There's more important questions than "Which location can I get the best Instagram pictures in?"
City or small town? Apartment or homestay? Travelling or stationary? When considering study abroad programs, you’ve likely thought through the basics. However, to feel confident about your program choice and commit to sending in that application, here are six more questions to ask yourself before choosing your program:
1. What is it like to be a student on my program?
Through your provider’s website, or by asking the program director, you can get access to student blogs, testimonials, or presentations that allow you to get a new perspective beyond the website’s brief itinerary outline. The opportunity to e-mail or chat with a program alum is another huge asset that can really help you with the decision-making process.
2. Who will my support system be?
When you’re in another country long-term for the first time, it’s important to know who to go to when you need assistance. Knowing the team of on-site directors on your program will help you feel more secure, and put a face to the e-mails and documents you’ve been working with.
It’s also important to ask yourself, how much support will I need and how much support will I want? Some programs are designed to be more independent than others. When we go abroad, it’s important and inevitable, that you will be pushed to explore your personal limitations. You’ll have to move beyond the perimeters of your comfort zone and challenge your existing mindset and ingrained belief system. Yet, each person has different levels of experience and exposure. If you’ve never climbed a mountain before, we wouldn’t encourage you to hike up Everest on your first go. We feel the same way about travel experiences. It’s your personal responsibility to find the line between challenging yourself and going too far beyond what you can physically and emotionally handle. The better you understand what you can and can’t do at this point in your life, the better you’ll be able to choose a program that caters to that.
3. What will my program allow me to experience?
Beyond beautiful beaches and gorgeous architecture, it’s important your program aligns with your academic, personal, and professional goals. Ensure that your program helps you to pursue your passions and brings you closer to your goals.
Consider the big picture and search for experiences that align with it. Do you want to learn another language? Do you want to feel uncomfortable? Do you want to boost your career? Do you want to party? Do you want to hang out with locals or travellers (or both)?
Find the program’s itinerary, talk to your program director, and seek out opportunities to learn as much as you can about the experiences offered by your program.
4. How much flexibility and freedom will I have on the program?
Do you want to be in a strict full-time schedule and focus on intensive coursework or your internship placement, or would you like the flexibility to have days-off and long weekends? Check how much wriggle room you have to plan the adventures you're dreaming about.
In addition, it’s important to consider how much freedom your program gives you, to find balance between charting off to a new country on your own, and having the guidance of a program director. Giving yourself time to explore, but also taking advantage of the program’s planned excursions or activities, can allow you to feel supported and safe, but also independent enough to fit in that scuba diving or ziplining trip you’ve been raving about.
5. How often do I want to contact home?
If calling and texting home is a priority, you’ll definitely have less access to reliable internet abroad. But while the difference between a rural, camping-based program and a city apartment can be a big switch, consider the opportunity in front of you.
If you’re after a more rural experience but you’re nervous about being isolated from friends and family, ask your program advisor where the closest city or wifi base is located. That way, you can plan your schedule around a daily or weekly check-in. Remember, you’ll only have this experience once, and as individuals that have seen many people embark on an international journey, we recommend that you say goodbye to wifi and embrace what’s in front of you. You’ll find that you miss home way less than you originally expected.
6. How can I afford it?
The world of study abroad programs is not without ample resources to make the journey possible. The impact of study abroad is so worthwhile and transformative, that there are hundreds of scholarships dedicated to getting as many students abroad as possible. In our scholarship resource, we talk to experts in the study abroad world on how to get ahead in your application, and how to stand out in the crowd.
No matter where you go in the world, El Nomad has got your back. With resources on scholarships, how to put study abroad on your resume, and how to keep up with your language skills, we’re here for you every step of the way. As experts in travel and study abroad, we’re more than happy to answer questions, give advice on trip planning, and get you excited for the opportunities ahead.
Go on, the world awaits.
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