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Choosing a Study Abroad Program

by AIFS Study Abroad

After all of the study abroad fairs and learning all of the information you possibly can, you’ve decided to study abroad. Great! The only problem? Now you’re feeling overwhelmed by the hundreds of places you could go, not to mention the different providers who hold programs there. How can you possibly pick one? With summer and fall term deadlines approaching, you need to figure out which program is best for you soon. So here’s some help to get you started!

Consider when you want to study abroad.

  • While financial situations shouldn’t hold you back from study abroad, it is definitely a major factor on what programs you can participate in. Firstly, summer programs are obviously less expensive than semester or year-long programs because they are simply shorter. However, one thing to consider is that you were already planning on taking a semester somewhere, so hopefully you already had money set aside for school. While it may cost more to take that semester abroad, it is usually in a similar range as your tuition. Taking a summer program, you are paying for classes that you may not have taken had you not studied abroad. What about fall vs spring? Again, it depends on you. Are you a huge football fan? Then maybe you want to go in the spring so that you can still be on campus to cheer on your team. Do you want to be there for (or skip!) your sorority/fraternity recruitment? Take that into consideration, too.

Think about the costs of study abroad programs.

  • If you save up every penny and try to spend minimally, maybe London or Florence aren’t the right places for you. Most European cities are generally more expensive than places in South America, for example. After studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, I really appreciated that I had chosen a city that was very inexpensive because I felt more comfortable going out to eat, traveling on the weekends, and trying new things without worrying as much about how much it all cost.

See which company offers the most for the least.

  • For me, that was AIFS. They were one of the only companies I found that offered housing, a meal plan, and an optional flight package, which allowed me to visit London and get a ride to my dorm in Prague. While it may not seem like a huge deal, it was one less thing I had to worry about when preparing for everything else.

Keep in mind what you want to get out of study abroad.

  • Personally, I knew I wanted to travel in addition to spending time in Prague. Because of this, I chose a European city to be surrounded by different countries I was interested in. Additionally, Prague is practically the center of Europe so it was easy to get around to other places. If you want to explore nature, think about programs in Australia or South America.

Determine what you like.

  • Do you like visiting New York City or do you find the traffic, thousands of people, and hectic streets exhausting? Your answer will tell you if you should go to Stellenbosch or London. There are a ton of quizzes online, too, that supposedly match you with a city based on your personality. While they’re probably inaccurate (I got Budapest!), it’s a fun way to get started in your initial search. Absolutely lost? Test your knowledge of the countries of the world and get some inspiration of different places you can go (although not every country has a study abroad program).

TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) – Don’t be overwhelmed by too much information; filter by what’s important to you: Make an Excel sheet comparing different programs based on your personal criteria and see which one comes out on top!

aifs study abroad comparison pros and cons prague

This post was written by Elissa Wollins, an AIFS Study Abroad alum. Elissa participated in the AIFS program in Prague, Czech Republic in Spring 2015. 

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