6 Questions to Ask Before Considering a Study Abroad - Best Value Schools

6 Questions to Ask Before Considering a Study Abroad

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The opportunity to study abroad can be an incredible, life-changing experience. Discover another part of the world without having to put your schooling on hold? Students should be jumping at the chance!

Unfortunately, the obstacles facing students who are trying to study abroad can be difficult to overcome. We’ve compiled a list of common questions for those looking to study abroad, with answers and relevant resources for each. Everyone who desires to study in a foreign country should have every opportunity to do so, and we hope we can make it that much easier to decide if it is right for you.


What Types of Programs Are Offered?

Not all study abroads are for everyone. Here is a list of the most common program types and what they have to offer.

Academic Year/Semester Programs

These programs are the most common, with students studying out of the country for one or two semesters during the regular academic year. This still allows for cultural immersion, as students will live, work, and study as if they have relocated to a new country. These programs are suggested for those who are comfortable living independently in another country.

Summer Programs

This program is similar to the Academic Year/Semester Programs; except, they take place during the summer, and can range from a few weeks to two full months. The advantage to these, is that students can study abroad without having to disrupt their regular academic schedule.

Internship Programs

For students that want to study abroad while building their resume, there are internship programs available. Students can gain experience in a relevant field while still continuing their education in a foreign country.

Volunteer Programs

Add some community service to the study abroad with a volunteer program. Length depends on the volunteer project, and the need for volunteers.

Language Programs

These programs focus on immersing students in a foreign language to help them speak it fluently by the end of their visit. Learning a language in a foreign country is the most effective way to become fluent in a short amount of time.

High School Programs

Get a head start on a higher education with a high school study abroad. These programs are offered for grades 9-12 and usually take place during the summer when school is not in progress.

Graduate Programs

Just like a standard study abroad program, but for students looking to continue their education after completing their undergraduate education.

Full Degree Programs

A much more intensive study abroad program, this will helps students finish an entire undergraduate degree in a foreign country.

Intersession Programs

These programs take place during the winter and spring breaks between semesters, so as to help students maximize their education and still be in the country when their semesters are in session.

Teaching Programs

Teaching programs are similar to an internship or volunteer program, but with a valuable teaching experience in a foreign country. Exchange programs like these look great on the resume of a student studying elementary education.

How Do I Choose a Program?

There are a few things students will want to consider before deciding which program to apply for. The biggest consideration is the cost of enrolling, but other items to consider are what to study during the study abroad, and what conditions you are willing to live in.

Students will also want to double check that their university will accept the credits from their study abroad before signing up for any program. If possible, students should meet with an academic adviser to go over credits, as well as how programs might help or hinder their regular coursework.

Helpful Sites: Study Abroad 101, IES Abroad, and Go Abroad.


How Much Does it Cost?

Possibly the biggest deciding factor for students is the price facing them to go study abroad. Check out this helpful list of study abroad programs from International Study Abroads to see approximate costs for each country.

Beyond just tuition and enrollment prices, students need to look into how much living expenses will be in each country. Using a site like Numbeo to compare living expenses in cities all across the globe to see how much more or less it would be to buy groceries, pay rent, and take public transportation is a helpful way to be in touch with the reality of costs. While Numbeo does factor in exchange rates for you, be sure to keep them in mind when putting together budget plans.

Another helpful resource is IFSA’s Expense Calculator, which helps students add up all the costs associated with studying abroad into one bottom-line number.


How Am I Going to Afford It?

While the numbers can get overwhelming when considering a study abroad, there is help available. Sites like AIFS Study Abroad can help students find scholarships and grants, helping alleviate the cost of studying abroad.

Other, more practical, means can be taken to lower the cost of a study abroad. While Western Europe may be a popular place to travel, the costs are much higher. Fulfilling experiences can be found across the globe, even in more affordable places like South America and Asia.

Do your research when looking at destinations, find out what deals and discounts you can get on plane tickets and housing, and learning what times of the year lend themselves to higher costs. Good preparation can save you hundreds or even thousands on your study abroad expenses.


What Subjects Do People Study?

Just about any subject can be studied during a study abroad, but some are certainly more common than others. Classes in international relations, health, and the arts are understandably common, but students can also find courses in engineering, information technology, and environmental science.


Woman traveling with a suitcase


Where Am I Going to Live?

Many programs will provide dormitory-style housing for students, but for those looking for a more independent housing situation, or if a program simply doesn’t provide housing, there are other options to consider:

For short term study abroads, students might consider a home-stay option, where they will get to live with a host family, and become even more immersed in the local culture. Many hosts will provide meals, and allow the student to take part in family activities, making this an attractive option for those wanting to learn the culture quickly.

If students prefer something more independent, they can find their own apartment to stay in, but they should be advised to stay on top of rent payments and to find roommates to help with the cost. This option could also be helpful for those looking to stay for several months.

Helpful Sites: Study Abroad Apartments, 5 Tips for Finding Study Abroad Apartments


Making the decision to do a study abroad can be very overwhelming, but it is one that can have a positive lasting effect on students who are able to make it work. Students should consider how a study abroad fits into their larger academic goals and whether or not the expenses would be manageable enough to not hinder them.