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Five Ways to Study Abroad

Attending college in your own country is a huge deal but taking the leap to study abroad at a university that is thousands of miles from home is life-changing. There are so many reasons why international students choose to study overseas, from finding a higher quality of education to accessing more affordable tuition fees and living costs. But what personal benefits can studying abroad have on your social life, mental health and future career prospects?

Mar 24, 2023
  • Study Abroad

Traveling to a new destination can inspire your wanderlust, so just imagine what moving across the globe will do to your sense of adventure. You will meet new people, make life-long friends and learn cultural traditions that will leave you feeling like a local in no time. You might master a new language – or grasp the basics at least – and even if you struggle to speak with confidence, your understanding and comprehension will flourish. You will experience different styles of teaching, and you will learn to adapt quickly to change (an invaluable skill to have in the workplace). World-famous landmarks and attractions may soon be a part of your new college commute, and future employers will be impressed by your willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.

With all of this in mind, how do you become an international student? What opportunities are there to apply for education overseas? And what are the next steps you will need to take to make studying in a new country a reality? Read on to discover five ways to study abroad and start planning your next big student adventure.

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Take a ‘Faculty-Led Program’ or experience an ‘Alternative Break’

If you know you want to study abroad but are undecided about whether you want to make your move overseas a long-term fixture, a faculty-led program could be a great option for you. These short academic study abroad experiences are directed and led by a faculty member from your university or college. The programs are designed to fit in with your degree and present you with opportunities to further your learning in a new country - often with fun immersive activities included in the trip. Faculty-led programs are designed to enhance your understanding of your studies, introduce you to other cultures, and, in some cases, provide you with extra credits that contribute to your degree.

Taking an Alternative Break is also a fantastic option for students looking to fill their spring break with more meaningful experiences. Alternative breaks usually involve volunteer activities and are scheduled during an academic break - usually Spring Break. They might be coordinated by your campus but can also be arranged by independent companies or philanthropic organizations. For those who have volunteered before or who have always wanted to volunteer and give back to other communities, alternative breaks will give you the opportunity to embrace other local traditions, values, and lifestyles. Whether you choose to volunteer with people facing extreme challenges in their lives or work with wildlife conservation projects, there are a number of alternative break packages where you could make a real difference to social causes in need.

Do a semester abroad

Studying abroad for one semester is a brilliant way to experience life as an international student. Whether you choose to enroll in a semester abroad program during the spring or fall, you will soon be on your way to making lifelong memories and new friends. Many people assume that if you want to study abroad, you need to commit to a year away from home, but this simply isn’t the case. A semester usually lasts approximately 15 weeks, which is plenty of time to immerse yourself into a different culture and familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. You will be able to sharpen your language skills, travel to amazing nearby destinations in your spare time, and your resume will benefit from your excursion too.

Depending on your degree, your college may offer a number of semester abroad programs that relate to your course. Your study abroad or international education office will have more information and will, in most cases, help you to coordinate your international experience with your degree plan. Alternatively, you may be interested in pursuing a language program that has been specifically developed to strengthen your fluency and pronunciation of the local dialect. Just make sure to check what credits are available for any program you are interested in.

Take a gap year

Who hasn’t dreamt of taking a year-long sabbatical to explore the world? While gap years may often be a full break from studies or a time to reassess your goals and aspirations, gap years can also be an opportunity to further your education - either through work experience or life experience. And while many people embark on gap years before starting their higher education, a break of this type can usually be accommodated at nearly any stage so long as you plan and organize it well. The first big consideration - money. You will need to fund your adventure by either saving up before you go or working while you are abroad. Another important factor - your desired outcome for the year. Yes, there will be parties and fun nights out to enjoy, but unless your gap year is purely escapist, it will be essential that you set some objectives for your trip to ensure you make the most of your time away. Are you looking to learn a new language? Add new skills to your resume? Or are you simply keen to use the time to unwind and relax? Do your research and write down your reasons for going to help keep your future ambitions on track.

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Working holidays are a great way to fund your gap year whilst giving you the opportunity to travel and live abroad. Work a ski season in Canada, take on an English-language teaching job in South Korea, become a barista in New Zealand, embark on an internship in the UK – the roles are extremely varied, with some posts even offering candidates pre-paid accommodation in addition to a monthly salary.

Another great way to go abroad that usually includes accommodation and some financial independence - childcare. Native English-speaking au pairs can be in high demand with families around the world so if you have been longing to explore France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, or another even Southeast Asia or Australia, this could be the perfect job for you. Unlike nannies or professional childcare providers, an au pair is usually a young person who supplements childcare for a family. The au pair is expected to help with childcare, play with the young children, cook and care for them – and to feel, ultimately, like they fit in with the family. In most countries, au pairs are 'on duty' when the children are home from school or nursery, leaving plenty of time for language study, cultural exploration, and other persuits during the day, and the 'home-away-from-home' atmosphere can be ideal for a first-time international. What’s not to like?

Do an exchange program

Becoming an international exchange student is a big decision but one that offers many rewards. Usually, taking part in an exchange program will still earn you those all-important college credits and marks that contribute to your degree. While exchange programs are popular in undergraduate studies, they are also fantastic options for graduate students where the exchange may also come with the opportunity to earn an additional degree or accreditation through a joint or dual-degree program. You can find out what options are available to you through the international office at your university.

Some of the most popular student exchange program schemes are when two partner colleges agree to swap one student from one university for another student from elsewhere. Alternatively, you will find a number of independent companies and organizations who can arrange this for you on your behalf. The Erasmus+ program (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is one of the most (if not the most) popular student exchange programs in Europe, with a focus on providing students with opportunities to study, train, or volunteer abroad. Discover the full breadth of their offerings online and learn how they can help you study abroad at a partner school.

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Do a degree abroad

If you are ready to commit to a long period of time overseas, studying for a whole degree abroad could be the educational route for you. Moving to a different country to study on your own is a brave and bold decision and just think of the benefits: you will get to grip with your finances early on; your organizational skills and ability to look after yourself will grow exponentially; your language comprehension will strengthen; your travel confidence and sense of wanderlust will flourish – the list goes on.

Studying for a degree abroad takes a lot of planning, and ideally, you will have started researching your options a couple of years before your application deadline. Understanding the costs involved and the student loans available could make or break your trip. Investigating the type of accommodation you can afford on or off campus is a must, as is having an idea of the local social life and cultural scene.

You will acquire an ability to adapt quickly to most situations. Afterall, when has any big travel excursion gone completely to plan? But if you are up for the challenge and are ready to stand out from the crowd, a degree abroad could be just the adventure you need.

Luckily, there’s not just one conventional way for students to study overseas. These ‘five ways to study abroad’ options offer insight into how you can make your educational - and international - dreams work for you. So, are you ready to make the move?

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The Keystone Team is comprised of experienced educators and advisors dedicated to providing valuable resources and advice to students all over the world.

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