June 25, 2012

Selecting the Right Study Abroad Program for You

The day has come: You're ready to tightly pack your suitcase, book that overseas plane ticket, and jet off to a study abroad and have the time of your life. But, wait a minute. Just where are you off to?

Finding the right study abroad program is like tracking down the ideal spouse. The program needs to meet your needs, wants, desires, and hopes. For those of us all too familiar with the dating scene, we know it's difficult to find all of these criteria, but does that mean finding the right degree program is treacherous and nearly impossible? Absolutely not! You just have to know what to look for.
In selecting your study abroad program, there are four criteria you should pay the most attention to: program cost, program location, degree compatibility, and cultural compatibility. Finding the program that meets your needs in these four categories will help you decide where you belong. And whether it's Barcelona, Rome, Florence, Mexico – you name it – there is a program out there that is right for you. Just consider these specific points when you're selecting your destination.

Program Cost
Your favorite program may not be the most affordable, but that doesn't mean you can't somehow make it work. Peruse scholarships for days if you have to, because the number of scholarships that go unapplied for is rather astounding. You may not think you will receive a specific one, but it's still worth the shot, especially if it's from a small organization or charity. And don't think you have to be a star athlete or honor roll student to receive one. In fact, a recent study shows that for every fifteen scholarships you apply for, you're likely to receive one of those, so just keep applying!
Program Location
Where would you like to go? Consider this main point when searching through your options. Is there a place you've always wanted to visit? Did you go on a trip with your family one time and remember having a blast? Study the history, population, and attractions of various countries and cities to see what appeals to you most. Also, talk to people who have traveled to the area you're considering and see what their feedback is. It's easy to think something looks desirable reading through promotional websites and brochures, but find out what a friend or acquaintance thought about the place.
Degree Compatibility
The last thing you want to do is throw your degree off track in your study abroad program. Sure, going to Brazil for Rio Carnival may sound exciting, but are you going to meet some of your degree requirements by doing so? Here's a tip: choose your five favorite degree programs then compare which ones are moving you along most thoroughly to graduation. If you find that your top pick only meets one or two of your required classes, it's probably best to move along to option two or three.
Cultural Compatibility
This point is probably the most overlooked. When visiting a foreign country there is an inevitable period of adjustment. But, does that mean you should try to find a place that is somewhat compatible with you? Of course not! Here's a tip: Try writing out a list of qualities about yourself, such as languages you speak, your sense of direction, the type of cuisine you like, etc., and compare that list to the characteristics of the destination you are considering. Knowing what characteristics sum you up as a human being will aid you in knowing where you fit in best.
When starting your study-abroad search, don't be tricked into thinking that you're going to drown in options and confusion. It's a lot of work to choose the perfect study abroad program, but pacing yourself and considering these four main points will help you decide where you belong.
Barbara Jolie is a full time freelance writer and blogger in the Houston area. She enjoys writing about education and the advantages of onlineclasses for all students. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara. jolie876 @ gmail.com.

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