Establishing that you want to study abroad is the first giant step towards a new journey in your life. It’s so amazing that you are choosing to partake in another culture while keeping yourself grounded in your studies. Once the initial decision to go has been made, the next step is to decide where to study abroad.
1. Course Offerings
Many campuses offer courses that are specific to their university. It’s important when you’re studying abroad that you find a course that suits your academic needs. Certain programs, such as language intensive studies, will call for full immersion, whereas other programs may be taught in your native tongue. It’s essential that you know what you are getting yourself into before you arrive, as it can help you avoid culture shock. You can always research the universities and read reviews if you’re having trouble making a decision.
I knew that I wanted to continue studying French, and while many other universities offered courses in French, I knew that an immersion program would be most beneficial for me. Deciding that I wanted to immerse myself narrowed my search down a lot, and I eventually decided that I wanted to study somewhere in France.
Each university is different. Some may only offer five week courses, others may offer several ranging from one month to a year. The more intensive study that you wish to partake in, the longer you should plan to be abroad. Figuring out how long you want to study abroad is an integral step that will help you manage your time, money, and other resources accordingly. You’ll be able to make plenty of memories in the allotted time.
I decided to choose a 4 week program because I knew that would be enough time for me to improve my French without burning out. During my travels, several native speakers have told me that 3 months is the ideal amount of time for a foreign speaker to get a grasp on the language; however, it varies from person to person.
Maybe you want to go somewhere that you’ve already been, or maybe you’re looking to travel somewhere new. Do you want to be in a city that has a lot of tourist attractions? Would you prefer to be in a place where you can walk to the mountains or the beach? These are important factors to consider when choosing your home away from home. Everyone has different preferences, so make sure that you cater to yours!
When I began searching for a study abroad program, I knew that I didn’t want to go to a city that was known for attracting a lot of tourists. I wanted to find a smaller city that I could traverse easily that also had beautiful scenery. After doing some research, I settled on Grenoble, France. I was obsessed with the gorgeous mountain ranges surrounding the city and knew that it was somewhere I had to be.
Money is one factor that will determine what you are able to do during your time abroad. Many students have a set budget that only allows them to partake in certain activities. It’s good to give yourself a little bit of “wiggle room” in case an emergency arises. Sacrificing a few souvenirs and gourmet meals could allow you to go on an extra excursion. Choose how you spend your money wisely!
When you study abroad, the prices might surprise you. In Grenoble, I’ve found that fruit, clothing, and niceties are a little more expensive than they are where I live, but the quality is usually superior. Getting a hearty sandwich and a tasty dessert is relatively inexpensive, as there are sandwich shops and pastry shops on every street. Sit down restaurants cost a little more, but the tip and tax are included in the price you see on the menu! In fact, tax is included in every price, making shopping on a budget a little easier.
Last, but certainly not least, is safety. When traveling through a program such as AIFS, safety is of the utmost importance. Your AIFS representative will keep you updated on all activities and inform you about the potential dangers of being in a foreign place. Familiarize yourself with the country’s current events so that in the case of an emergency you can have a
plan. Feeling safe is the first step to becoming comfortable with new surroundings. In order to embrace your study abroad program fully, you need choose somewhere where you feel safe.
I knew that choosing a smaller city would make me feel safer, because I would be able to familiarize more with my surroundings, as well as encounter fewer people than I would if I were in a bigger city. Although manifestations have taken place during my time here, I have never felt threatened or unsafe. I’m extra aware of my surroundings at night and extra
protective of my belongings on public transportation. It’s always best to be prepared for the worst.
I hope these tips help you find the study abroad program that’s right for you!
This post was contributed by Olivia Miles, who is studying abroad this summer with AIFS in Grenoble, France.