I studied abroad in Auckland, New Zealand for a semester my 2nd year of schooling and it was by far the most amazing, fun, and valuable experience I have ever had. I was 19 years old and it was my first time traveling alone. I was excited, exhilarated… and absolutely terrified. Young Kayla had no idea what she was getting herself into, but it was the best 6 months of my life and was, to put it quite simply, life changing.
So to help all of you young, fresh faced university students I have compiled a list of 5 things you need to think about before choosing where you will study abroad. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of the things I considered before choosing a program and a few things that I wish I had thought about before I chose a program. I hope this helps you with your decision of choosing where to study abroad!
1. Choose something that will further your academic career (even if its only a little bit).
My number one advice to anyone who is thinking about studying abroad is to choose a program that will help you complete your degree! You are about to spend a crap ton of money to go abroad, and it will be worth it, and you will have an amazing time. BUT to make it extra worth you need it to count towards your degree. If it doesn’t count towards you’re degree, just go travel to that country instead! It will be way cheaper and still an amazing experience.
2. Do you want to learn a new language?
If you want to learn a new language or you need to learn a language before you graduate choose a country where you can practice! Immersing yourself in the culture and language of a country is the easiest and quickest way to learn.
This will also make it so much easier to get a job where you need to be bilingual. It is easy to say that you are fluent in a language, but if you can say that you have lived in a country where it is the native language it shows that you have real life experience using this language on a daily basis. This is a huge deal to employers! Also, its pretty bad ass to be able to speak multiple languages. I can only speak English and I wish I could say I was fluent in another language.
3. Do you have a dream country?
Is there that one country that you have dreamed of going to? Of exploring the country side and learning more about the culture? For me this was New Zealand. I had wanted to visit there since I was little and studying abroad was the perfect opportunity to go there. I was able to explore so much of New Zealand and meet so many locals.
Being a student makes it easy to take weekend trips and have the opportunity to travel the whole country. I know of other students who went to Europe to study abroad and they were able to see so many different countries, which is amazing! By choosing New Zealand, I decided that I wanted to really see just that country. I ended up deciding to not go to Australia or Fiji (popular options for other study abroaders in NZ) because I wanted to spend my time getting to know the country I had chosen. I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the opportunity to go back and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything because I had spent too much money getting to around to other countries.
4. Have you ever been out of the country before?
If you have never left your own country before and you do not care about learning a new language then I would suggest choosing a country that speaks the same language as you (or a place where a lot of the population knows your language).
If you have not traveled much outside of your comfort zone going to a place where they speak your language can help to cut down on homesickness and just stress in general. Being on your own can be really scary and you want your studying abroad to be a good one. I had traveled quite a bit before studying abroad and I had moved 10 hours away from home to go to University and I still got extremely home sick at times. For me the homesickness wasn’t too bad and I was able to go out and meet people who made me forget about the homesickness.
However, if I had been in a country where no one else spoke the language it would have been a bit harder. Now, I am not saying this to scare you away from living in a country where you can’t speak the language! I’m telling you this so that you can be prepared. For many people this isn’t an issue and they thrive in places where there are a lot of unknowns. However, there are plenty of people that this could cause them a lot of anxiety so its good to know what you are getting into!
5. How much money do you have?
Now this one is more directed at Americans, since that is where I am from and know the most about the study abroad costs. However, this is something that everyone needs to think about before choosing a program. For me the biggest cost was accommodation and the flight to and from New Zealand. In case you didn’t know, New Zealand is expensive! The only reason I was able to afford to go there was because I had a scholarship that covered the entire cost of the program. I only had to pay for living expenses and travel expenses. If I hadn’t had the scholarship I would have had to pay the 12,000 USD program fee that only covered the actual classes that I was taking.
Look into scholarships and loans that will help you pay for the program. Every little bit helps! If a scholarship is only for $200, apply! That 200 dollars could be a weekend trip to an amazing destination.
If you don’t have a lot of money saved up, consider going to one of the cheaper countries. For people studying in America, that could be somewhere in South America. It is cheaper to fly there than it is to Asia or Oceania and the cost of living is much cheaper than in the US.
These are just some questions to ask yourself before choosing a program, but the most important thing to remember is have fun! This should not be a stressful time for you and it is so exciting to look at all the different possibilities! There are so many amazing countries and programs to choose from that it is almost impossible to make a bad choice. Good luck!
What are some tips that you guys have for choosing a study abroad location? If you have studied abroad, why did you choose that country?