Whether you want to explore the culture of a new country or just travel to a new place for a few months, studying abroad may be an opportunity you want to take advantage of during your time at college. Unfortunately, the processing of applying to and making the most of your study abroad experience is not as simple as choosing a country and packing your bag.

Applying to study abroad

Depending on where you attend school, there may be specific universities that partner with your school for study abroad programs. Other schools allow students to apply to study abroad programs that are not affiliated with their university, and other universities have a mixture of both. How do you choose which program to join?

Some of the benefits I found through applying to a program with university affiliation is that they often have expectations for whether you get in or not, and they can help your application for acceptance into the international university. These applications often require students to apply to the program through their own university and then to the abroad institution. In this case, the student can often apply to multiple programs before being directed to one, and most of the fees can be covered by the students home university. In partnering programs, tuition and financial aid for your home university is applied to the tuition for the abroad university. It may also be easier to get advice about classes that fulfill major requirements and places to live, which can be harder to find through unaffiliated programs.

Unaffiliated study abroad programs usually involve a third party program for applications, such as Atlantis. These programs usually offer a wider range of universities to choose from and different time frames than a partner school program. However, these programs may also require more fees or application restrictions, such as choosing one school. If you are applying through an unaffiliated program then I recommend looking for possible scholarships they offer.

Overall, the university partnered program may be easy to navigate, fund, and apply to. On the other hand,the unaffiliated program offers more flexibility in the school you can attend and the program you apply for.The unaffiliated study abroad program often offers students the option of more universities to attend abroad. 

Who should study abroad

I have not found any restrictions about who is allowed to apply to study abroad programs, but some major options make it easier than others. If you are set on joining a program, it may be a good idea to plan ahead and make sure you will still graduate on time. Do not rely on the idea that all abroad credits will transfer to fulfill a major requirement. It’s common that study abroad courses can only be used as elective credits, and some programs even require these courses to be graded on a pass-fail scale. 

If you can fit the program into your university schedule, students should also look into scholarships for these programs, especially if they are not partnered with your home university. There are often extra fees, including those for the application, housing, and plane ticket if you get accepted. These applications require you to apply directly to the school and petition your home university for the credits to transfer. Although there are programs like Atlantis that help with this process. 

There are other options for studying or working abroad that are associated with finishing college courses, and we’ll talk about those options at the end of this article.

How to find living options

Most programs will have advice on where students have lived in the past. Unlike most American universities, international schools may not have on campus housing for students to live in. Most of these schools will instead have nearby apartment complexes that students commonly decide to live in. It might be a good idea to ask previous program students or look into the apartment complex to determine how many other students, or even other student abroad students live in these apartments. Once you find a place that you’d like to live, apply early. These complexes for students can fill up very quickly, and housing could become much more expensive or further from the campus if you wait.

Should you plan to go with other people

Going to another country for almost half a year can be intimidating to say the least. There are benefits as well as problems to traveling with somebody. Some of these benefits may be that you have someone to room with already, someone to go looking around the city with, and someone you already know in case you get home sick or lonely. However, traveling with someone can also limit how much you choose to meet and interact with other people from the country you went to or other study abroad students. It can also impact how much you accomplish based on what you want from this experience and what your friend wants. There’s no right choice here, but it is important to think about what you want from this program before you decide to apply or to bring along a friend. 

Alternative options to study abroad

There are cases whether study abroad programs are not the best choice or even possible for every student. It’s possible you decide you’d rather spend two weeks at a place than four or five months. If any of these cases include you, then there are still other options to have international experiences. Some of these include volunteer programs, internships, or even summer classes that can be abroad experiences. These programs likely have different requirements and fees that will not be covered by your university, but they can still be worthwhile opportunities for those that want to have an international college experience.

Here are some of the study abroad unaffiliated programs: