Going beyond the Classroom: Consider a Study Abroad Program

The purpose of education is to expand our boundaries. In addition to the new intellectual frontiers we expect to cross during our studies, many colleges and universities also offer us an opportunity to travel to distant locations as we broaden our horizons. Although study abroad programs have existed for a long time, academic institutions have transformed the experience in recent years, adding service learning opportunities to cross-cultural experiences. Before selecting a study abroad program, there are a few important things that students and their families should consider.

Plan a learning experience that coincides with a time in your college career when you can get the most impact, usually sometime during the second or third year of the undergraduate experience. Freshmen taking foundation courses may not enjoy the experience as much as a student farther along in their studies. Graduating seniors have a lot on their plate as they complete the culminating course work, internships, or other academic requirements, not to mention their career search or graduate school plans.

The location you select should offer great opportunities. Consider the faculty who may be available as mentors, as well as the learning objectives you can master at the place you visit. Costs are always an important factor: Staying in a youth hostel in Amsterdam is certainly more affordable than having to find a small flat in London or Tokyo.

Keep academics at the forefront. The study abroad experience should be an exciting opportunity to visit a faraway location. However, beyond the fun, be sure to make sure that the credit you would earn fit within your degree plan and work to your advantage. Before putting down a deposit on an overseas adventure, be sure that your major professor and academic adviser have approved your plans. A little planning now will ensure a successful academic adventure far away from the classroom.