Studying Abroad from an American Institution

University Life

Studying Abroad from an American Institution

Are you in school now and keep hearing the words "Study Abroad" mentioned everywhere? Are you an international student unsure how you should approach 'studying abroad' when you're already participating in some kind of foreign education experience? Here is some information to help anchor you through the process.

What is Study Abroad?

Studying abroad gives students an opportunity to study at a foreign university for a predetermined amount of time (usually for a semester or a quarter of an academic year). The chance to study at a foreign institution allows students to not only learn about different study subjects—many times students pursue studies separate to their major while abroad—but it also gives students the opportunity to learn in a different setting. Many schools recommend this experience as immersing oneself in a new culture and/or a new language can often bring valuable insight.

Studying Abroad from an American Institution

Although for many reading this article the hope is to pursue an education in the United States, it is important to also consider studying abroad while a student in the states. Even though studying abroad in the US may be extremely fruitful, taking one quarter or semester to pursue studies at another foreign country can prove to be even more highly instrumental. The world consists of a very large variety of cultures, languages, and people. Consequently, studying somewhere other than the United States can provide both introspective and experiential insight. For example, one could master a new language, gain new skills, travel throughout the visited country, and establish lasting friendships.

The Process

But, do not be fooled. Depending on your major, experiences, and background, studying abroad may not be a simple process. However, the length of the process should not deter you! It should only make you start earlier. So, what should you know about the process? 

Well, the study abroad application process varies from school to school, but the general timeline and guidelines are the same. 

Most schools will have already established relationships with foreign schools throughout the globe. It will be up to the student to look up these program offerings to see if there are any that cater to educational or perhaps cultural interests. 

For instance, there may be study abroad programs that cater to the science major or programs that cater to one wanting to learn/master a language. Once the application guidelines are met (be sure to read up on the guidelines pertaining to each school and program on the university website), the student can start planning for the trip. Be sure to book the airplane ticket early as the longer you wait, the more expensive the trip will become!

Other Tips

Remember: Since research is mostly in your hands, you have a lot of freedom in choosing where you want to spend some time. But, you also have a lot of freedom to miss information that could be critical to your degree back in the United States. 

It is important to keep a few things in mind while going through this process. The first is regarding academic credit. Though most study abroad programs offered through schools will offer academic credit, there are many times limitations to these credits, so be sure to pay attention to the individual programs credit guidelines. 

In addition, many schools allow students to choose a program of their own to apply to. Although this provides flexibility and perhaps an priceless experience, sometimes programs that are not directly sponsored by a school will provide no academic credit (so plan accordingly). If you want to learn something new or perhaps pursue a minor in a foreign language (like I did), you can use the study abroad process to your advantage. 

Most of the academic requirements for my major consisted of science based courses…I studied abroad in Paris to complete the requirements for my Minor in French, to master the language, and to have one semester where I did not have to take any science courses. Subsequently, this is an alternative benefit/opportunity for those looking to vary their coursework and gain new insight.

For International Students

Now, while the above is pertinent to all, I want to speak briefly to international students. 

For those that are thinking about studying abroad but may be hesitant because they are already “studying abroad” in the United States, don’t be! 

Studying abroad outside of the United States can be a fantastic opportunity. These programs are tailored for foreigners (whether they be from the United States or elsewhere), which makes settling in much easier! In fact, it is often less difficult for international students to study abroad because they will have already gone through the experience when pursuing their studies in the states. Your experience with the process of juggling visas, credits, and currency exchanges puts you ahead of the game. Again, though there may be some challenges, do not be discouraged if this is of interest. Simply start the process earlier by building rapport with your institution's office of study abroad. They'll be able to help you plan early and learn as much as you can now to put into practice later!

Good luck!