Studying abroad changed my life and was one of the best things that I ever did for myself.
By the time I was finishing up my sophomore year of college, I was exhausted. I was tired of going out, I was tired of living with a roommate (or 5. I had 5 roommates. Like in the same room) and I was tired of living out someone else's dream. I felt like I didn't have anything that was mine, and I was just going along with what was expected of me.
Once I left to study abroad, I realized the importance of gaining my own independence and how lucky I was to have this opportunity.
Choosing a study abroad program can make or break your experience. From the friends you make, to the language you learn, to the destination you choose - it's important to choose one that fits your needs as well as your desires as a traveler.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a study abroad program.
Where do you want to go? Do you want to learn a language? How out of your comfort zone do you want to be? What sort of local people would you like to interact with? What culture intrigues you? What kind of food do you like? Evaluate how important those things are to you and how you can coordinate those desires with your college course credits.
Choosing Spain was important for me because I wanted to be in Europe and I wanted to learn Spanish.
2.) College credits / academic options.
Do you want to do an internship? Do you want to teach English? Do you want to take classes that count toward your major? Do you want to take a language immersion course? There are lots of different options of what you can do during your study abroad experience. Sometimes you can even do a hybrid of multiple options. Ask your school or university what options are available and what classes you need so that you can graduate. Be sure that before you select a program, you are sure that you'll be able to complete your graduation requirements in time.
3.) How/where do you want to live?
Do you want to stay in a homestay? An apartment? A dorm? Some programs only offer one or the other, so be sure that you're aware of all the housing opportunities before you select a program.
4) Excursions / included activities.
Some programs offer excursions that come with the price of your program. Mine, for example, included weekend trips as well as day trips to different cities in Spain, as well as an optional trip to Morocco. These are great ways to get to know people in your program as well as get cultural immersion experience from those that know the country the best.
5.) What program type is best for you and your lifestyle?
Do you want to see more countries for a shorter amount of time? Or perhaps get to know one country really well? You could do Semester at Sea, or a year-long program. You could even do a quick program during the interim period between the fall and spring semesters, or maybe a summer program.
Evaluate which best fits your lifestyle, both monetarily, and your comfort zone. Don't choose a length of time that you think may be too long for you, and if you have the ability to spend more time/money traveling, do it!
6.) Free time.
Planning on traveling every weekend? Make sure you don't have class or work on a Friday!
Probably most important and the most make-or-break is the cost of your program. Make sure that it fits in with what you're able to spend, and consider what's included. During my program, all my meals were included in the cost, so I ended up saving a lot of money on food and cooking.
Don't be afraid to explore for a while until you find the program that's right for you. There are hundreds and hundreds of options out there, so don't settle for something that you're not entirely comfortable with. Studying abroad is one of the best experiences that you can have in college, so make the most of it!