8 Study Abroad Questions You’re Too Afraid to Ask

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IES Abroad

You know how people always say there’s no such thing as a dumb question? When it comes to study abroad, the saying holds true.

There’s a lot of new information to take in when you're considering study abroad. That’s exactly why we got down to the basics and are sharing eight of the questions you’re probably wondering, but might be too afraid to ask.

What is study abroad, anyway?

To put it super simply, study abroad is a short time spent away from campus during which you live and learn in another country.

Study abroad is more than a vacation or a trip. It’s an exhilarating challenge of academic and cultural immersion, plus a whole lot of fun and self-discovery. You’ll earn college credit for the courses you take, participate in cultural events and field trips, and, in some cases, even add on an internship, community-based learning, or volunteer opportunity, too. Programs can be discipline- or language-focused or more general in scope.

Whether you choose to spend a semester, summer, or year studying abroad, your courses and experiential learning opportunities (like internships, community-based learning placements, field trips, and more) are designed to immerse you into the local culture.

In short, study abroad means the world is your classroom.

Who can study abroad? And who can’t?

Are you an enrolled college student? Then you can probably study abroad! You may have heard some of the following myths about who can and can’t study abroad:

  • Only Liberal Arts majors can study abroad; Engineering and STEM majors can’t. False!
  • Athletes can’t study abroad. Wrong!
  • Sadly, seniors have missed their chance to study abroad. Not the case!

Study abroad is a part of the college experience, so enrollment in school is the key requirement. That said, many providers (like IES Abroad) have additional requirements like GPA, and your school might have specific requirements that are unique to your campus or major. We always recommend you visit your study abroad office on campus to learn more about any school-specific requirements before you apply.

When do people go abroad?

Most people go abroad during their junior year, but you can study abroad any time. Some schools have policies where you need to be on campus for your first and last semesters, so check, and be sure to meet with your academic advisor early to start planning ahead for that term off campus.

Spring tends to be the most popular time for a semester abroad, but summer programs are also in demand. There’s really no right or wrong time to go. Whatever makes the most sense for you is the right choice!

Do I take classes, like, in a classroom?

The short answer? Yes. You take classes in classrooms. But there’s more to it than that. Most of our locations have a Center. These Centers have classrooms and typically offer meeting and study areas, a kitchen, a small library, and other amenities. For most IES Abroad programs, you’ll take your classes at the Center, however, your courses will offer several course-related trips that take you outside of the classroom and into museums, monuments, parks, gardens, government buildings, businesses and organizations, and more.

Most of our programs also offer the option of taking a course at a local university. For these classes, you will be in a university classroom with local students. These university courses may require additional requirements (like language fluency) to enroll.

Some programs are called Direct Enrollment. Clever name because, in Direct Enrollment programs, you are directly enrolled in the partner university. You will still have access to the Center for events, study space, and IES Abroad staff support, but you take all of your courses at that university, and have access to the local university’s student union, clubs, sports teams, etc. (If you are independent, Direct Enrollment programs are a good option.)

What is this “visa” you speak of?

A student visa is a government-issued immigration document that allows you to legally study in a specific country for a specific date range. Issued by a consulate general or embassy, a visa is typically an endorsed sticker or stamp placed on the inside pages of your passport. Your student visa is as important as your passport; without it, you will not be able to study abroad if your program requires a student visa. Learn more about the ins and outs of student visas, and whether or not you'll need one.

Is it as expensive as people say it is?

We’re going to be honest. Study abroad programs are not cheap…but neither is a semester at college. What you might not know is that you will not pay both your on-campus tuition and the program cost. The actual amount will vary depending on where you go to school. Some things to look into:

Where will I live?

In a tree.

Lol. Just kidding.

The answer varies depending on the program, but with IES Abroad, your housing will always be comfortable, easily accessible (and conveniently located), and safe. You’ll select from the options available on your program, and we’ll find housing for you while you’re abroad. (You are not responsible for finding your housing!)

The most common housing options include:

  • Homestays, where you’ll live with local residents (typically a family or an older couple). You will likely eat some meals with your hosts and will live, truly, like a local student.
  • Apartments that you’ll share with other students with kitchens where you can cook your own meals. In some IES Abroad locations, you can choose to live with local students who can share advice and become lifelong friends!
  • Residence Halls, where you’ll live with other students (American or local) with a shared kitchen nearby. Meals may or may not be included in this option.

There might be other options, too, but know that you’ll have access to everything you need to make you feel at home.

Am I going to be alone?

Sometimes—and it’ll be great for you! Independence is one of the top strengths that students develop when they study abroad.

But you probably won’t be alone much. You’ll meet other students from all over the United States and, sometimes, all over the world. The Center will also arrange events with local university students, as well. And some of our programs come with built in local friends! These include Community Assistants in Milan, Language Partners in Granada and Vienna, and more. The best part? The friends you make studying abroad often become friends for life!

This just barely scratches the surface of the awesomeness that is study abroad. Learn more about study abroad and how we do things differently.

We know there’s a lot to learn and that you probably have other questions. Let us know what’s on your mind! Your College Relations Manager is here to help you learn more about your options and what to expect throughout the journey. You can find your IES Abroad Representative and contact them directly.

Study abroad is an amazing part of your college experience—don’t let time slip away! We’re here to help as you learn more about study abroadfind your program, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

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