Whether you just want to spend a few weeks in Europe, or you want to spend the entire year abroad, there are plenty of study abroad programs designed for American students wanting to travel. But first, you must decide how long and when you want to travel. Deciding how long you want to travel and when you want to travel will play a big role in determining which programs you can apply for.
Consider whether you want to earn your whole degree abroad or whether you want to just study abroad for a couple of semesters, or even just a summer. For students just wanting a taste of life abroad, studying abroad for just a summer or semester will afford one the opportunity to have many different experiences without having to face the daunting prospect of moving to a completely different country.
Then you must consider what country you will be going to and what you want to study. The country you choose will have a great effect on what you will be able to study. For instance, students wanting to take an English course abroad would most likely consider studying in the United Kingdom whereas students wanting to take Arabic would likely consider Morocco instead. One important thing to consider when studying abroad is the prospective safety of the country that you will be going to. Like it or not, America may not be liked by the rest of the world. American students wishing to travel abroad are strongly encouraged to check the state department website for travel alerts and warnings related to the countries that they are considering. The State Department issues a travel alert to a specific country when protracted issues within that country make travel to that country unsafe for American citizens.
After considering what you want to study we can then start to consider how you will fund your trip. Typical student abroad costs range from about 3500 USD for a summer program to 30,000 USD for a full year program. Keep in mind that this does not always include items such as airfare or living expenses. Airfare and living expenses often vary greatly depending on the country. For instance, we’ll go back to our Morocco example. The cost of living in Morocco would be significantly less than the cost of living in the United Kingdom, but Morocco does not have many of the conveniences that American students may be used to. In the United Kingdom, tourists and students can get adequate emergency treatment at local hospitals as part of the National Healthcare System. In Morocco most hospitals deliver a substandard level of care and many foreigners prefer private clinics, which are more expensive.
Most study abroad organizations offer special scholarships to American students. Also, one opportunity that American students can take advantage of is the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunities Grant (FSEOG). FSEOG is a grant available to poor students that show the most need. However, the requirements for FSEOG are very stringent. Most students will not be able to meet the income requirements and are better off seeking merit-based scholarships with the school or group that they are traveling with.
No matter who you are studying abroad with or where you go, studying abroad can be an awesome experience. At times it is a bit stressful but it can be rewarding, fun, and very challenging. Studying abroad affords you the opportunity to meet new people and take a trip outside your comfort zone. And as Mark Twain once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”