To study abroad has become a right of passage for many college students, and well it should be. In this increasingly globalized world economy, it’s the rare business that needs no exposure to other countries and that can’t benefit from an employee with some first-hand experience with other cultures.
To help give your child a rich, personal experience abroad and ensure that they have the best future employment opportunities following graduation, it’s important to review the various summer study abroad programs available in order to select the best one. Because while some will focus on cultural experiences, others may be geared more toward language immersion, and still others may shelter your child from any exposure to the culture except to visit select sites—which may not fulfill your child’s purpose for going abroad to study.
Evaluate The Program’s Plan
Some study abroad programs are designed to immerse the student in the culture of the region they visit, which means there are planned excursions and field trips, language and field study, practical training and tours. Other programs are instead focused on the educating power of the institution visited, which means they focus less on language and cultural immersion. Determine what your child wants and needs to get out of the program in order to decide which of these is right for them.
Location, Location, Location
Some students know exactly where they want to study, which makes narrowing down program choices much easier. For those who don’t feel a particular location calling out to them, IIEPassport Study Abroad Directories suggests that you and your child consider some of the following points:
- Whether the student wants to be in an English-speaking area
- Whether they want a rural or urban environment
- What their goal in studying abroad is
- How various program choices might affect school and career goals
- How the cost of living compares to what you can afford.
Consider the Living Arrangements
Study abroad programs have several different options for your child’s living arrangements while abroad, and some don’t handle the living arrangements at all. Certain programs may have a campus for students to stay in which may or may not be co-ed; others may allow students to stay in the home of a permanent resident family. If neither of these options is appealing, your child may want to consider living in his or her own apartment. Each one of these situations has its own benefits and drawbacks that should be evaluated especially when considering the temperament and personality of your child.
Will the Credits Transfer?
According to UC San Diego, some programs permit credits earned in programs abroad to immediately be applied to the student’s transcript allowing for immediate graduation when the time comes. Other programs require the credit earned to be transferred over which can take some time and may end up delaying your son or daughter’s graduation.
The Duration of the Program
Study abroad programs can range form a full academic year to single semesters. If your son or daughter is unsure about how they will enjoy living abroad, away from friends and family, a short summer program is a really good option. However, there are even shorter sessions to choose from. The University of San Francisco’s Foghorn Online suggests exploring spring break and intersession programs as well as immersion programs and faculty-led study tours—which can last from a few weeks to one month.
What are the Program Requirements?
Most study abroad programs have certain requirements that a student must meet before being approved. Generally, the student must pick a major subject that they’ve had some prior study in. In addition, they must generally maintain a certain GPA and be in the appropriate grade level.
Another requirement that schools and student visas have is for the student to be covered by international student health insurance. Check the program and the state department website to determine what the appropriate international student health insurance coverage and limits are in order to get into the program.
The ability to study abroad is a truly once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s important that you and your son or daughter really focus on getting the most out of the experience and removing any distractions that could occur in specific situations or programs. Once you’ve done that, you can send your child abroad knowing that he or she is embarking on an experience that will be positively life changing.