Study Abroad Student Handbook
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Center for Global Education

Selecting the Right Program for You

In this section, you will learn how to go a step beyond finding a quality program. You will begin to research quality programs that reflect your individual needs. You will be better able to find a program that matches academic and personal objectives.

The following things are some personal factors that can affect a student's program decision:

1. Affordability and Finances

cashCost: Finding a quality program that's affordable is possible. Depending on you or your family's financial situation, program cost may or may not be an issue for you. No one wants to compromise quality for cost. However, many students need to find programs that fit their personal budget. Costs for study abroad programs don't end with a basic fee; rather, additional costs can add up for insurance, housing, meals, excursions, travel, medical needs and purchases.

Spending and Saving: Frugal spending is key both before you go, and while you are in the country of your choice. Make a budget for yourself and stick to it. Before you go, you may want to budget your spending by giving up that morning cup of coffee you buy on your way to work/class. Instead, you could make your own coffee at home, and bring your lunch with you rather than buying it every day. You may have to eat out less and give up going out as frequently. You could take the bus instead of paying to fill up your car, and you might even start clipping coupons.

2. Size Does Matter

Group Size: Some study abroad programs have very high limits for enrollment, while others are very selective about the number of students they allow to participate. You should determine in which situation you might feel more comfortable.

Large Group Small Group
  • Meeting many new people
  • More opportunites to spend time with different groups of people
  • More opportunity to form close friendships with other participants
  • More personal attention
  • Feeling lost in a large group
  • Little opportunity to form stron friendships
  • Being around the same group of people may get old
  • Fewer opportunities to meet new people

It is important to ask your study abroad program coordinator what the ratio is between staff and students–a small program staff in charge of a large group may not be the best when you are trying to find someone to assist you. Of course, if you plan to do independent study, you may very well be the only U.S. student at the institution you've chosen. This would probably give you the highest level of immersion, but you would have added responsibilities that another student studying in a program group may not have.

Class Size: Depending on how you learn best as a student, you will want to choose a program with smaller or larger class size. As a student, you may enjoy smaller class sizes because of the personal attention you receive. Also, if you are a beginning–level the language of the country of your choice learner, you may appreciate the extra help that smaller classes can provide. On the other hand, you may be comfortable and accustomed to larger classes in which you have more independent study time. You may enjoy a larger class setting where you may come in contact with more students. Ask your study abroad program coordinator what the average class size tends to be for the subjects you will take in the country of your choice.

3. Level of Immersion

Levels of Immersion program talk

Class Dynamics: Ask yourself whether or not you prefer sitting next to a local or another U.S. student in your classes. The answer to this question will help you determine if you want to be in classes with only other U.S. students or other international students. Do you prefer a mix of locals and U.S. students or a class where the majority of the students are locals? Most programs offer immersive courses by attending class with regular students at a university/institution. Other programs separate students by designing special courses for program participants. Many programs have international students from around the world, especially in language classes. Inquire as to which classes you are able to take as part of your program. Also, you should ask if your teachers will be from the United States or your destination country, if this matters to you.

Language Instructions: Do not allow your unfamiliarity of the language prevent you from studying abroad! Ask if your program offers the language of interest for all levels, including beginner level instruction. If not, you may be able to take some classes in English. However, you may have the language skills to take all of your classes in your program country’s language. But keep in mind, the more classes you take in the language, the more your language skills will improve and the more immersed you will feel in the country. Ask if your program provides classes in your target language, in English or both.

4. Your Objectives

Goals: Everyone chooses to study abroad for different reasons. You may want to learn or improve your the language of the country of your choice. You may want to conduct independent research. You may want to pursue a degree, or you may just want to travel and get away. Before choosing a program, see if it fits the personal goals and objectives you have. Ask yourself if the program you choose will allow you to accomplish what you have in mind.

5. Relevant Questions

  • What are your personal goals for wanting to study abroad in the country of your choice?
  • How many other students participate in the program each semester/year?
  • Will you be studying at a U.S. university, a local university, or neither?
  • What study abroad program group size and class size would be ideal for you?
  • Do you prefer to be in a class with local a citizen of the country of your choice students, other U.S. students, or an international group of students?
  • Does the program emphasize "total immersion" in the language and culture, or are you placed solely with other students from the U.S.?
  • Do you prefer to receive all of your instruction in a citizen of the country of your choice, in English or a combination?
  • Is the program you have chosen affordable?
  • Can your program administrator put you in contact with any past program participants so you can ask them questions about their personal experiences abroad?

6. Checklist

  • The program I have chosen is affordable.
  • I know how much money I will need to save in order to participate in the program I have chosen.
  • I know about how much money I think I will spend while in the country of your choice.
  • I have decided what study abroad program group size and class size would be ideal for me.
  • I have considered whether I prefer to be in a class with local a citizen of the country of your choice students, other American students or a combination of the two.
  • I know whether I prefer to receive all of my instruction in the language of the country of your choice, in English or a combination.
  • I have clearly articulated my personal goals for wanting to study abroad in the country of your choice.

7. Resources

Country Specific
Student Handbooks
CEA Global Education
Center for Global Education
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