A Guide to Studying Abroad

Whether or not you want to study abroad someday might be a simple yes or no question, but deciding where to go and how to make it happen can be a little overwhelming. Maybe you dream of traveling around the world to study a foreign language, but aren’t sure where to begin. Maybe you’re having trouble making a decision after visiting a study abroad fair on campus and discovering so many programs that interest you.

Sound familiar? You aren’t alone, but with deadlines for summer and fall study abroad programs quickly approaching, it’s time to make a decision, and we’re here to help. We spoke with Heath Thompson, an education abroad advisor at UA, who answered some of the most common questions students ask when starting the process. Based on his advice, here’s a quick guide for anyone interested in studying abroad.

  1. Where should I go?
    One way to narrow down the search is to evaluate your language proficiency. If language study is a deciding factor for you, Thompson said you can use that to choose which region or countries you focus on. If you only know English, you should  focus on the courses offered abroad and course requirements necessary for a major or minor. You should research which credits will transfer and the program’s focus, and compare those to your needs and interests.
  2. What type of program?
    UA offers so many study abroad programs, Thompson said, that it can be very intimidating, but a great opportunity. There are summer, semester, and academic year-long study abroad programs. There are also  other options like service learning and internship programs available. The key is to figure out what works for you in terms of your financial situation, graduation requirements, and comfort level. If you can’t fit in an entire semester abroad because of credit restrictions, summer programs can offer the experience of living and learning abroad in a shorter amount of time. If you have a lot of room in your schedule and find a program with a lot of transferrable credits, an academic year could be the adventure you’re looking for.
  3. Who runs these programs?
    Understand the difference between the types of programs. There are exchanges, direct enrollment, affiliate, and non-affiliate programs. Exchanges are run through the University, cost the same tuition, and involve only UA students and faculty. Direct enrollment programs enroll students directly in the institution abroad. Affiliates are programs the University has partnered with that offer more variety of places and programs, but have their own costs and may require a specialized process when transferring credits. Non-affiliates are not partnered with the University, but act similarly to affiliates in that they increase the variety of programs, have their own costs, and usually need a third-party transcript to have the credit transfer.
  4. What should I ask program representatives?
    Whether you do it in person at a study abroad fair or online through a program’s website, speaking with representatives is a great way to get more information about each specific opportunity. Thompson said start by telling the representative your major, class level, and specific interests. The representative will be able to offer more personalized information regarding the specific programs offered that incorporate your academic needs and interests.
  5. How much will this cost me?
    Costs for study abroad can vary widely, Thompson said. When considering the financial aspect of these educational opportunities, it is important to remember that all forms of payment accepted at the University can also be applied to the bill. This includes scholarship money, financial aid, and veteran-military benefits. Thompson recommends a visit with an education abroad advisor to help determine the real price tag of a study abroad opportunity, and for more information on how to go about applying your scholarships and benefits.
  6. How long do I have to think this over?
    The deadline for all university-affiliate summer, fall, and academic year programs is March 25, with the deadline for University Exchange Semester programs being in late February. For those thinking further ahead, the deadline for the university-affiliate spring 2017 semester programs will be around mid-October, with the exchange programs’ deadline falling about a month before. Take note if you are considering an affiliate or non-affiliate program, as they have separate applications and deadlines that also must be considered. Students can submit an application via the Education Abroad website.