We know it’s hard to select one program from more than 350 universities that we work with, but it’s completely worthwhile! There are many things to consider when choosing which program will work best for you, such as duration and location, costs, and courses that are available. To help you in this decision-making process, we have created a list of important aspects that should be considered while choosing a program, as well as a helpful checklist and chart to track your options. Each student will prioritize these factors differently. Some students may value location more over academic needs, cost over location, etc., but they are all important factors that students should consider.
- Academic Opportunities/Courses
Students should first consider courses they need to take in order to fulfill their ISU degree. Compiling a list of these courses may be helpful when researching what academic fields and courses are available at specific locations and universities. When choosing which courses to take abroad, students will be required to receive approval before going abroad. Our office and ISU’s credit transfer specialist can work with students to ensure that they find course equivalents, and get appropriate courses approved for their program abroad. Please see How to Get Classes Approved for more information on the course transfer process.
- Decide when and how long (Summer, Spring, or Fall of which year)
When choosing when to go abroad, keep in mind that our office requires at least 2 semesters at ISU or another university before studying abroad. Athletes and majors with tight schedules (i.e. Nursing, Athletic Training, etc.) should consider their athletic off-season, or summer options.
Some university costs are cheaper than ISU’s tuition and fees, other universities may be equal to, or more expensive. The location and length of stay will have the largest effect on a study abroad budget. Scholarships and Financial Aid can be used toward study abroad programs, so students should meet with a Financial Aid adviser while planning their program to determine an appropriate an affordable budget for themselves.
This is another aspect that has different weight for every student. For some, the location will largely depend upon the area of study that the student is invested in. For others, a particular destination may be the student’s only interest and priority. Other things to consider in regards to location may include the sites and excursions that are available nearby, as well as the weather in that area.
The native language of another country should not be considered a barrier. Many programs abroad offer English-only courses, as well as courses instructed in other languages. Learning a language or phrases in the host language may be very helpful when going abroad, but is not a requirement. Additionally, students going abroad for language studies courses should consider a location and program that is fit for their chosen field (i.e. students studying Spanish should expect to go to a Spanish-speaking country such as Costa Rica, Spain, Peru, etc.) Language studies students should also consider any length requirements for study abroad for their major or minor.
A less common consideration in choosing a program is that of living arrangements. University living arrangements vary depending upon the location/program. Homestay (with a host family), apartment-style, or residence halls are regular options for living arrangements. Students should research what is offered at their prospective university, and compare how comfortable they would feel in these situations. Read more about housing options here.
Overall, students should consider what they want to receive by studying abroad, and how it will affect them after the fact. What are YOU looking for? Independence? College credit? Language skills? Self-confidence? International connections? Regardless, we hope that every student finds a program that is the best fit for their needs, and that they return more culturally experienced and well-rounded.