BY JESSI KLAUS
For many students, studying abroad sounds like a dream. More than just a chance to visit somewhere new, studying abroad offers students a chance to experience something life changing, the chance to completely immerse themselves in a new culture, and, most of all, the chance to make connections they could have never made studying in their home country. The process of making that dream a reality is a daunting one, both in terms of finding a program that is a good match for their interests and figuring out how to pay for it all, but with the appropriate planning, any student can overcome those obstacles and be on their way to the adventure of a lifetime.
Figure Out What You Want Your Trip to Look Like Before You Start Looking
Just as every student’s academic strengths and weaknesses differ, their interests and goals do as well. For students interested in traveling abroad this is no different. Each type of program offers students a unique experience of their host country and involves varying levels of cultural participation, and having your priorities and goals defined beforehand will make it easier to narrow down which programs appeal to you the most. Abroad programs range from primarily work oriented opportunities to school-sponsored study opportunities, and can vary significantly in terms of their duration, financial support, requirements, and qualifications. Some companies also offer services for students looking to find study abroad opportunities not provided by their schools, oftentimes in coordination with specific schools or for a fee.
Choose a Program That Fits Your Interests
For many, studying abroad represents an opportunity to do more than just study, and for those who may not qualify for the study programs offered by many universities or are looking for a different focus than what their school-sponsored program provides, work abroad programs offer an alternative. It affords them the opportunity to work and participate in their host countries without impeding on their ability to explore and enjoy the experience.
Outside of student exchanges and language schools, which offer current students and non-students the opportunity to stay with a host family in another country as part of a larger language study, students with a passion for language and a knack for teaching can acquire a TEFL certification, which allows them to pursue jobs teaching English language classes in countries around the world. Similarly, some countries fund exchange programs that provide jobs and support to English speaking students and young professionals looking to work as teachers and translators. One such opportunity is the JET Program, which places successful applicants in schools and locations throughout Japan and offers assistance in finding housing, travel expense reimbursement, help acquiring a work visa, and other perks.
Many private and school-funded programs offer study abroad opportunities at a cost students can afford and provide reimbursements for travel and living expenses, but for students in the United States, the Department of State also offers funding to K-12 and university students looking to study abroad through various partnered programs, including merit-based summer and yearlong study courses for high school students and merit-based scholarships for undergraduate and graduate level college students. Similarly, students (particularly students who already speak a foreign language) can apply directly to many universities overseas, some of which have special scholarships or financial assistance for international students applying directly to a program.
It is easy for students looking at study abroad programs to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to them, but having an idea of your interests, qualifications, and financial aid requirements can help you find the program that appeals to you the most. No one program is a perfect fit for all students, but each program offers its own unique benefits, and no matter the one you choose you are guaranteed to have an experience you will never forget.
Jessi is a recent college grad and has spent most of the last year building her clientele base for her health and fitness business. In addition to running her business, she loves writing and sharing her life experiences with others.