So it seems like all your friends have been packing up their lives into two bags and shipping themselves around the world to study abroad, huh? Fortunately, studying abroad is an opportunity offered at most all colleges. Once you’ve made the decision to go, and have figured out funding whether it be through working multiple jobs, applying for scholarships, asking mom and dad or a combination of the three, the next big question to answer is where exactly you’re going to go.
The key to deciphering the big question of where is to figure out what you want from the trip. Are you looking to connect with your heritage? Are you looking for a party scene? Do you like the rural life? Do you know any other languages or are you open to becoming bi- or even tri-lingual? Speaking with study abroad advisors at your school as well as study abroad alumni like myself are the best ways to go about deciding which place would fit you best.
The most popular study abroad locations seem to be in Europe: United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Spain, France. Australia, China, and Costa Rica are also popular destinations and here’s why these places are chosen:
One main draw to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia is the lack of language barrier. Of course, there are differences in dialect as there are traveling from New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles to Dallas. There will be different words, phrases, and meaning given to different words. The transition from English speaking country to English speaking country is significantly less, although you will still be learning a completely new culture. It is true that English is spoken in other countries, but who wants to answer to “ugly American, party of one?”. The one major difference between these three places is money.
Studying abroad in England will obviously be a more expensive trip than Costa Rica as you would be converting your money to pounds instead of colones. The currency exchange is something most forget to factor in. Keeping up with the economic and politic state of a country before making the trip is a good way to stay aware on how quickly your bank account will deplete. Think of yourself at the end of your theoretical trip. Money may not have been an issue all trip, but after those spontaneous weekend trips and unexpected purchases it may become an issue. This always seems to be the time the exchange rate just got out of control and now you are resorting to eating meals from street vendors instead of buying organic fruit and veggies or going out to eat with your friends. Keeping in mind that exchange rates change, whatever the rate is in December when you plan your spring semester trip will be significantly cheaper than toward the end of your trip aka tourist season in May. All in all, ensure you can afford the place you are going to. If money is tight, six months in London may not be for you. Just as a person should live below their means when buying a house, remember that this frame of mind is incredibly valuable when traveling.
Also, do not forget that the greater the distance away from home directly relates to how expensive your plane ticket will be. Australia is not a super expensive place to live, but do not forget the thousand dollars it takes to get you there. Check out cost of living scales online as well as pricing flights.
Although money is probably the biggest issue when deciding on a place to live for a few months, there is another more fun aspect to consider: culture. Of course, each country has many different cultures and atmospheres that it offers. For instance, a person could decide to go to Italy, but is then faced with the question of which city or town. Italy offers the hustle and bustle of Rome (along with amazing architecture and food which is true of most places in Italy), as well as the small village of Florence with its Duomo tourist side and the altr’Arno local vibe and then there is the fashion capitol Milan and don’t forget the small town of Orvieto. So once your destination country is chosen, don’t think the decision making has ended there. There are two ways of doing so: one is to decide whether a small, medium, or large city is for you, research all of the cities that fit that description that you are willing to go to, then go from there; second, you can chose a country then search within. The former of the two is usually the better system for most people.
If unsure which setting you would like to be in, ask yourself: Would you enjoy living without a car? Do you mind public transit? Would you like to walk to get your groceries? Do crowds of people bother you? Would you like to enjoy locally grown food? When researching these places, try to not just hear the words studying abroad in Munich but try to picture yourself there, eating the food, interacting with others and living daily life.
Happy researching and enjoy your journey!
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