In this episode, I sit down with Melanie Nogueira from London, England. Her and I discuss how to choose the study abroad program best for you. There are a few important things to consider. Your options may be limited, but it is likely that you will have to make some decisions when choosing a program. This episode will help you make those decisions. Below is the episode outline with some additional comments.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Study Abroad Program
While academics might not be your primary focus while abroad, it is what allows you to go on exchange in the first place. Also, as Melanie says, you are paying to study somewhere else so you better get something out of it. Here are a few school-related things to think about.
- Will you get credit at your home university? If so, will it be general hours or can you take specific courses required for your specific major? This is why I chose to do an exchange through my Media and Journalism school. I can take classes that count for my major which is not typical of a normal study abroad.
- Does the university offer interesting courses? I didn’t want to take the most important classes while abroad, but I did want to have something interesting. This can also be a time to take courses you may not be able to find at your home university.
- What is the reputation of the university? Melanie and I both did not know anything about the Universidad de Navarra prior to being here, but they claim to be one of the best private schools in Spain (it seems like every school thinks they are the best – UNC included). It is not bad to have a reputable institution on your resume, especially if you want more global opportunities in the future.
In my opinion, this is the most important factor. You should consider several things about the location of a study abroad program.
- What is the language? For many people, language is the greatest determining factor. You may want to go to a place to use/learn a second language or you may want to only use your native tongue. Both limit your options for study abroad locations. This is why I looked at Spanish-speaking destinations.
- Can you easily travel to other places? This ultimately led me to choose Spain over options in Chile and Argentina. Although I would love to spend time in South America, Europe has more easily accessible destinations.
- How big is the city? As Melanie and I discussed, smaller cities are so different from big cities when going abroad. Pamplona really feels like a different country; there isn’t a very noticeable international influence. Huge cities are all globalized. You can usually get by with only English and will see familiar brands, restaurants etc. This may or may not be what you want. Safety and airport size are other factors that city size affect.
If you find more than one school that meet your academic and location criteria, you may need to look at the specifics of the university.
- What is the reputation of the university? This was discussed under academics but it is worth mentioning again.
- Is there a big international culture? This may sound contradictory to my preference for small cities, but when it comes to the school, I prefer an international culture. This is because you are able to easily meet people and make travel companions which result in more fun experiences during your exchange. Honestly, this is the coolest part of being on exchange: traveling to new places with a group of friends from all across the world. Melanie and I both agree on this. It also inspired this podcast.