How To Study Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide (With Tips)

How To Study Abroad: A Step-by-Step Guide (With Tips)

To Study abroad provides opportunities for students and professionals to experience life in another country. Choosing to study or work internationally has a variety of benefits and offers a unique educational experience. If you’re interested in learning more about the world or other cultures, you may consider participating in a study abroad program. In this article, we explain what it means to study abroad, discuss why you might choose a program, list the types of study abroad programs, review how to study abroad and provide a few tips.

What does it mean to study abroad?

When people choose to study abroad, they decide to attend school or work in a country other than their own. These students may leave their home for one semester, an entire year or the entire length of a degree, which may last up to five years. The experience of studying abroad varies immensely based on the country you choose to travel to. It’s important to select a destination that interests you. For example, if you want to live in a European city, consider looking at universities in metropolitan areas in various regions of Europe.

Why choose to study abroad?

There are a large variety of reasons that students may choose to study abroad. Each study abroad program offers unique features based on the length, focus and location of the program. This variation may impact your reasoning for choosing to study in another country. Some common reasons that people may choose to study or work internationally may include:

  • Cultural immersion: Some students and professionals feel drawn towards the prospect of cultural immersion. Rather than visiting a new place as a tourist, they want to live within the community to experience the country’s culture in a different way.

  • Language proficiency: Cultural immersion through study abroad may provide people with the opportunity to become proficient in a second language. This may be an influential factor in a person’s decision to study internationally.

  • Global mindset: Living and learning in a place you’re unfamiliar with provides an opportunity to develop a global mindset. Witnessing other ways of living, teaching, working and communicating with others can equip students and professionals to effectively and thoughtfully engage with the world.

  • Employment prospects: Another motivating factor for completing a study abroad program is to increase your employment prospects after you return home. The focus, educational level or location of the program may have a positive impact on your resume as you begin applying for jobs.

Types of study abroad programs

There are several types of study abroad programs available to students and professionals. Some types of programs may include:

  • International universities: One way to study internationally is to apply directly to a school you’re interested in. You might apply to earn your bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree or Ph.D.

  • Exchange program: You might apply to participate in a student exchange program, where you live in the home of a host family for a specific period of time. It’s common for a student from that country to visit your home country as well.

  • Volunteer program: Another option is volunteer work in an international country, whether you apply for a governmental program, work directly with an organization or travel independently. The specific volunteer program you participate in determines the length of time you travel, and sometimes the program determines your destination as well.

  • Work-study program: Some universities or third-party programs offer the ability to both work and study in a different country. These programs provide valuable work experience while providing foundational knowledge to supplement the work placement.

  • University program: Sometimes, universities organize and conduct their own study abroad programs for their enrolled students. It’s important to research what programs may exist through the university you currently attend.

  • Field research: If you’re conducting research to complete your degree, consider choosing a subject that requires travel outside your home country. This provides an opportunity to research a different context and live internationally.

  • Language school: If you’re interested in learning a second language, consider attending a language school in a different country. These programs may offer educational knowledge about the language while providing real-life situations for you to practice speaking, reading and writing.

How to study abroad

The specific steps you take to study abroad may vary based on the location or program you decide to participate in. However, there are a few key actions required for international students and professionals, regardless of your final destination. Consider these steps for how to study abroad:

1. Conduct research

Before you make any decisions, it’s important to conduct thorough research in various programs, locations and opportunities available to you. When you begin researching, try creating a list of programs that most interest you. Certain details to research include:

  • Local areas you’re interested in

  • Courses offered by the universities in those areas

  • Other types of programs available in your preferred location

  • Admissions requirements

  • Cost of living

2. Choose where to apply

After conducting research, choose a few places to apply. You might pick a variety of programs in different places or a few programs in the same location. It’s important to choose a location that matches your interests because this may help with your transition into a new culture. Regardless of which programs you choose to apply to, consider making a list of relevant application requirements, important documents you may need and the deadlines for each application. It’s important to carefully follow the application directions given by the program or university to ensure that you include all the necessary information.

3. Apply for a student visa

After receiving an acceptance into a study abroad program, you may need to apply for a student visa. The directors of the program may provide details about what kind of visa you need to apply for, or the process to follow. Depending on your final destination, processing your visa application may take a significant amount of time. Try to begin the application process early to ensure that you receive your travel documents in time for your program. It’s important to ask questions and follow instructions to confirm that you complete the application accurately.

4. Make travel arrangements

After you’ve applied for your visa, you may want to start making travel arrangements. Some countries may suggest that you wait to book travel until you’ve received your visa documents. However, if you decide to book in advance, try to find flights with a detailed change and refund policy. You may consider purchasing travelers’ insurance as well. When you make these arrangements, review the time difference between your home and the final destination to prepare for your arrival.

5. Prepare accommodation for your arrival

Before you leave, try to arrange for a place to live upon your arrival. You may receive student accommodations through a university, or you might live with a local family in a homestay. Private accommodation, such as an apartment, is also an option for international students and professionals. It’s ideal to arrange accommodation early on to ensure that you have somewhere to stay when you arrive in the country and throughout the duration of your stay.

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6. Prepare a budget

It’s important to have a budget before studying abroad to ensure you have the funding for the program and the cost of living. Some programs offer scholarships and grants for international students. If you want to receive financial aid, you can apply for federal grants or loans to use for your international studies. It’s ideal to understand the cost of living before you arrive to ensure that you’ve budgeted correctly. Additionally, try to calculate the currency exchange rate so you know how to best use your money.

7. Get involved

Once you arrive and begin your program, try to involve yourself in the local community. Studying or working abroad provides an opportunity to learn from and alongside people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Getting involved also may help you make friends and have a positive experience during your program.

What to know before studying abroad

Studying abroad involves a variety of different logistical, social and cultural elements. There are many things to know before studying abroad, including:

  • Language differences: You may enter a country that uses a different language than the one you’re most familiar with. Try to learn important phrases and words before your departure to prepare for your arrival.

  • Cultural changes: Some students and professionals experience a shocking feeling after spending time in a different culture than their own. This feeling is common, and it’s important to remember that you’re learning new ways to live, work and study.

  • Program details: Try to learn about your program before you arrive. This may help you feel more prepared to begin school or work, and it provides structure for when you arrive.

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