First off, deciding to study abroad is a huge deal and can be really overwhelming, but in the most amazing way. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, and it’s not that easy of a process to get started. Making the decision is ultimately up to you, but we are here to help make the decision a little easier!
Step 1: Why do you REALLY want to study abroad?
Is it because it looks good on your resume/CV? Or maybe you’re kind of unsure of what you want to do when you “grow up”? Or is it simply because you want to travel? All of these are valid reason but really take the time to decide YOUR reason.
Step 2: Based upon your reasoning is it financially possible for you to study abroad?
Trust us. Studying abroad was the best thing we’ve done in our lives to date, but it is also the most expensive. It’s an amazing opportunity, and you can learn a lot from it, but realize the financial debt you will be adding to your collection. Sure the program may cost only a semester, but you have to consider food, clothes, means of living, travel, drinking, excursions. In other words, take whatever your school will make you pay to remain a student + your program cost then add about $5,000-$7,000 to it.
Step 3: Where do you want to study abroad?
Common misconception: it is possible to study abroad in another country even if you do not know the language. Will it be easy? Hell no. But it is possible. A few things to consider when trying to decide where to study abroad:
- Location. If you are lucky enough to have a university that has a variety of options for your program then you need to make a pros and cons list of the locations. Consider language, currency type, is it in the city or country, is there public transportation, etc.
- Currency conversion rate. Sounds like a weird thing to consider but when we were studying abroad the conversion rate from dollar to euro wasn’t totally terrible. Whereas the conversion rate of dollar to pound was horrendous. We would have essentially had to bring twice as much money for the same amount.
- Internship? Study Abroad? Why not both? This is something Meghan struggled with after she decided she wanted to study abroad. She was in her last semester of college but she wanted (needed) to study abroad, so when she was looking at programs she made sure to pick one that had internship opportunities. Morgan went through the same program, and had no idea that they offered internships until she had already signed up for arbitrary classes. Again, this also depends on the location that you pick, and the program you’re on. For example if you go to France to study abroad you can take classes with knowing little to no French but it will be extremely difficult to get an internship without being almost fluent in the language.
Step 4: Picking your program.
This is one of the hardest parts. Most universities that offer study abroad have specific programs already set up and ready to go. Typically this includes an outside company who already has everything put together. These could include (but are not limited to) KEI, ASA, IES, ISA, etc. Now we both used KEI because it was the program sponsored by our schools. Here is where it gets a bit funky. You are still enrolled in your home college, and you typically have to pay for a certain amount of credits so you are still considered a student. From that point all the money you pay will be to your program (like KEI). Their tuition is based on many things such as: the host universities tuition, housing, regional director, excursions, etc. Not every program will include all these things. We were lucky and had an amazing regional director Olwyn (who is God’s gift to American study abroad students) who was our point of contact throughout our time in Ireland. If anything went wrong she was there to help. Now I’m going to say this again: not every program has all of this. For some people they go on their own accord and sort everything out themselves, which works out great for some people, but if something goes wrong you’re basically shit out of luck. Don’t be afraid to shop around to different programs. If you want an internship with a specific program ask if they offer, the worst they can do is tell you no.
Step 5: Actually putting in the work to make it happen.
It’s easy to look around on the internet, find things you want to do, and never act upon them. Don’t do that. If studying abroad is something you want to do, do it. If you want a new experience that will enrich your life, do it. You’re scared to live in another country where you don’t know anyone? Do it anyway. You’ll never succeed if you don’t try. We’re not saying it’s easy. The process is time consuming, something almost always goes wrong on the travel to the country, and when you get there you might feel defeated. Do. It. Anyway. Be confident in yourself and your abilities because the time, effort, money, and paperwork you put into it is completely worth the ending.
Now obviously this isn’t every single thing you need to know about studying abroad, but it’s definitely in our top 5 of things we wish we knew. We know it’s a long, daunting process, but we’re here for you! If you have any questions or you just need somewhere to start you can always leave a comment or send us a message. We’d love to hear from you and help you in any way we can!
Until then, all our love, and best travels.
Morgan & Meghan