I’ve been spending quite a bit of time recently looking into study abroad options for me next year. It will be my junior year and I plan to study abroad for one of my semesters. As of right now, I haven’t decided what semester I want to go in but fall is looking pretty nice. This hasn’t been the easiest process and would love to share some of the wisdom that I know and have found out over the past month or so.
The main hub for information about what programs are offered is at: https://sdsu-sa.terradotta.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.AdvancedSearch . This website comes with many different ways of sorting and limiting the offerings to exactly what you want.
Location (city, country, region)
Field of study
Language of instruction
Housing options (apartment/flat, dorm, field station, homestay, cabin, hotel, residence hall)
These points are the main elements of what is going to define your abroad experience.
--The location will affect many of these other categories. The native language(s) could be a block for some or an exciting experience for others. Some, none, or all classes might be taught in a foreign language, how do you feel about that? Some locations will allow for transborder travel (Europe is known for this, lots of countries with a great transit system). Some locations will be a remote field station where you won’t interact much outside of your school. Some are large cities that allow for a plethora of events and activities that you can participate in. There is something for everyone and there is something very comforting in that.
--Housing is going to determine the people that you meet, the proximity to the university, and possibly language experience. Homestays are known to be a good way of learning a foreign language but be warned: the family that you stay with will have a large effect on your whole time so some people see this as a type of gamble.
--From what I’ve heard from people is that your field of study is not a make-or-break situation. Some people are going to be going for the max credits to bring back to your home university and some are looking for those classes that would only be found in this foreign university. Whatever floats your boat, it’s up to you.
--The program provider is going to influence the amount of money that you will spend. Some are exchange programs where you will be paying your normal tuition price from your home university. Some are more expensive. The providers are in charge of the organization so you can see what company seems to be catering more towards your needs. The price that you pay for your study abroad might not cover all aspects of your trip. This is something that you will need to think about. Some are more all-inclusive than others.
Each of the programs has a homepage where you can find information about what your experience would look like. One thing that I tended to look for was the classes that were offered for the study abroad students. I’ve found that some of the classes are not open to their abroad population. You can get a feel for what life might look like for the time that you are at the University. Some programs highlight their social aspects, educational success, ability to travel around, or their professors. I find that whatever the website is emphasizing will correlate with where they focus their time and resources.
I made a list of the things that were important to me. I wanted to be able to see my personal priorities on paper. This way I can feel secure in my choices when looking into the programs.
I have a large spreadsheet that I write all the information down on. Keeping organized is key. There are so many moving parts and it’s very easy to get lost in this shuffle.
I may be the only one that didn’t register at first that there would be American professors at the schools abroad. This is something that made me think about because everyone around the world grows up with different cultural backgrounds and since I’ve spent my time here with mostly American teachers, I want to have that exposure to the country’s culture and the way that they teach.
I’ve spent time reaching out to people that I know who have done their own study abroad experiences. Think family members, alumni, family friends, your own friends! They don’t have to have done an experience through SDSU, going abroad is very similar no matter the home university.
If you are thinking about going to a country that is in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s important to remember that the weather is flip-flopped from here (summer is winter, winter is summer).
These are some aspects that I might have wanted to know about before I spent all this time researching programs. Having a baseline is a great resource so I hope that this gives y’all some sort of starting point.