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Throwing Caution to the Wind: A Survival Guide for Studying Abroad Part I

Want a change of scenery, but don’t want to transfer? Have you suddenly been bit with the urge to teach Vietnamese children English, or does tracing pods of dolphins near the Great Barrier Reef sound more like your scene? Studying abroad will satisfy the need for far-flung travel, while providing an experience that will change your life and put you ahead of your peers when it comes time to find a job or apply for grad school. While the process can be long, and somewhat daunting, the rewards are priceless. Here are some ideas to help get the ball rolling.


  • START EARLY! Depending upon your college, you may have to apply a year, or more, in advance. Many students choose to head overseas during their Junior year, so that may mean getting started your Sophomore year.
  • Have a chat with your adviser: Send them an e-mail and tell them you are interested in studying abroad. Not only will they be able to tell you how to best fit it in to your current program, but if you need to complete any academic requirements before hand. The last thing you want to happen is to go and then realize you won’t graduate on time.
  • Find the office that handles all of the “off campus” programs: Many colleges today offer more than one off campus program. Programs range from domestic programs in places like L.A., New York City, and Boston, to the more exotic, international locales of Peru, South Africa, and Denmark. More often than not, each location will specialize in students with particular majors or interests, so before you have your heart set on eating gellato in Rome make sure you don’t mind taking Intensive Italian and art history.
  • Who do you want to study abroad with? Do you want to study abroad with students from your college? What about programs that take students from across the US? Would you be interested if you’re the only person on your end participating in a foreign exchange? Your college may have only have one type of these, or they may have a combination of programs to suit different needs. Either way, give it some serious thought. Each has their own unique pros and cons.
  • When do you want to go? Fall? Spring? Summer? If you’re heading south of the equator remember the seasons are reversed!
  • Exchange rates are your friend: Now would be a good time to start watching the exchange rate between the dollar and the currency of a few countries you are interested in. This will give you a rough estimate of what your buying power will be overseas. If you’re staying Stateside, check out the cost of living index for your the areas you’re looking at. CNN Money has a good calculator available here.
  • Start saving NOW: Open an online savings account at some place, like ING Direct or SmartyPig, and label it with your dream destination. Did Grandma send you $20 for your birthday? Spend $10 on “school supplies” and throw the other $10 in the account. Working a part-time job? Throw $20 in every paycheck and by the time you head abroad, you’ll have a nice fund waiting for you. It may sound extreme, but I have never heard of anyone complaining they had saved too much money to take with them.
  • Look at scholarships: Poke around and see if there are scholarships at your college or that you can apply to online that will subsidize, or fully fund, your adventure.

Look forward to Part II in the series which will cover narrowing down your choices, surviving the application process, and preparing for Visa/Entry Clearance applications!

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2 Responses to “Throwing Caution to the Wind: A Survival Guide for Studying Abroad Part I”

  1. vincent says:

    j’aimerais savoir s’il vous plait quelles sont les conditions à remplir pour faire des études en contabilité en afrique du sud. s’il vous plait soyez claire et préçis. merci

  2. I’vee been there… Hard but unforgettable times! Thanks for all the tips, very useful!