What to Consider when Choosing your Studying Abroad Location

Michael Chung
November 14, 2019

Going into college, I frequently heard college graduates say that they regret not studying abroad. This makes sense when you think about the opportunities that are present when studying abroad. You have an entire semester/3-4 months of your life where you can indulge in a new culture, travel around countries, learn a new language, make international friends, learn in a different educational style, increase your career opportunities, become truly independent, and gain life experience. You can surely take a vacation in the future to travel to a country like Spain for a couple of weeks, but that is entirely different than staying an entire semester in a different country. The prospect of studying abroad can be exciting, but there are some questions that you should pose for yourself and consider when choosing where you want to study abroad. Even though studying abroad is a great privilege, you should consider some factors when choosing where you are studying in order to make the most out of your experience and not dread your decision in hindsight.

1. What part of the world would you like to be in?

When deciding where you want to study abroad, you should consider which part of the world/which location would be ideal for you. Do you want to be in a warm climate? Do you want to be in a cold climate? Do you want to be in a location where you can travel safely and easily to nearby countries? Does the location where you want to study speak English/your native language so that you can get help in case of an emergency or can communicate effectively? Do you want to challenge yourself and live in a culture that is completely different than the one you’re comfortable/used to? Do you want to be in a popular study abroad spot and be surrounded by other Americans, or do you want to be in a less-populated city/country?

2. What are your interests/is your lifestyle?

If you love fútbol, then you may want to consider studying abroad in a country that worships fútbol almost as much as it worships religion. Going to games and watching FC Barcelona play would be an extremely enjoyable and unforgettable experience as a fan. If you enjoy playing basketball, you should consider if basketball is popular in the country so that you can play basketball easily/conveniently. Are you able to go to concerts/shows where you will be studying abroad? Would you have easy access to a gym? Do you like to swim/want to be near a beach? Do you like to go out/want to be in a country with a lively nightlife? Would the country’s food fit your dietary guidelines easily? You should ask yourself questions like these and think about your interests and lifestyle in order to narrow down the location of your study abroad experience. 

3. What is the currency in the country?

Studying abroad in Europe may be a challenge financially for some students from America because the Euro is a stronger currency than the dollar. This means that there is a potential that you may be paying more money for the same items if studying abroad in Europe vs. America. In addition, you want to think about the cost of living in the country of interest. If the cost of living is high, you will most likely pay more money on a day-to-day basis. On the other hand, if the cost of living is low, you will be able to save more money/spend less on the same items in that country vs. America. For example, when I studied abroad with IES Abroad in Ecuador in 2018, I was able to get a large empanada for 50 cents each. Here, in Barcelona, I can buy smaller empanadas that cost five times the amount as the bigger empanada in Ecuador. You want to research the cost of goods in the country of interest before deciding where you want to study abroad to see if it is feasible financially.

4. Self-identity and views 

Before choosing where you should study abroad, you should think intrinsically and introspectively about who you are as an individual. You want to think about your identity and examine your views on certain issues. For example, if you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you should consider how friendly the country is regarding LGBTQ+ views. Unfortunately, not every country is accepting/there are still some countries that are homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and more. 

In addition, you want to consider how heterogeneous the country is and whether the citizens generally have racist/xenophobic sentiments. Generally, if a city/country is more homogenous, they may be more ignorant about other races and you may be subjected to micro-aggressions, ignorance, and/or racism. As good as it is to step out of your comfort zone to grow as an individual, you don’t want to be uncomfortable and fear for your safety while abroad. Therefore, you should consider who you are when deciding where to study. Race, gender, and religion are some factors to consider when studying abroad, but you should think more about who you are and how you will be perceived/accepted.

5. Current Events/Political Issues

Whether you expect it or not, a political event/issue in the nation can impact your study abroad experience. In my current semester abroad, there is an independence movement going on in the Catalunya area of Spain. Without giving you an entire run-down on the history, I will say that there have been numerous protests that have been both peaceful and violent in Barcelona as a result. There were clashes with police, fires created in the middle of the streets, vandalism, the blocking of roads and airports, and multiple arrests. Due to these protests, IES Abroad wisely canceled classes for the protection of the students. As you can see, these political protests caused tremendous inconvenience and safety issues in the Catalonia region, and are something you should consider when deciding where to study abroad. You should look at the brief modern history of the country and see if there are any political issues brewing or potential for disruption when you study.

Michael Chung

<p>I am a first generation college student who hopes to create my own company soon. My parents are Vietnamese immigrants and I’m hoping to help them retire one day. On my free time, I love playing basketball and taking photos. My fun fact is that I speak three languages.</p>

2019 Fall
Home University:
University of Rochester
Astoria, NY
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