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How to pick a study abroad destination

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Foreign study is the experience of a lifetime
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Use these pointers on how to pick a study abroad destination that fits you goals

According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 270,604 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit during 2009-10. Students choose to study abroad for a variety of reasons, however a universal benefit continues to be the development of international awareness and understanding.

In an increasingly globalized world, the skills developed from an international education are invaluable.

It's never too early to begin research in preparation for studying abroad. Figure out why you want an international education, which city best suits your needs, when a trip abroad would fit in with your studies, and how to make it all happen.


The first place to begin preparing for a study abroad program is within. Evaluate why you want to study abroad. Are you motivated to become fluent in a foreign language? Would immersion in another culture broaden or strengthen your academic experience? Does a change of scenery just sound reinvigorating?

Depending on your study abroad intentions, certain destinations may become more desirable. Don't waste time sorting through programs in South America if you want to go to a predominately German-speaking country.  

Students often choose study abroad programs previously established through their university. However, with exceptions, most universities allow students to register for programs through other accredited universities. In rare instances, motivated students can create their own curriculum based on a specific destination and petition their school to be granted study abroad approval.

Once you understand why you would like to study abroad there are plenty of possibilities for achieving those goals.


Next it's important to pick a destination. Focus on countries that meet your study abroad criteria. Once you have a few possible countries narrow down your selection to specific cities and accredited colleges. This task is easier for universities with strict study abroad programs. You may only have a handful of approved programs in your country of preference.

Cities are characterized by location, size, culture, language, and population. An urban center offers a wide selection of restaurants, shops, and events. Rural cities are known for their beautiful scenery and laid-back atmosphere. Even dialects differ widely by region.

Are you attracted to a city known for its student population? Or would you rather be surrounded by open pastures and sheep? Small differences between regions could dramatically impact your study abroad experience.


Study abroad demands realistic preparation. Most students choose to study abroad during their junior year of college. Programs offer classes during summer, fall, and spring semesters while others run the full year. Be honest with yourself. Can you afford to take time away from the required curriculum at your home university?

International universities shorten their catalogues for visiting students - making it challenging to find courses that satisfy transfer credits. If you aren't able to transfer credits taken abroad to your major will you still be able to graduate on time? These are difficult questions that take a bit of forethought.


Everything is planned and finalized. Well, not exactly. You have a clear idea of why you want to study abroad, where you'd like to go, and when you'd like to accomplish this by.

But do you know how to accomplish this? Scour your university's website for information. Most schools have some version of an Office of International Affairs. This location houses an informed and helpful staff, international resources, and the occasional experienced student.

Don't be afraid to go in with plenty of questions. The staff can point you in the right direction and give you the appropriate paperwork. Keep an eye on deadlines. Once you've submitted your petition to study abroad all you can do is wait.

Once approval comes, that's it. You're all signed up to enjoy the experience of a lifetime!

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