Study Abroad 101: Everything You Need To Know
What is study abroad?
Study Abroad or Study Away programs are options provided by universities and colleges to complete a semester, year, or sometimes even more of your degree program on a different campus, usually in a foreign country.
These programs are an excellent opportunity to see a new part of the world, experience a different culture, and TRAVEL. Temporarily relocating to Europe, Asia, or anywhere else means having an excellent opportunity to take advantage of plentiful (and often relatively cheap) travel options. This allows you to maximize your experience and exposure to new places.
How can I sign up?
How do you sign up? Most of the programs are through partnerships your institution has with a program or foreign university. Some schools—like NYU—even have their own global campus locations where they send their students.
However, many schools (even those with programs) allow their students to apply to public or “all inclusive” study abroad programs for students from a variety of institutions. These types of programs are particularly useful for people with a desire to study at a niche location and/or for a specific subject (like going to Pompeii for Archaeology!).
If you type your school’s name and “study abroad,” you will usually be able to find your school’s landing page or study abroad office. From there you’ll be able to sign up for info sessions, schedule an appointment with a study abroad counselor, and—most of the time—apply directly through the site.
Making sure you have the right paperwork for study abroad.
Whether it’s visas, vaccinations, or vacation planning, there’s a ton of documentation that goes along with study abroad.
Living, studying, and (maybe) working in a foreign country adds up to a lot of paperwork. It’s a coordinated effort between two or more governments, universities, parents, doctors, friends, and—most important—you!
Lots of countries require you to have a student visa (although some do not). You can check to see if your desired location does on sites like the State Department’s student visa guide.
You’ll need a visa for not only your desired study location but also any travel/vacation locations. Whether you need an additional visa will depend on the local laws, whether that country has reciprocity with your student visa (some countries in Europe do), and technical details like the duration of your stay.
Beyond visas, you’re going to need an up-to-date passport that won’t expire while you’re abroad. You’ll also want something in addition to your passport (so you don’t have to carry it around all the time). To verify your age at bars, clubs, restaurants, and other places, you should bring your license or government ID card. Places in some countries won’t accept this, so you’ll need a Proof of Age card just in case. (Check your country’s rules on that before you go.)
There are also vaccination and health screening requirements for most countries. That said, you’ll need certified documentation to prove that you’re in the proper shape to live in another place.
Can I work or volunteer while I study abroad?
It all depends on whether your student visa allows you to work or not. Some countries will not allow foreign students to work at all. Others allow foreign students with basic student visas to work. Yet other countries require you to fill out a special application to get permission to work. Be sure to search country- or region-specific working requirements if that’s something you’re interested in.
Even remote work like journalism, video editing, or anything else done entirely digitally requires special permissions to actually get paid while you’re completing the work in another country.
Volunteering while studying abroad is usually a different story, because there’s no salary or paycheck involved. Since there aren’t tax status issues, volunteering is usually available to foreign students. However, some countries do require you to apply to join any organizations. Before you depart, be sure to check your destination’s requirements.
There are also plenty of programs that let you volunteer or work as an English teacher abroad, read more about that here.
However, most students find that between traveling, class, and meeting new people, there isn’t much time for a job—even a part-time one.
For a full guide to study/working abroad, check out this post on the WayUp guide.
Will study abroad credits work with my degree program?
This is why having approval from your university is essential. Make sure your academic advisor is aware of your plans to study abroad as far in advance as possible. That way, you can plan around the limited class options abroad and the standing degree requirements you have to complete before graduation.
Most locations will not have all the classes you need to complete your degree. And some schools won’t accept core requirements done at a non-university program. So you MUST check with your academic advisor. Your school’s study abroad office may be able to help you work with your advisor, fill out forms to become exempt from certain requirements, or clear a certain class abroad with a major or core curriculum requirement.
It’s tricky to plan this far ahead in your academic career. But it’s totally essential if you want to have the best experience and graduate on time.
Study Abroad programs require careful planning, but have a huge payoff.
It’s a big challenge to successfully plan a months-long trip abroad. That’s especially true when you’re going to school, taking trips, and perhaps even working or volunteering. Yet completing something like this will not only enrich your life with a whole host of amazing experiences but also prove that you can handle a major undertaking. Being able to contend with something like this is a significant stepping stone in adult life.
For all your other study abroad questions and more detailed explanations, be sure to check out the WayUp guide for more!