International travel is a goal many of us seek to achieve during our lifetimes. Who doesn’t long to experience new cultures, foods, languages, and lifestyles abroad? There are so many different places to go, things to see, and people to meet in this world. The desire to travel during our youth is all too great, especially in college.
Luckily, most colleges and universities offer wonderful study abroad programs. Students from all over enroll to study overseas, whether in the ruins of Greece, the villages in China, the cliffs of Ireland, and more. Study abroad programs offer many fantastic services to students, including housing, grocery vouchers, language immersion preparation, tours, and schedules related to courses. Moreover, many times these programs offer students exclusive excursions for great discounts, student organizations for people to meet others, and an overall orientation of what to expect abroad.
Related: Why You Should Really Study Abroad
Knowing that most of these study abroad programs completely aid students and prepare them for their semester overseas, you may wonder how you can choose which destination to study in. This is a perfectly common question.
For this reason, GenTwenty offers six ways to decide where you want to study abroad:
1. Do you have your heart set on visiting one place in the world?
Chances are, you do. Personally, I’m from Italian roots. My grandfather was a first generation Tulipano when he came to the United States as an immigrant. Growing up knowing that I have roots in Italy inspired me to travel there one day. Luckily, my university offered a semester abroad in Rome, Italy when I was a junior. I was quick to enroll and travel to Italy where I visited my “home away from home.”
If this resonates with you, think about where you want to go in your lifetime. Do you have international roots? Is there a place in mind that you’ve always longed to tour? Be sure to think long and hard about why you want to pick a destination and where it may be. This should help you find the perfect study abroad destination.
2. Have you researched the study abroad programs your school offers?
If you haven’t, get on that! You’ll want to review the list of programs and destinations your college or university is partnered with. This is extremely important because you might find that while your heart is set on China, your school only has programs in European countries.
Narrowing down your list of possible destinations based on your school’s catalog of destinations is a great way to limit your options and pick the best realistic destination for your semester (or year) abroad.
Keep in mind which schools abroad fit best with your program and major. Study abroad experience is resume-boosting in itself, however, if you’re not able to knock out major, core or elective credits, a different program may be a better option for you.
3. Is language immersion important to you?
If it is, you’ll want to be sure you study abroad in a country with limited English speaking natives. While your classes will likely be taught in the English language, the natives you will be living among and integrating with in daily life may or may not speak English based on your study abroad destination. Be sure to decide whether this is important to you or not.
When I studied abroad in Greece for a summer during my sophomore year of college, I was surprised to meet so many Greeks with little to no English speaking experience. This was because I was on a remote island called Lesvos where very few people travel to, so the language was almost 100 percent Greek.
Similarly, my time in Italy forced me to use Italian more than English, which was challenging when I separated from my roommates, classmates, and teachers. You’ll want to decide if language immersion is important or not. This could be the deal breaker between studying abroad in England or Thailand, for example.
4. Have you researched currency rates?
If not, consider doing this! Researching how far your U.S. dollar goes in the form of Euros, Crowns, Pounds, etc. may be a factor in where you study abroad. If the U.S. dollar works in your favor, you may find that going to certain cities and countries is more financially fitting because you can stretch your dollar further.
However, you may find that in some countries you’ll lose money by living over there, which could impact your ability to eat at restaurants often or travel on excursions to other cities and countries. When I studied abroad in Italy, the U.S. dollar to Euro was only a slight difference, so it didn’t impact my ability to pay for groceries or travel to other parts of Europe for the four months I lived abroad. I was fortunate, but keep in mind currency rates are always fluctuating. Calculate conversion rates ahead of time to plan for your best destination.
5. Do you want to travel outside of your destination?
If you do, you’ll want to be in a central location. When I studied abroad in Rome, Italy I was so close to many European cities. On my weekends off, I would hop on a plane and fly to Paris or take a bus to Germany. I ended up visiting Switzerland, France, England, Croatia, Germany, Czech Republic, and a number of Italian cities including Pisa, Florence, Venice, and even Sicilian cities. Knowing that Rome was close to many other countries made my decision to study abroad there really easy.
If you’re like me, you want to see as much of the world as you can. Plus, who knows when you’ll have the money, time, and freedom to move overseas for months at a time? The point is, pick your destination carefully. If you want to be in the heart of one city the whole time, you can really go anywhere. But if you want to travel on the weekends you’ll want to pick a spot that is relatively close to other destinations to make the most of your time abroad. The choice is yours!
6. What do you hope to get out of studying abroad?
Studying abroad is often expensive and can be disruptive to your class schedule and future plans. Traveling and cultural experience, especially language knowledge, is extremely valuable to employers. When you’re applying for jobs post-college, your study abroad experience will likely come up in interviews. What do you hope to be able to tell your future employer about your time abroad? Consider this when selecting which program will be best for you.
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The decision to study abroad is an extremely personal choice. You really need to research the programs your college or university offers, assess why you want to study in a particular destination, and how you can expect your time abroad to be.
Consider currency rates, travel options, and language immersion as measures of where you want to go. Answering these questions (and many more) will help you pick the best fit for yourself. Remember to choose the study abroad destination that inspires you the most.
Have you studied abroad before? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!