You’ve heard some of your friends rave about their semester abroad, or maybe your advisor has asked if you’d be interested in studying abroad yourself. The thought of an international classroom can be exciting, but you need to ask yourself some questions before you take the plunge. Here are a few things you should consider when thinking about studying abroad.


Why do you want to study abroad? Knowing the answer to this question can help you answer all the other ones. Do you want to immerse yourself in a different culture and learn a new language? Do you want the opportunity to learn in a culturally diverse environment and take classes that aren’t available at your home university? Do you want to apply to a program that has a relaxed schedule with time for you to explore, or do you want to study in a program that is strictly academic?


What subjects do you want to study while abroad? Picking classes can be challenging, but knowing what you want to study while abroad can help you decide where to go and who to apply to. Want to study history? Consider Athens. How about literature? Head to London. Interested in business studies? Check out Copenhagen. Some programs specialize in offering only a certain field of study, while others offer a whole undergraduate range of classes.


Where do you want to study? Many countries are eager to welcome new students. Some of the most popular destinations to study are England, France, Italy, Spain, and Australia. However, many students are choosing different countries such as Costa Rica, Japan, and Chile also. Just as knowing what you want to study can help you decide where to go, knowing where you’d like to study can help you choose what classes to take.


Who do you want to apply to? Many universities have special program providers that allow students to pick from a multitude of places and classes. These program providers will work closely with your university’s advisor to help you select the classes you need and prepare you for departure. Websites like Study Abroad 101 allow students to rate and review their experiences with program providers, so be sure to study up and pick one that you feel good about!


When can you go? Take a look at your personal life: your job and financial responsibilities, your family, your friends. Evaluate your situation, break out your university’s calendar, and decide when would be the best time for you to study abroad. Also figure out how long you can be abroad. If year-long or semester programs are too long for you, consider studying during a summer session or even a much shorter January intersession.

How can you afford it? It’s actually easier than you might think. Study abroad isn’t only for rich kids. A little known secret is that federal financial aid amounts can increase when a student gets accepted to study abroad. This means that even though you might have been getting only $10,000 a semester while going to your local university, you might qualify for upwards of $14,000 of financial aid when you study abroad. There are also many scholarships and grants available for the sole purpose of studying abroad.

Finally, be honest with yourself.

What are you seeking to gain from a study abroad experience? Don’t rush into a decision, and certainly don’t choose to go just because all your friends are going! Take the time to truly think about how you want your experience to be, do your research, and then apply.