City or small town? Apartment or homestay? Travelling or stationary? When considering study abroad programs, you’ve likely thought through the basics. To really 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. They throw you in the deep end and watch you swim back without jumping in after you. Other programs, balance support with independence. There’s a few programs (however they are more rare) that hold your hand through the entire experience. When we go abroad, it’s important and almost always 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. Ensuring your program will allow you to pursue your passions and bring you closer to your goals will make you feel more comfortable in your choice!
Consider the big picture and search for experiences that align with it. Do you want to learn another language? Do you want to feel entirely 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 your program.
4. How much flexibility and freedom will I have on the program?
Whether you really want to focus on intensive coursework or an internship opportunity, or spend your long weekends traveling the continent can really make a difference in deciding on a program. Check how strict your itinerary is to see whether you’ll have the wiggle room to plan those adventures you’ve been dreaming of.
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.
Upcoming programs you'll love
SPANISH immersion GALAPAGOS ECOTOUR MACHU PICCHU ecotour