I encourage all college students to spend at least a month abroad during your academic career. Personally, my experience in Mexico, Canada, and South Korea did wonders for my personal and professional development.
Some college students will spend a summer, semester or even a year abroad feel satiated. Others crave more. (A lot more.) They want to study abroad for a long term which is amazing! There are several ways to get an authentic immersive experience abroad. If you want to be abroad full time, here are three different strategies to make it a reality.
Strategy 1: Affiliated programs
If you are currently enrolled in a US institution, look for international exchange or year-long revolving programs. This will keep your experience abroad consistent. This is an awesome path because you get the authentic abroad experience you crave while still having the added benefit of graduating from a US accredited institution.
Plus, all the financial aid you earn through FAFSA and other scholarships can be put toward your study abroad experience. Post-graduation you’ll have a truly global network. You can tap into your alumni network at your home institution and the institution abroad.
This is definitely the path of least resistance. I strongly encourage you to talk to your study abroad advisor, academic and career advisor multiple times throughout this journey to make sure you have your credits and classes squared away. Your career advisor will help you translate all the unique experiences and skills you earn abroad to your resume. They can also help you communicate your experiences abroad in an interview.
Bonus: If you need a place to start, I recommend looking into ISA, Sol and USAC. These are all reputable study abroad programs and offer a variety of countries to choose from. Personally, I went to Oaxaca, Mexico through Sol and Seoul, South Korea through ISA.
Strategy 2: Unaffiliated program
If Strategy 1, does not pan out for some reason, don’t fear. There are other options available. There are plenty of unaffiliated study abroad programs to choose from.
Just because a program is not directly affiliated with the university does not mean that they’re bad or illegitimate. Your school might not have a large enough study abroad presence to warrant an affiliated program. This just means that it takes more legwork on your part to transfer all the credits. It’s still possible and encouraged to look into these programs. They definitely have experience navigating students through various courses and programs.
Bonus: A quick Google search for “study abroad programs” can get you started in your search, but I still recommend starting with Sol, ISA or USAC. I personally have experience with Sol and ISA.
Strategy 3: Direct application
If you want to go all in, then the final option you have is to apply directly as an international student to a foreign institution. The reason I would shy away from this option is that it takes a lot of work on your part and the support is not all there. (You can’t rely on financial aid from the government either.)
Now some universities are more international-student friendly than others. If you decide to take this route, I strongly encourage you to attend universities with a large international student presence. These universities tend to be larger and more prestigious. Schools with a larger international student body are more likely to have a streamlined process specifically for international students. They probably have specific resources and procedures in place for international students.
There is no question that studying abroad can change your life. It gives you a cheat sheet on how to navigate the international waters and how to behave when you’re on foreign soil. Trust me, that’s a valuable skill.
You can learn about my study abroad experience here. I share a bit about how to travel abroad as a woman, study abroad on a budget and my spontaneous adventure in Vancouver, Canada.
Where did you study abroad in college? Where do you want to go next? Share your experience in the comments section. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions.