You’ve decided you want to study abroad — Congrats! Maybe you already know what region you want to go to, or if you’re super lucky, you know exactly where you want to study. But for most students, they just know they want to go abroad. Determining where to go is the first step in the journey, and it can often be the hardest.
With so many places to go, classes to take, and programs to research, the decision can get seriously overwhelming. USAC offers more than 50 programs across 27 countries. How do you decide?
Well, you can start here! If you know you want to study abroad, but aren’t sure how to narrow down your choices, start with asking yourself the following questions.
What are my goals for studying abroad?
Are you studying abroad to learn a new language? Fulfill a school requirement? Gain international experience? Participate in an internship? Live in a different culture? There are countless reasons that students study abroad, but knowing what your goals are will help narrow your options. For example, if you want to learn a new language, you’ll want to consider a program with an intensive language track. If you’re looking to dive into a completely new culture, you may be drawn to some of our non-traditional programs locations, like Chengdu, China versus Shanghai.
Do I have specific academic requirements to fulfill?
This is a big one, and most students do have specific academic requirements to fulfill. Even if you don’t have to fill requirements, it’s always a great place to start by looking at programs that offer classes that work towards your chosen degree. If you don’t have a chosen degree, looking for locations that offer general education credits that will transfer back to your school works just as well. A lot of students fear that studying abroad means they will fall behind in graduation, but this doesn’t have to be the case if planned properly.
Do I want to focus on language learning or would I prefer to study in an English-speaking country?
It’s common to think study abroad = language learning, but this isn’t always the case. USAC has nine programs in English-speaking countries, including Australia, England, Ireland, and New Zealand. However, in every single program, there are classes that are taught in English. We also have a ton of unique classes that you can take abroad to fit nearly any focus of study. If you are interested in learning a second language but are feeling a little apprehensive, here are five benefits of learning a second language abroad to give you a push.
Is there an ideal time for me to study abroad?
Depending on your school schedule, graduation plans, financial situation, and personal commitments, there is most likely a timeframe that works best for you to go abroad. USAC offers programs over the summer, semester, yearlong, and a short January session, in order to allow students to study abroad whenever works best for them. Think about your study abroad goals and anything back home that you cannot miss (be realistic here!) and go from there.
How long do I want to study for? Am I interested in a short term study abroad, or does a semester or yearlong program interest me more?
Determining a study abroad length is probably as difficult as deciding where to go. All we can say in this situation is that students rarely come home feeling like they were abroad long enough; most alumni report that they wish they had stayed longer. We say it all the time, but anything that’s this true is worth repeating: If you can make a semester or yearlong program happen, do it. You won’t regret your decision. The longer you live in a place, the more comfortable you become, and the more enjoyable it is. Or, you may also decide to change locations for the second term.
Would I prefer to live in an urban or rural environment? Big city or small town?
With more than 50 programs, there are a plethora of options when it comes to selecting the environment. Think about where you grew up or currently live (In a big city or small town? Near a beach or in the countryside?) and decide if you want something similar or polar opposite from what you’re used to. Determining the type of climate and activities you want to have during your time abroad can help narrow down the options.
Am I more interested in traditional (i.e. Western Europe or Australia/New Zealand) or non-traditional locations (i.e. Asia, Africa, Latin America)?
USAC is known for offering programs in lesser known areas of a country. That’s why you’ll find locations in unique spots like Florianópolis, Brazil; Puntarenas, Heredia, and San Ramón, Costa Rica; Montevideo, Uruguay; Chiang Mai, Thailand and a ton of other locations. We encourage you to explore a variety of destinations before making your selection. Many times similar classes are offered in a variety of locations.
In addition to finding a program that is the right fit for you, it is important that you consult with your study abroad and academic advisors. They will be able to advise you about any specific on-campus requirements you might have and can help answer some of the academic questions you might be pondering.