Guest post by Anthony Garcia
Study abroad is an experience that can greatly enrich any student’s education. Like any opportunity, however, it is important to make sure that you get the most out of it. If you are traveling solo for research, or in a group of students from your university, it is up to you to make sure your trip is the best it can be. Determining what you want out of your study abroad trip and considering cost and location can help you do just that.
Not only does studying abroad make it significantly easier to learn a foreign language and gain fluency, but travel will immerse students in the culture of their location, broadening their horizons and teaching them in ways that a classroom setting cannot. The benefits of study abroad are long-lasting and widely-recognized. In 2006, the U.S. Senate published a resolution to support study abroad programs in the U.S. educational system, citing the need for a larger population of globally-aware American citizens. Time abroad helps students make connections outside their comfort zone, improving cultural awareness and independence. Practically, students who travel learn the leadership skills vital to success.
So long as the location and program are appropriate to the individual person, study abroad can benefit those who are in college, high school, or even younger. Deciding which study abroad program is right takes some investigation.
First, it’s important to make sure you are working with a reputable company. Those run by colleges and universities are typically a safe bet, while there are many privately-owned companies that specialize in sending students abroad. Another option is to enroll directly in a school overseas, but that takes more research and may not be possible in all locations.
Whatever company or organization you decide to work with, make sure you do the research thoroughly ahead of time. The company should hold up well to scrutiny and be able to answer any and all questions you have. They should be exceptionally knowledgeable about the countries they send students to and should be able to help you apply for a passport and student visas. The company should also direct you to any health precautions you should take before leaving, such as vaccinations and travel insurance.
Once you’ve found a company or program you want to work with, it’s time to decide where you want to go and why. What do you want to study? Art, politics, science, history, languages? Would you be more comfortable in an urban area or can you handle being in the country? How long do you want to be gone? What can you afford to do?
It is also important to consider the history of the place. Cultural and political history can give you a host of possibilities for study, but it may also place some challenges on studying abroad. These challenges can be positive ones, such as language and cultural differences, but learning about those differences will help you be comfortable once you get to your destination. Staying open to learning new aspects of history and global issues will also help you make the best of your trip overseas.
There are many scholarships and grants available to students for studying abroad, but they may not cover everything, including the costs of passports, visas, transportation, and food. If you can afford a set program cost on your own, you need to double-check what it will cover and budget accordingly. Costs will depend on where you go and how long you stay, but talking to other students who have been on the planned trip can help you get an idea of what extra money you might need.
No matter what it might cost you or what hoops you have to jump through, the benefits of studying abroad are well worth it. Both tangible and intangible, these benefits will last students a lifetime. Studying abroad is a truly enriching experience for any student.
About Anthony: Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture. He also writes for Online Graduate Programs.