After freshman year in college I went abroad for two months to Merida, Mexico. I saw a flier in a campus building I normally don’t enter:
“Two Months in Mexico. Field Research. $500 Stipend.”
It piqued my interest, and I emailed the professor whose name was listed below and that was that. My life took an entirely new direction and I was hooked.
But what makes a student choose to travel abroad to a particular country?
Reasons vary: A friend is dead-set on Tanzania, so you tag along. The price is right for Buenos Aires. 9 credits in two months for studies in Lyon. You’ve always wanted to try Chinese food in China to compare to Peking Wok Restaurant a block from your dorm…
Regardless of the motivation, in the end it should be a personal reason, not based on price or sexy, glossy catalog. Some tips on how to decide:
- Do your research. Read blogs (like this one!) from persons who have been or are currently abroad in your interested countries. Speak with those who aren’t trying to “sell” you on their program, but rather their offered destinations.
- Ask yourself what you want to get out of the experience. Earn tons of credit hours in a short time? Taste exotic foods and meet intriguing people? Hang out with other American or Canadian college buddies? Be in Florence for the July fashion show? Know why you want to go abroad. That often leads you to where to go abroad.
- Plan. Be a planner and make a list. Pros and cons of 5 countries, 5 cities. Talk with your parents, advisors and watch a fictional—fun—film taking place in these locations.
- Most importantly, go with your gut. Go abroad because your heart pulls you to that city. Your friends will be back at college waiting for you, as will your parents. This is your trip, your decision. Make it your conviction and the planning, stress, application process, research and academic aspects abroad will be enjoyable because they are yours.
Tony Amante Schepers