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Why study abroad? A quality study abroad experience can be truly life-changing. Taking the time to immerse yourself in a different culture while learning about a subject that interests you can deepen your understanding of both yourself and the world around you. What starts as a few weeks in a city abroad could spark a lifelong love of travel, set you on a new and exciting career path, or enable you to form friendships that will last a lifetime. And there’s no better time to broaden your horizons than during your college years. As a student, you are uniquely well-situated to take in new experiences and learn from them. Now is the perfect time to see more of the world and connect with other young people on their own journeys that may not be so different from yours. Your experiences while studying abroad can help you to gain new perspectives on learning, work, and life in general.
In addition to helping you to grow as an individual, studying abroad can have great benefits for your future academic and professional pursuits. According to a recent study conducted on behalf of the European Commission, 65% of employers see international experience as valuable for recruitment, while over 90% are looking for candidates with transferable skills that are greatly enhanced by studying abroad, including open-mindedness, curiosity, and problem-solving, as well as decision-making skills. Studying abroad demonstrates to potential employers that you have the organizational skills and self-determination to try something new and learn from it, as well as specific cultural knowledge and experience that may be advantageous to the role you are applying for.
Finally, the study abroad experience you choose can say a lot about who you are as a person and help you to stand out from a crowded sea of graduates. Imagine you are a hiring manager comparing two resumes from applicants with the same degree from equally prestigious universities - the fact that one applicant spent six weeks in Portugal learning digital marketing and working with a local startup would really stand out compared to another who never studied abroad.
Study abroad programs come in all sorts of different varieties. So whatever your situation or interests, there is sure to be a program out there that is a perfect fit for you! The one thing they all have in common is they involve traveling outside of your home country (or the country where your university is located) and taking classes while living abroad. Some of the most common types of study abroad programs are:
According to U.S. News & World Report, the most popular study abroad destinations for students from US colleges and universities are:
As popular study abroad destinations like the UK and France become increasingly pricey and overcrowded, savvy students are turning their focus to slightly more off-the-beaten-path study abroad programs in countries with lower costs of living. South Africa, for example, has a lot to offer students, from world-famous beaches and mountain tops to an exciting and youthful startup scene.
The exact application process will depend on the particular program, of course, but applying to a study abroad program generally involves:
Figuring out how to study abroad can be intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. The good news is that you’re not on your own. Many universities have a study abroad office, which is a great place to start if you’re looking to see what kind of study abroad opportunities are available to you through your school. Another option is to browse sites such as Study Abroad and Go Abroad - these sites are searchable directories of study abroad programs where you can filter programs by a variety of factors such as length, location, or subject area. When you find a program that looks interesting to you, the next step is to apply. Once you’re accepted, it’s time to start packing and planning for the adventure of a lifetime!
It all depends on what you’re looking for. Are you hoping to study in a location known for a particular industry or field that you’re interested in? Do you have a general idea of the type of experience you are looking for - a large cosmopolitan city, for instance, or a smaller university town? What about language? Do you want to hone your language skills, or would you prefer to go somewhere where English is one of the most widely spoken languages? As you can see, there is no single ranking of the best countries to study abroad that will make sense for everyone. That said, some generally applicable factors to consider are: safety, affordability, culture, and easily accessible opportunities to explore outside of class.
This will vary greatly depending on your particular situation, but popular options include funding through your university, US government student loans (be sure to confirm that the study abroad program you’ve chosen is accredited and qualifies), or aid provided by the study abroad program itself. The important thing to note here is that there are many options for funding available, so don’t assume that the study abroad program of your dreams is out of your reach simply because of cost.