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Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Overseas diaries: the delicate art of deciding

On the average university’s list of opportunities abroad, the options can be literally and figuratively endless. Scrolling down the list of attractive places and programs can be daunting — I mean, really, how does one choose? 

In my experience, the decision can be narrowed down using a short list of parameters, all which make a small contribution to where in the world you will end up. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

1. Region

The first thing many students think about when they ponder studying abroad is the region they want to visit.

Think about it. Do you want to experience the winding streets of a European travel center or admire the magnificent architecture of Asia? Perhaps you want to hop over to the upper third of North America and study in Canada. The Middle East might be the place for you if you have a particular interest in religion and humanitarian efforts. 

Long story short, research and personal preferences are your best friends when you are choosing your study abroad destination. My number one tip: trust your instincts. Pay attention to what excites you, and don’t let anyone talk you out of a good feeling.

2. Academic Program

Programs vary based on the traits within the country or city of your choice. For instance, UW-Madison programs and exchanges differ from national provider programs like the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. 

All of these providers have systems set up for you to get acclimated to life in your new country. Additionally, they will have a range of academic course offerings and extracurriculars to choose from. 

While making this decision, you may want to consider the level of immersion you are seeking during your trip. If you would like to maintain a strong bond with your university, a program rooted there might be your best shot. Otherwise, programs with homestays will land you on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to language and culture immersion. 

In my experience, national provider programs offer the most diverse academic options and have a little more reach and capability to take students on field studies and other trips. Regardless, your perfect program might be right around the corner, so keep your eye on the prize.

3. Affordability

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The sad truth of university attendance is cost and affordability. We all have to keep our bank accounts on our minds; however, no program is impossible to fund with scholarships and financial aid. 

Once you have a program in your sights, I highly recommend scheduling an appointment with your financial advisor or study abroad staff members to determine funding options for you. These resources are meant to help you, and they can let you know about the ins and outs of your program’s cost sheet. 

Additionally, you should inquire about scholarship opportunities that fit your demographic or academic pursuit and get those applications in on time.

Paying attention to the affordability of the city you may study in is critical, and you might want to look at the currency exchange rates. 

Since my program in Copenhagen will likely be accompanied with expensive cafe and vintage store visits, I am planning a cost sheet prior to my departure. Additionally, I’ve done research on YouTube to find hidden, affordable gems to add to my must-go list. 

At the end of the day, a little bit of preparation might help avoid falling into those pricey tourist traps.

Taking the leap to study abroad is a tough one, and the help of your friends and family will be significant while you prepare for your journey. But if you play it right, you can choose the program that fits you best, therefore minimizing linguistic, financial and academic surprises.

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