Studying Abroad During College: Is it Right for You?

Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity that will undoubtedly change your outlook, expose you to different cultures, and provide you with experiences that you never thought you would have. Imagine studying art in the land of Michelangelo, non-Western health care in Thailand, or learning Arabic in Marrakesh. When I was doing my undergrad at Penn, I studied market transition in Zimbabwe.  While I was there, I lived in a hut with a witch doctor, bungee jumped over Victoria Falls, and spent 3 days rafting down the Zambezi River. Talk about an educational experience! If you think you may want to travel abroad, here are some things that you should think about.

  1. Is going abroad feasible? Studying abroad is actually more accessible than you may think and many colleges cover study abroad expenses in the regular tuition. Start planning early to be sure that going abroad fits in your schedule. If you are unable to travel for a full semester due to academic, athletic, or personal responsibilities, consider a summer term, January term, or a “Maymester.”
  2. Will I still graduate on time if I study abroad? This question is a parent-favorite. Students who go abroad should have no trouble graduating on time because they will be taking classes that fit their degree plan and graduation requirements. If the program is not sponsored by your university; however, receiving credit may be difficult. So be sure to get your credit clearance before you pack your bags.
  3. Find a School that Values Study Abroad. More and more colleges and universities are seeing the enriching value of a study abroad experience and are making it an integral part of an undergraduate education. The University of San Diego, Pepperdine, and Elon all have wonderful study abroad programs and encourage all of their students to travel. At Goucher, students are required to study or work abroad in order to graduate.
  4. Where should I study abroad? Only you can answer this question! France, Spain, Italy and other European countries are the most popular study abroad destinations; but more and more students are headed to China, India, Mexico, and Costa Rica. When choosing where to go abroad, start by thinking about your passions. What are your goals for your time abroad?  What do you hope to learn or achieve?  Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. Don’t exclude a country because you don’t speak the language. I had never heard a word of Shona before I set food in Zimbabwe, but after some intensive instruction, I was able to haggle with the best vendors.

Studying abroad is a time to earn much more than academic credits. You will meet new people, try new foods, potentially learn a new language, build your International IQ, and develop a confidence and sense of independence that is difficult to achieve remaining in your own backyard.

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