Studying Abroad is an experience most undergraduate students take part in, but is it for everyone? During the pandemic, many young adults have been confined in their homes and away from the outside world, making students want to travel and explore once the pandemic is over. If you’re one of these students exploring the idea of travelling abroad, then it is advised for you to weigh out the pros and cons, figure out what kind of person you are, and what kind of accommodations work best for you.
STUDY ABROAD OPTIONS
There are several study abroad options: the first step is to choose the option that you’re most interested in and is accommodating to your wants and needs and most importantly your schedule at your university/college. Always make sure to check if your credits are transferable and to know exactly the equivalency of an international credit to the domestic one.
You can take a look at your university/college’s website to check what kind of programs they offer. Here are a few that are common at most, if not all, universities and colleges.
If you choose to go through an exchange program, you can enroll directly for a semester or even a whole academic year. Although, the duration of the program depends on your university/college and your program/major. An exchange program allows for more autonomy. The credits you earn go toward your degree, so completing your university degree does not get put on hold.
Exchange programs vary for different universities/colleges, so it is important to always make sure you are eligible by reading through the requirements which is also found on the study abroad page on your university/college website.
Research positions are precarious and competitive. It’s not guaranteed you will get the position, but if you’re passionate about the course you’re studying, then prepare and plan ahead to apply. If you want to go abroad for entertainment and leisure reasons, then obtaining a research position is not recommended. The research usually lasts several months but doesn’t take over a year.
Every university/college offers different research positions, take a look at your universities research opportunities and read the eligibility requirements before applying.
Work and Volunteer Abroad
This experience is the most different compared to the other abroad options, and it is also not prevalent in most universities/colleges. To take this route, training is often, if not always, required beforehand, as well as obtaining a work visa. While you’re abroad, you have the opportunity to experience the work life in a different country and learn from these experiences. This can be helpful to students who want to explore the different career pathways in their program/major. Volunteering is also a great way to expand your resume and gain international experience to make you stand out!
Faculty Led Program
This academic program lasts usually one to eight weeks. This program allows you to travel in a group with other students and one or more professors. Although this program involves less autonomy, it is filled with shared and planned experiences. It’s considered to be a safer option when travelling in a foreign country.
This is a great opportunity to gain work experience internationally as it has many benefits which include gaining foreign language proficiency, discovering new cultural experiences and many more. Like a research position, to become an intern, you must apply and it is not guaranteed you will get a position due it’s competitive level.
THE PROS AND CONS OF STUDYING ABROAD
Now that you’ve chosen your abroad program, consider the following.
Studying abroad has its obvious reasons which include the following;
New experiences outside the country
Immersing yourself with a new culture
Learning a new language
Making new connections and making international friends
Learning in a new environment
However, there are also other advantages that you might not know of.
At most universities, you pay domestic tuition rather than international tuition
You’re more likely to take fun chances abroad than you are back home, so if you’re the kind of person who struggles with taking risks this just might be the opportunity for you!
It changes your mindset without you even realizing! Travelling to a different country whether you’re alone, with a group of students or doing a research study, will have a major impact on your perspective on life.
Gives you room to expand and grow! Studying abroad may cause you to consider different and new aspirations and bring up ideas you would’ve never thought of.
When studying abroad, you can come to many situations that you are not going to be comfortable with. If you do not react well to last minute changes or out-of-plan situations, choosing a faculty-led program can aid in diminishing those kinds of situations, but there are other cons you should consider before making the decision.
Cost - the longer you are there, the more you spend. There are many daily expenses that aren’t covered and you’ll have to pay for yourself like food. To take advantage of the experiences there are in studying abroad, you’ll have to pay for transportation and entertainment and leisure fees. This can add up and make your trip costly, so it is advised to plan ahead and accordingly so you make the most of your time on a budget
Dietary Issues - not all restaurants accommodate for dietary restrictions, so do your research beforehand! If you have dietary issues or are a picky eater, it might be a bit trickier to find foods to your liking. However, it is not impossible and most of the time not too much of a hassle.
Safety - it is common to doubt your safety or even feel uncomfortable or homesick. Allow yourself to visit a few places a week more than once so you adapt to the country and become comfortable. This will give you a sense of safety.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Studying Abroad is not a decision you should make impulsively or in haste. Once you’ve gone through the general pros and cons, it’s time to ask those personal questions that fall under the pros and cons list. Think carefully, plan it out, and discuss with your schools International Learning Coordinator/Ambassador, and family and friends. There are many factors to think of like; the duration, the cost, credentials, and how it affects your overall life.
What do I want from this experience? What are my goals? Does the program I chose allow me to reach these goals?
Do I want to extend my time at my university/college for this experience? Or should I choose a summer program?
What accommodations will I need? If I have a medical issue, I need to make local hospitals aware.
If I cannot pay for my travels, am I eligible for grants?
What support will I receive from the host university?
After going through this decision process, if you choose the study abroad pathway, you are not done. It is now time to plan. Start packing and preparing yourself to dive into this new experience! Travelling in a foreign country can be scary but with academic support, it sure makes life much easier.
"Choosing an International Program." Western International. Web. 09 May 2021.
"Global Education Oregon (GEO)." Types of Study Abroad Programs. Web. 09 May 2021.
McMaster University - Student Success Centre. "Study and Research Abroad." Student Success Centre | McMaster University. Web. 09 May 2021.
Parode, Nancy. "What Are the Pros and Cons of Traveling Abroad?" What Are The Pros and Cons of Travelling Abroad? TripSavvy, 26 June 2019. Web. 09 May 2021.