STEP 1: SELECTING A PROGRAM: FINDING THE RIGHT ACADEMICS, FINANICAL AND PERSONAL FIT
There is no such thing as "the best" or "one-size-fits-all" study abroad experience. Your child's goal should be to find the best program for herself. This will depend on a number of academic, personal, and financial factors. Here are some questions for your child to ask as she looks for the program that best fits her own unique goals, objectives, and needs.
How long is the program, and when is it offered?
Is it a semester? A year? Shorter? Does it dovetail with her academic calendar and/or her need to work?
What kind of program is this? Will I be traveling and studying together with a group of other students from our home campus, or a group of American students from other universities? Will I be "immersed" into o foreign university? What kind of support services will be available to me on-site?
The good news is that there are so many types of study abroad opportunities now available that, with good planning, it is possible to find the right experience for almost any student. Finding the right fit depends on your child's age, level of maturity, previous international experience, and personality among other factors. If this is her first international experience, you may both feel more comfortable with her selecting a program where she will travel together in a group with other students from her home campus, with on-site staff or chaperones from the home campus; and you may also be attracted to programs of a shorter duration. A more mature or experienced student who is looking to develop proficiency in a foreign language or career training abroad may be ready for a more independent experience, a more complete immersion into a foreign culture, and a longer stay-so this student will be looking for an entirely different type of program.
If your child is confident and comfortable with taking on new challenges, an extensive stay is compatible with her program of study, and you feel that she has the maturity to weather the ups and downs that typically accompany a study abroad experience, she may be ready for the more independent, and invaluable, experience offered by immersion programs. and programs of a longer duration (a semester or a year).
Are there work, internship, or service learning programs abroad that will help me in the development of my career?
Students, educators, and employers are increasingly recognizing the val ue of work. internship, and service learning programs abroad. These programs can offer students the benefits of both hands-on experience for use in their future careers and the opportunity to interact closely with local professionals and residents. The experience and skills gained in programs like these may be looked on very favorably by future employers, and can also provide students with intensive, in-depth immersion into a foreign culture--one of the primary goals of study abroad. Of course, as with any program, students should find out if or how the work they do while abroad will apply toward their credits for graduation.
Are there any prerequisites or special requirements for participating in this program? Do I need to speak a foreign language? If so, what level of proficiency Is required?
Because many programs now offer classes conducted in English in non-English-speaking countries, foreign language proficiency is not necessarily a requirement, but it is always an essential question to ask' Of course, students who are planning to participate in a program offered in a country where a foreign language is spoken will benefit from whatever advance familiarity in the language they can acquire. Approaching such an experience with phrase book and pocket dictionary in hand, and with an open, inquiring spirit, ready to learn, is the best way of making the experience as enjoyable and educational as it can be.