Sunday, June 2, 2013

Finding the Perfect Program

Sunday, June 2.

So you know you want to study abroad. Now what?

First, you need to decide what you want out of as study abroad program. Where do you want to go? How long do you want to stay there? Do you need to take specific classes or be in an area with a certain language? How much money can you afford to spend on tuition and housing? Although you can always change your mind, it's important to think about these types of basic questions before starting to search for programs.

When looking for my study abroad program, I knew that I had to be in a French-speaking country. I also knew that I wanted the chance to take classes with actual French students, not just with other Americans (no offense, fellow Americans). Because my major requires me to take a certain number of German classes, I was also looking for a program with enough flexibility to allow me to study German while abroad. I was also pretty sure that I wanted to live in a homestay instead of a dorm or apartment.

My first step was to check out the resources available at my school. For William & Mary students, the Reves Center for International Studies is the place to go. They have an incredible amount of resources, from program brochures to student advisers, and are willing to bend over backwards to make your study abroad dream a reality! Through the Reves Center, you can learn about three types of study abroad programs:
  • W&M Summer Programs. Want to study abroad, but don't want to commit to an entire semester or year? A summer program might be the way to go! With a W&M Summer Program, you travel, live, and study with other members of the Tribe ... but in a way cool location. Because students are accompanied and taught by W&M faculty, most of these programs allow students to transfer grades (not just credits) to their transcript.
  • W&M Semester/Year Programs. If you're ready to commit to a slightly longer study abroad experience, check out William and Mary's semester and year programs. They allow students to study at over a dozen universities around the world, ranging from Austria to Japan, for the cost of in-state tuition. You can't beat that!
  • Non-W&M Programs. Can't find what you're looking for at William & Mary? Never fear, because there are hundreds upon hundreds of study abroad programs out there.
If you're interested in pursuing an independent study abroad program, my advice is to start Googling. There are so many programs out there that you're guaranteed to find one perfect for you! If you're a little pickier, sites like allow you to search for more specific programs by narrowing down your location, subject, and program type. You can read reviews from students who've participated in the program and compare important information, like program duration and cost.

Some of the most popular study abroad companies -- and ones that I looked at -- include American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), CEA Global Education (CEA), and Academic Programs International (API). Because they cater to so many students, these sorts of companies are experienced and often provide comprehensive study abroad packages that include not only tuition and housing, but airfare, excursions, and even a temporary cell phone!

Another great idea is to check out other universities' resources. While smaller schools might not be able to offer as many opportunities, a lot of bigger colleges have great study abroad programs that are open to students from other schools ... and if they're located in your home state, you could end up saving a whole lot of tuition money! It's important to remember, however, that your school might not accept academic credit from just any college. When I first started looking at study abroad, I checked out programs at schools that were academically comparable to my own and had great study abroad programs, including University of Virginia, Duke University, and Wake Forest University.

Ultimately, I decided to go with a study abroad program provided by my school. It gave me everything I was looking for: I'm going to be studying at a real French university and taking classes with actual native speakers (although I will be in a few RI classes designed for international students). I'm able to take classes in any subject offered by the university and, if everything works out, I should even be able to get into a German class! And because William & Mary already has a relationship with Université Paul Valéry, it's easy (well ... relatively speaking) to get approved for W&M credit for the classes I'll be taking.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic information! So glad you found a way to share all you have learned about this subject.