Studying abroad is a life changing opportunity. It provides students a chance to become immersed in a different culture, learn a new language, build meaningful relationships with new friends, and embark on adventures in new and exciting places. Students who seek out international education programs develop global leadership skills that they can apply in their personal and professional lives. Students who participate in study abroad programs grow and find a greater level of maturity because they learn to respect other cultures and value foreign political and economic systems. They have a broader perspective of global issues and their potential impact on the welfare of other countries.
Student's interested in studying abroad can choose from an unlimited number of programs that offer opportunities to accommodate student interests. Many study abroad programs are using outreach programs to market diverse fields of study and are expanding their programs to include shorter durations of stay with more frequent opportunities in an effort to reach more students.
When choosing a program it is important to select the program that best meets your needs and interests. Factors that should be considered when researching study abroad programs include: availability of funds to support tuition, accommodations, living expenses, travel costs for the duration of your stay, the number of available scholarships or funding opportunities, the ability of the program to meet your specific interests, the type of credit will you receive (a certificate of attendance, transferable college credit, credit toward your degree program), duration of the program, language and communication support, and any additional travel expenses for sightseeing.
Depending on your area of study, there are organizations that have invested time and money in research to identify reputable study abroad programs that have been rated on the following factors (Lexio Philes 2009):
- amount of support provided,
- funding opportunities with minimal application fees,
- flexibility in location preference and accommodating dates of stay to support students current plan of study,
- international recognition with a standard for academic excellence,
- cultural integration to ensure organized trips and living arrangements with native speakers to fully immerse students in the culture
- application processes that can be navigated with ease, that focuses on selecting students on the basis of academics and personal motivation to achieve.
If your interest is in studying a foreign language, Lexio Philes provides a well researched list of the "Top 10" study abroad programs for nine different languages. Study Abroad.com gives students access to programs and funding information for volunteering, teaching, studying a language, and a wide variety of other essential study abroad topics. When looking for a reputable study abroad program do your research. Be cautious of programs that advertize accreditation, require an application fee or request a deposit to be made, this is especially true when working with study abroad programs offered by other countries. The American Embassy and college based International Studies Advisors have information and resources to aide in choosing the right program for you. In many cases students must seek funding and scholarships through more than one source.
Foreign travel opportunities are also available through the Peace Corp. The Peace Corp. gives volunteers an opportunity to work in agriculture, education, business, community development, health awareness and technology education. The Peace Corp. pays monthly stipends that allow their volunteers to live in similar living conditions as compared to the region they are working in. Working with the Peace Corp. offers many fulfilling opportunities in diverse occupations that impact people in cultures all over the world. The Peace Corp. may offer a solution to exploring a foreign country if financial aid and funding options are not available.
Studying abroad can be a very safe, exciting and rewarding experience. It is important to plan ahead when traveling or residing in another country. Take time to learn about the countries laws, regulations, and customs. Secure passports, Visa's and required documentation for travel including immunizations and other medications well in advance. The United States State Department recommends all individuals traveling to foreign countries obtain an International Identity card that offers discounts on airfares and other travel expenses. International Identity card users also have access to a toll-free, 24 hour emergency line and basic insurance to cover sickness, accident and emergency evacuation.
Now is a great time to study abroad, to learn a new language and to engage in rich life changing experiences that are very rewarding. Studying abroad is an opportunity to get involved in international politics, global economics, international business development, language learning and serve as an ambassador of your country. Overseas studies reflect positively on your resume and can lead to careers in international business and work with multinational organizations. It is important to take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad before the perceived barriers of family, health, finances and career choices are at work in your life. It is an experience that one will not regret.
Lexio Philes. 21 January 2009. "Motivation & Methodology". 23 August 2009. <http://www.lexiophiles.com/english/motivation-methodology>