in Florence, London, or Madrid, and it’s common for students to take advantage of more than one program. Many of these programs have their own unique application processes, so these may take a bit of research.
One of the newest and best ways to study abroad is through a dual degree program. These programs are pretty new, and somewhat sparse, but they’re an amazing way to experience education in two different countries!
Columbia University offers Dual BA programs with Sciences Po in France, Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, City University in Hong Kong, and Tel Aviv University in Israel. In all of these programs, students spend their first two years at university abroad, and their second two years in New York City attending Columbia. After four years, graduates receive two Bachelor’s degrees – one from their foreign college, and one from Columbia. I’m a bit biased, as this is my program, but I would highly recommend it.
There are a few other dual degree programs worth looking into in the US. William and Mary college offers one with St. Andrew’s in Scotland. This program is a bit more disjointed, as you alternate countries instead of switching halfway through, but is an amazing option! These programs are becoming more and more popular, and are cropping up all over.
Of course, there is one gold standard of studying abroad – you can go to a foreign university! The most common places for Americans to go are the UK, Ireland, and other English-speaking countries. However, many other universities offer English instruction! Colleges in Amsterdam, Zurich, and other major cities have some courses taught entirely in English, so don’t be scared off by a language barrier.
Applying to foreign universities can be a bit more complicated than the US (you’ll really learn to appreciate the Common App), but it has incredible benefits. In large part, universities abroad are significantly less expensive than American ones. Plus, many offer Bachelor’s degrees for 3 year courses, rather than 4. Attending university abroad can help decrease the amount of student loans you may incur. You’ll also get a life-changing experience, because you’ll be able to travel much more than in just a semester or two, and you’ll really be immersed in another country’s culture. If you’re ready to brave the move abroad, you won’t regret it!
When it comes to applying to universities outside of the US, it can be overwhelming for American students. Most high school guidance offices don’t have a lot of experience with foreign applications, and can’t help. That’s why we’ve laid it out here!
Speaking broadly, foreign colleges don’t take the same ‘holistic’ approach to admissions that the US does. They don’t really need to hear about your extracurricular activities hobbies. Instead, it’s all about academics. This means they’ll want not only SAT or ACT scores, but most likely some SAT or AP subject tests as well. Some schools even have their own entrance exams that you’ll have to sit.
Also unlike the American system, you’ll have to apply into one specific major. Instead of a liberal arts ideal common to the US, you’ll pick one course to go into, and won’t really be able to change it. You also probably won’t have core requirements – so if you’re studying literature, you won’t have to take science or math classes.
Some colleges will have their own applications. Others will use a central application system. To apply to schools in the UK, you’ll apply through a system called UCAS. Rather than the supplemental essays that abound in American applications, you’ll just have to fill out one short essay explaining why you’re interested in the program and why they should admit you. It’s best to be straight to the point, and write simply in these cases – it’s more about content than writing style.
Going to university in a different country is a rewarding experience, and the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s not for the faint of heart, though. You’ll have to be organized to stay on top of the requirements and forms for each school, and you might have to liaise between your college of choice and your current school. It’ll be worth it!
Here are some common questions and answers about how to study abroad in 2023.
So, you’re thinking of studying abroad and wondering how to make the most of your experience? Here are some tips for study abroad that will help you succeed in your international adventure!
First and foremost, be open-minded. You’re going to be in a foreign country with different customs, languages, and ways of life. Embrace the differences and try new things – food, music, sports, language, everything! You’ll learn so much more about the world and yourself by immersing yourself in a new culture.
Next, make an effort to meet new people. Don’t just stick to the people from your home country or the other international students. Make friends with the locals, join clubs, volunteer, and participate in events. You’ll broaden your social circle, learn more about the culture, and create lasting connections.
Be proactive about your studies. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that studying abroad is just a vacation. You’re there to learn and grow academically, too. Attend all your classes, participate in discussions, and ask questions. You’ll get a unique perspective on your field of study, and your international experience will make you stand out to future employers.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun! You’re in a new country, exploring new places, and meeting new people. Take advantage of the opportunity to travel, try new foods, and have fun with your new friends. Study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so make the most of it!
In summary, succeed in study abroad by being open-minded, making friends, being proactive in your studies, and having fun. Bon voyage and have a blast!
Studying abroad can be an amazing experience, but it can also be expensive. The amount of money you should have before studying abroad varies depending on a variety of factors, such as your destination, the length of your stay, and your lifestyle.
As a general rule of thumb, you should have enough money to cover your tuition fees, accommodation, food, transportation, and any additional expenses such as travel, sightseeing, or cultural experiences. You should also have some extra cash saved up for emergencies, unexpected expenses, or any additional costs that may arise.
To get a better idea of how much money you’ll need, do some research and create a budget. Look up the cost of living in your destination, including rent, food, and transportation. Factor in any additional expenses such as flights, visas, and insurance. You can also check with your university or study abroad program to get an estimate of the costs.
It’s also a good idea to apply for scholarships, grants, or financial aid to help cover the costs of studying abroad. Many universities and organizations offer funding opportunities for students who want to study abroad.
Studying abroad can be an incredible experience, but like anything in life, it has its disadvantages. Here are a few potential downsides to studying abroad:
Despite these potential disadvantages, studying abroad can still be an incredible experience that broadens your horizons, develops your independence and self-confidence, and expands your global perspective. The key is to be prepared, flexible, and open-minded. So go forth and embrace the adventure!
Studying abroad for a year is a bucket list idea for many students! It gives you the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a new culture, develop language skills, and gain a deeper understanding of the world.
Studying abroad for a year can also be a great way to build your resume and make yourself stand out to future employers. It shows that you have the adaptability and independence to thrive in a new environment, and that you have a global perspective that can be valuable in today’s interconnected world.
However, studying abroad for a year isn’t for everyone. It can be expensive, and you’ll need to make sure that you have the financial means to cover your tuition, accommodation, living expenses, and travel costs. You’ll also need to be prepared for the challenges of being away from home for an extended period of time, including homesickness and culture shock.
Ultimately, the decision to study abroad for a year depends on your personal goals, preferences, and circumstances. If you’re up for the adventure, have the financial means to support yourself, and are excited about the idea of living in a new country for an extended period of time, then studying abroad for a year can be an amazing experience that you’ll never forget!
As part of these study abroad tips, it’s difficult to come up with the best countries for studying abroad. However, some popular destinations for studying abroad include:
Ultimately, the best country for studying abroad is the one that aligns with your personal interests, goals, and budget. Do your research, talk to your study abroad advisor, and find the destination that’s right for you!
Though studying abroad is incredibly eye-opening, it can also be challenging. Here are a few reasons why studying abroad can be hard:
Despite these challenges, studying abroad can still be an incredibly rewarding and transformative experience. It can broaden your horizons, develop your independence and self-confidence, and give you a global perspective. The key is to be prepared, flexible, and open-minded while following these tips for study abroad.
Did you know that studying abroad is becoming increasingly popular among US students? According to recent statistics, over 300,000 US students studied abroad during the 2018-2019 academic year! That’s a lot of adventurous souls seeking new experiences and broadening their horizons.
Of those 300,000 students, the top destinations were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and Germany. However, students are also exploring more unconventional destinations like Costa Rica, Morocco, and South Africa.
Studying abroad has become so popular that many universities now offer a wide range of programs and options to suit different needs and preferences. Whether you want to study for a semester, a year, or a summer, or whether you want to learn a new language, immerse yourself in a new culture, or gain work experience abroad, there’s a program out there for you.
So, if you’re a US student considering studying abroad, you’re in good company! Join the ranks of adventurous students seeking new experiences and expanding their horizons around the world.
Hopefully by now you’ve been inspired to make the leap and take your university education abroad! This guide covers everything you’ll need to know before you go, and when you land. As a quick recap, here is a study abroad checklist that will help you feel confident with the experience ahead:
Look for universities or study programs that fit your academic and personal goals. Consider factors such as location, language, and cost.
Check if you need a visa or other permits to study in your desired country. Make sure you apply well in advance to avoid any last-minute complications.
Make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your trip and has enough blank pages. If you need to renew your passport, do so well in advance.
Calculate the total cost of your study abroad trip, including tuition fees, accommodation, living expenses, and travel expenses. Create a budget and stick to it.
Look for scholarships and financial aid options that can help reduce your study abroad costs. Start your application process as soon as possible.
Purchase travel insurance that covers you during your study abroad program. Make sure it covers any medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and lost or stolen belongings.
Research your accommodation options, such as dormitories, host families, or apartments. Consider factors such as location, safety, and cost.
Book your flights and other travel arrangements, such as airport transfers, well in advance. Make sure you have all the necessary documents, such as boarding passes and travel insurance.
Learn about the culture and customs of the country you will be visiting. This will help you adjust to your new environment and avoid any cultural misunderstandings.
This is among the best study abroad tips for sure. Pack only what you need, taking into consideration the weather, culture, and customs of your destination. Make sure you have all the necessary documents and travel essentials, such as a power adapter and a universal charger.
Remember to always check with your college for their individual programs and policies first. And then remember to enjoy! Make the most of your time abroad, and you won’t forget it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Evan B. Edler is a full-time student and part-time traveler born in Amsterdam, raised in Boston, and currently living in Dublin. A first-year in university, he explores Europe on the weekends and books flights during class. You can (try to) keep up with his adventures at @evanbedler.