How To Choose Your Study Abroad Destination

Jul 22, 2011

Though college students across the country express significant interest in study abroad programs, ''The Chronicle of Higher Education'' reports that as few as 1.5% of students actually go. While financial and scheduling worries certainly provide a barrier for some students, others may just not know how to pick their destination! For those of you who fit that description, here are some helpful tips.

By Eric Garneau

Study Abroad Flowchart

Don't Know a Foreign Language?

That's no reason not to study abroad! There are lots of programs that can send you to countries where English is the official tongue, such as the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand. Schools can also find you English-speaking programs in countries with other languages. For example, the American University in Cairo hosts a number of classes taught in English, so you should be able to follow along with what's happening academically, although you may need an interpreter when you venture outside of school.

Pick Destinations off the Beaten Path

We here at have no problem with French-speaking students studying abroad in France. Our point: try to consider locales that don't necessarily come to mind right away. The travel website MatadorAbroad, for instance, lists several unique learning programs that are probably nothing like what you've considered. You could attend 'elephant camp' in Thailand to learn about basic pachyderm care (potentially very useful for zoologists). Agricultural enthusiasts can undertake a herb farming program in Tasmania. And yes, our beloved Senegal has its share of unique programs, like courses all about African drumming for any internationally minded music majors out there.

Europe - Yay or Nay?

Related to the last point, don't automatically rule out the European continent when you're thinking about places to spend your time abroad just because 'everybody's doing it.' Certainly, if you've got your heart set on putting your Spanish language skills to use, it doesn't mean you have to go to Spain - what about Peru or Honduras? But Europe, though a tried and true destination, offers a wealth of diverse cultural and academic experiences. Besides the standbys of England, France and Spain, you could spend a few months experiencing countries like Italy, Belgium, Poland, Switzerland and many more (or go to school in one but visit the others!).

Be Career-Minded

Spending a semester or more in a foreign land might not just be a fun way to pass your college days - it could lead to some serious career opportunities down the road. Studies have shown that 'mobile' college students are more likely to find employment abroad than their stay-at-home peers. That's not so surprising; studying abroad gives students an unprecedented chance to make professional and personal connections overseas, connections that might later help them on a job hunt. Even back home, study abroad students can find increased career opportunities. For instance, the U.S. Department of State is always looking to hire employees with foreign language proficiencies.

Learn what else you can do to secure employment abroad.

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