In Part One, I highlighted societal views, cost of living, language barriers, culture, and human rights as the fundamental components to examine when selecting a study abroad program. While these are all extremely important factors to consider, the factors I have listed below are those I erroneously failed to take into account when choosing my program, and now two-thirds complete with my first semester, I definitely should have. At any rate, please consider the following before confirming a placement in an abroad program:
• Direct Enrollment vs. Specified Study – Direct Enrollment at a country’s College or University offers more course options while a Focused Study Abroad Program is more structured and less flexible when it comes to classes. Your choice is critical to your studies and interests in your course load during the program. Also, direct enrollment courses give you the chance to meet and get to know other students outside of those that are in your abroad program.
• Group Size of Programs – Some abroad programs consist of up to 200 people while others may have as few as 10 people. If you want to meet and interact with lots of different people, then a larger group may be best for you. However, if you prefer a more close-knit group, then programs with the smaller number of people may be more appealing. Just be aware that you will literally be with the same people throughout your entire time abroad.
• Living Arrangements: Location – Just like the major rule of real estate is “location, location, location,” the same applies when choosing where to live when studying abroad. Granted, living right in Downtown Shanghai certainly has its perks. From great restaurants to shops to you name it, almost everything you need is easily accessible. However, because of our location, we are less likely to interact with the locals of Shanghai. It is also difficult to bump into other college students and dramatically decreases your travel time during the weekend. Understand that living on campus may not give you a prime location, but it affords you the opportunity to meet more foreign students and even some locals.
• Program Itinerary: Length of Breaks – A friend of mine was enrolled in a program in Europe that had a break that lasted more than three weeks. During that time, he was able to travel and see all of Europe. In other programs, some people may only get a week. Depending on your level of dedication, be extremely careful when looking at a program’s itinerary.
• Traveling Expenses – Want to travel to other countries while you’re abroad? You should also consider travel cost, especially if you’re afforded an extensive break like my friend in his program. For example, traveling to various Chinese cities and countries can cost as low as $100 to $300 USD while traveling from Cape Town to other areas in Africa can cost upwards of $1000 USD. Traveling to neighboring cities and other countries during your time abroad may not be of importance, but if you want to travel, then you should definitely weigh the costs.
• Language Requirements – An intensive 6-hour language course not for you? Do not enroll in a program that requires it. On the other hand, if you have a strong desire to learn or enhance your language skills in a specific language, taking said language courses will enhance your growth and ability to communicate.
• Rotational vs. Central Location – Not sure where you want to study? Consider a rotational program where you get to visit several countries, allowing you to soak up the cultures of each one. Although you are given a shorter time in each country with a rotational program, it may encourage you to explore each new city as much as possible vs. becoming complacent and taking your new city for granted. Conversely, remaining in one location is a sure way to test your love for a city and to grow as a person.
Over these two posts, I used my own personal experiences abroad as a way to help anyone who is indecisive about an abroad program. If you strongly consider each of the factors I mentioned, you are guaranteed to make your future study abroad experience a much better one.
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<p>Jonathan Thibeaux hails from Lafayette, LA and is a 5th year biology major at Morehouse College. A self-proclaimed "media enthusiast, writer, motivator, and certified dreamer,” he is working hard to catapult himself from a pre-medical past into the world of media and television. At Morehouse, he served as the Senior Co-Chair of the Campus Alliance for Student Activities, Co-Campus Based Leader for the Gates Millennium Scholar Group, Maroon Tiger Columnist, and Presidential Ambassador. Choosing to defer his degree for a year, he will be spending a year in Shanghai, China and Cape Town, South Africa for an immersive educational experience. Through his blog and affiliations he hopes to provide a safe and inspiring space for teenagers and adults to document and experience their lives, without the pressure to conform to social constructs. He hopes to one day work in Marketing as a television executive and possibly even becoming the talent of his own show. This fall he will be blogging for Shanghai, China.</p>