How to choose the right study abroad program

Photo by: Rebecca Hall


Making the decision to study abroad can be a stressful and sometimes daunting task. You are confronted with having to choose the right program, the right price and the right location. With all the different programs and locations offered how do you know if you are making the right program choice?

Research is crucial when deciding which study aboard program to choose, every student is different, something you might like about a program somebody else might hate. Each program will have its own pros and cons, it’s just a matter of finding the right program that best suits your needs. Here are seven things to keep in mind when deciding to study abroad.


You will need to decide what kind of classes you plan on taking while abroad? You will have the option to take classes that contribute towards your major. Or you may choose to take classes that will count as an elective.

How will your credits transfer to your home university? Before going to study abroad you will need to get all of your classes approved for transfer credit. You should ask you study abroad program for the class syllabus and go to the department chair at your home university to have them sign off on your desired class. When you have all the signatures you need, go to your academic advisor, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

What are the deadlines, start dates, and payment policies? Are there requirements? Be aware of the program deadlines, most programs will have an application and class registration deadline. It is crucial to research if there is a language and grade point average, before applying to a program.


One of the biggest reservations students have when deciding to study abroad, is whether or not they can afford to do so. Most students don’t know that most programs offer multiple sources for financial assistance. There are several types of study abroad scholarships to apply for.

  • Merit-based
  • Student-specific
  • Destination-specific
  • Program-specific
  • Subject-specific

Once you decide to take part in a study abroad program you will need to research what features are included in the program you are considering. Figure out if it is included in the cost of the program. Some programs offer out-of-class activities, are there prices of these activities included in your program cost? Are excursions are included? If so is there an additional cost for the excursions? What other services are included? (travel protection program, mobile telephone, etc.)


You will have to define what characteristics you are looking for in your host city. Would you prefer to stay in a major city or a smaller town? Both have their benefits, giving you the opportunity to truly experience and immerse yourself into the culture of the country you are visiting.

The bigger cities will have more resources and more people who speak English, they can also be more expensive and “touristy.” On the other hand, the smaller towns, may not be as accessible to transportation and other necessities.


When deciding on where you want to stay during you time abroad consider if you would prefer to live with a local host family or if you would prefer to stay in an apartment or a dormitory. In most cases you will be sharing a room with another study abroad student. You will need to decide whether or not you will be comfortable doing so or you may have to option to pay extra to have a single room (if you stay in a dormitory or apartment.) If you stay with a host family you will most likely share your room with another student.


You need to determine how long you want to study abroad? Programs run during the regular semester, and some during the summer. You may make your decision on what the weather is like in the country during those given times.  Some student may decide on studying at a certain time because of plans to do some side-travels while abroad.

Pre-departure planning

You will need to have a US passport to travel out of the country, if you do not already have one you need to apply for one as soon as possible. It can take up to six to eight weeks to receive your passport. If you are applying for your passport at the last minute there are quicker methods to get your passport. The US Passport Agency has an expedited service that takes about three weeks, this of course will come at an extra cost.

You should have an insurance card or other document verifying that you have travel and health insurance to cover you for the entire time you will be abroad. If you are taking prescription medications make sure to have enough for the duration of your trip.

Or if you need to get it filled in your host country you may need to verify this with a doctor’s note. You will need to let your doctor know that you intend to travel abroad so that they can provide the appropriate documentation you will need to fill the prescription while away abroad.

It is a good idea to bring a copy of all travel documents along with your originals. It would be best to keep copies in a safe place, separate from where you keep the original documents.

The best advice when packing is to pack light,  but when getting ready to pack make sure to have the following items:

  • Clothing
  • Toiletries
  • Passport
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tickets
  • Prescription medicine
  • Money (For taxi rides to and from airports, phone calls, emergencies, etc…)
  • Other official documentation
  • Proof of Insurance
  • Student I.D. Card
  • Backpack
  • Camera/Journal
  • A Few Family Photos (so you don’t get homesick)

Health and safety

There are different types of insurance that you can get to insure you are covered while abroad.

  • Major Medical: This type of insurance assures that all or part of your medical expenses for illness and injury will be paid.
  • Emergency Evacuation: This type of insurance provides support for transportation from the scene of an accident to the closest appropriate medical care facility. It may not cover your return to the United States if the company does not believe it is necessary.
  • Legal Assistance/Liability Insurance: If you encounter legal difficulties abroad, you may need the assistance of a local attorney. If you are found responsible for damages, liability insurance may cover those costs. The U.S. Department of State may assist you in finding an attorney, but they can neither pay attorney costs nor damages.
  • Lost Baggage/Property Insurance: Insurance can be purchased to cover lost baggage and lost or theft of your baggage abroad.
  • Kidnapping and Terrorism Insurance: Insurance is available to provide for response to kidnapping or terrorism.
  • Repatriation of Remains Insurance: In the event of your death, this type of insurance will provide means for the return of your remains to the United States.
  • Accidental Death and Dismemberment/Life Insurance: In the case of loss of limbs or death, this coverage provides funding to compensate you or your beneficiary.

Studying abroad provides students with the opportunity to learn about themselves, through personal growth and development, while also adding to their academic education. These tips will help make your study abroad experience less stressful and a truly memorable experience.

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About Rebecca Hall

Rebecca is a junior at Metro State, majoring in journalism and public relations. She expects to graduate sometime in the next decade.

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