What is study abroad?
Sometimes people get so excited about study abroad that they forget to talk about what it really is for those new to the idea. Below I will give you a study abroad definition, explain who can study abroad, when you can study abroad, and tell you what studying abroad means generally. Hint: it’s all about growth, learning, and exploring!
So What Is Study Abroad?
Studying abroad is when someone, usually a student in university, completes part of their academic requirements for their degree program in another country. This is done by completing educational courses and/or activities in that non-native country.
For example, an American university student may choose to spend a semester in Spain. While in Spain this student will take courses at a Spanish university to earn credits that their American university will count towards their degree program.
Who Can Study Abroad?
It’s not just university students.
Study abroad programs are offered and created by universities, colleges, and other educational institutions themselves. Study abroad programs can also be offered by organizations that help individual students and/or schools set up the program.
So, almost anyone who is looking to learn abroad is able to, it’s just about finding the right provider.
There are certain age restrictions, usually the youngest age to go abroad is around 10. These students are generally part of a group going to a country together for a shorter period of time (a few weeks).
Many high school students have the opportunity to study abroad for the summer or during a semester. Although sometimes these classes do not transfer to their actual high school’s academic program, it may help with language classes or future college courses.
The majority of study abroad occurs when someone is in the college and university age range of 18-24. However, there are many people who decide to study abroad past these ages.
When Can you Study Abroad?
Any time of year.
You are able to study abroad in short, one-week intensive programs. For a few weeks (2-3). A month. A few months (1-2). Or an entire semester (usually 4-5 months).
How long you study abroad will depend on a few factors, including:
- Time Available
- Academic Plan
- Visa Restrictions
- Other Life Restrictions
What Does It Mean To Study Abroad?
Studying abroad means living like a local, learning from another country, and exploring!
It means living life as a student in another country and we can break down what this means into a few categories:
Academic Life- while studying abroad you will be expected to attend classes of some sort. These may be at a local university (in the local language or English usually), or with a program provider who offers their own classes. As another option, sometimes students travel with their home university’s professor and they teach the course, just in another country.
Home Life- obviously while studying abroad, you will also be living abroad.Depending on your age and the program you choose, you will have a few different options of what your home will be like:
1. Homestay- this is when you live in a local’s home with them. You are usually given a room to yourself and share the rest of the living spaces. Usually your meals are included in this option. This is great for someone who really wants to live like a local, learn the language, and/or have a built in support system.
2. Apartment- another way to see how the locals live is to live in an apartment as they would. Apartments can usually be arranged through you university, provider, or on your own (make sure you find a furnished one if going this direction!). This is a good option for someone who has already lived in an apartment, wants more independence than a homestay may provide, and/or does not want to learn the local language.
3. Residence Hall- depending on the program you select, living in a student residence, similar to a dorm, is an option. In these halls, you are surrounded by other students, local and/or international. You may have your own bedroom and bathroom or share with a roommate, while other areas, like laundry and sitting areas, are shared. Often meal plans can be included at residence halls. This option is great for students who want to meet other students, like the dorm life, and/or want to have some meals included.
4. Other- the above three options are the most common, however, you may encounter different options provided to you by your university or program. These could be living in a student house, living in a studio, or sometimes even living on a boat!
Social Life- one of the best parts of studying abroad is the social life you will grow to have. While abroad, you will be in a program with other students in a similar situation and have the opportunity to bond with them, exploring this new place together. In addition to other students that are studying abroad, you will also have the opportunity to meet locals, either in your classes, in your housing, or just by living in a new place and getting involved!
Cultural Immersion- you can’t help but soak in the local culture when you are studying abroad. You are in a true immersion where you learn the culture around you, not the other way around. Everyone comes away with a different level of immersion- some people never learn more than a few words in the local language, try the local foods, or travel around the surrounding areas, while others dive into the culture and leave practically a local. You will find the balance that is right for you!
Living like a local- what does this even mean? It means changing what’s “normal” in your daily life to match more of what the locals do. This can affect multiple areas of your days, such as:
Food- you won’t find all the familiar grocery chains, brands, or restaurants in your new host country, so living like a local means enjoying the foods they do!
Housing– you may be used to living in a city, a small town, a large house, or a small apartment. Whatever the case, there are parts of your new home that are not going to be the same while abroad. If you are American, for example, the housing you have abroad may seem smaller to you. Part of studying abroad is seeing how locals live and trying it out yourself!
Transportation- when in a new city you travel like the locals! Usually that means using the subway, walking, or biking. This may be something new to you, but when in Rome…
Challenges- Every country has something challenging about living there. While you are abroad you may face some of the same challenges. Some common ones faced by American students are slower wifi than they are used to, strikes that slow down or stop public transportation, or no air conditioning.
Exploring! Another awesome part of studying abroad is the ability to explore the world around you. For some this means walking all of their new city. For others this means traveling to other areas, countries, or even continents! The point is, studying abroad means exploring- your new surroundings, your new culture, and your own growth!
So what is study abroad? And what does study abroad mean for you? It is more than just taking classes in another country.
Studying abroad is the opportunity to experience another culture, meet new people, maybe learn another language, and explore the world you live in!
Have you studied abroad and have some thoughts on what it meant to you? Want to share some of your wisdom with those trying to decide? Share with us below!