Debunking Five Common Study Abroad Myths

There’s a lot of misconceptions about study abroad, and it’s been a while since we addressed them. The truth of the matter is that you’ll never fully understand study abroad until you do it (what a cliché, we know). However, there are some study abroad myths we’d like to debunk to help you better prepare for your experience abroad.

Students take a photo break during a hike in the Pyrenese Mountains. Photo taken before COVID-19.

1. Study Abroad Isn’t For Every Major

Once upon a time, the idea that study abroad was limited to certain majors, specifically language and liberal arts degrees, spread through student circles. Today we still hear, “I’m a STEM major, so I can’t study abroad.” The fact of the matter is that this just isn’t true! USAC offers STEM programs with courses in biology, engineering, physics, health, and much more. Additionally, many of our programs offer STEM-focused internships (we even offer them virtually), so you can prepare for your professional future and earn academic credit while exploring the world.

If your major is a little more rigorous, or you have a set academic path to follow, you might require a little extra planning to make study abroad happen. Meet with your academic advisor to help you devise a plan to make it happen. Then, chat with USAC to find a program and courses that fit your needs.

Students partake in STEM courses during a study abroad
Two students conduct an experiment during lab. Photo taken before COVID-19.

2. You Can’t Study Abroad During COVID-19

If you didn’t know, you CAN study abroad right now. We encourage students to have a bit more flexibility these days and to be open to enrolling in a different program than they originally planned, but it’s totally possible.

USAC is monitoring the current COVID-19 climate in all of our program locations and will make decisions regarding operations and offerings according to World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local guidelines. For a current list of programs and deadlines, visit the USAC website.

Students arrive at their apartment to being their semester abroad.

3. You Have To Know A Second Language

Okay, we understand why this myth exists, but you do not have to know the local language to study abroad. In fact, only one USAC program has a language requirement. However, study abroad is the perfect way to learn a new language or build upon the knowledge you already have. USAC Specialty Programs offer language classes from beginner to advanced, and on many programs, you will have the opportunity to complete up to two years worth of language credits in just one semester.

No matter where you choose to study abroad or what previous language skills you have (or lack), you’ll return home with a deeper knowledge of the language and the confidence to use it.

A USAC student gives local children a language lesson. Photo taken before COVID-19.

4. Study Abroad Is Too Expensive

Study abroad is a financial commitment, similar to attending college, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. In many instances, study abroad can cost as much or even less than a semester at home. One of our biggest priorities at USAC is providing immersive, academically-driven study abroad experiences that work for any budget, and we do so by considering locations with low costs of living, providing customizable program options, and offering scholarships and discounts. We also accept external scholarships and financial aid in most cases. Learn more about finding affordable study abroad programs and discover study abroad scholarships to help fund your experience.

USAC students smile during a campus event. Photo taken before COVID-19.

5. Study Abroad Will Delay Graduation

Study abroad is a big commitment and finding the right time to go is crucial to your academic success. We recommend planning to study abroad as soon as the idea pops into your head so that when the time comes to actually apply, there are no surprises. Speak with your academic advisor as early as possible about your academic plan and where study abroad might be a good fit. It might be early in your academic career when you’re working through your general education and pre-recs for your major or it might be your senior year right before you graduate. Fortunately, USAC offers January and summer programs along with our traditional semester and summer sessions to make squeezing in a study abroad even easier. And with programs for every major, you’ll continue to take courses towards your degree while abroad. If you’re set on study abroad, start the planning process as early as possible and you’re sure to stay on track.

Local students show off their diplomas during a graduation ceremony. Photo taken before COVID-19.
Have more study abroad myths that need debunking? Email studyabroad@usac.edu. To get start your international education journey, explore study abroad programs on the USAC website.