Although it seems just the opposite, deciding that you want to study abroad is a pretty small decision in comparison to the many details that follow. Once you get over that initial hurdle, you'll need to pick your location, decide whether or not to go with a study abroad company (and which company, if you take that route), plan for your academic course load abroad, and then go through all of the little details. Although it depends on your school's requirements, you don't have to start with any one decision. For example, maybe you're focused on Paris, and the classes and company are secondary to you; Maybe you want to have the support of a study abroad company and want to take courses in art, but you don't have a preference for location. To give yourself a little guidance, prioritize your decisions, and then go from there.
Click through to see how I made my decision!
This is how it worked for me:
I knew I wanted to go to Spain, and I knew that I wanted a study abroad company to help me throughout the process. After spending weeks pouring over catalogs and reading review after review online, I chose International Studies Abroad, ISA. A few main things made ISA stand out to me.
- They had locations all over Spain
- Each location had a local office with English-speaking personnel
- ISA partners with affiliated local universities to offer you a wide variety of classes
- Excursions, excursions, excursions!
- A single fee that covered nearly everything you would need while studying abroad
Since I knew this was the only chance I would ever have to study abroad, I was extremely nervous about everything going as smoothly as it started out. However, I can now say with experience that going abroad with ISA was the best decision I could have made.
Choosing to go with a company, and not just as an international student at a university abroad, gave me the support that I needed without making me feel like a child. I loved having the freedom to do what I wanted while still knowing the staff was there to help me if I needed.
Speaking of the staff, I cannot speak highly enough of them, both in the USA and abroad. For the most part, everything from our housing to our classes to our excursions were planned and run smoothly, and I didn't have to waste time worrying about the little details; ISA had them covered! They gave us free tutoring lessons, helped us plan weekend trips, and have even stayed in touch with us to give us career tips.
It's called "study" abroad for a reason. You'll spend a lot of your time at school, and you need to make sure you do well so that your credits transfer. My school, Universidad de Málaga para Extranjeros, the University of Málaga for Foreigners, was awesome and I have genuinely never had so much fun in class. Some of my teachers spoke English, but most did not. Although it was difficult, it was a cultural experience I am really glad I had.
While abroad, I took Intermediate Spanish classes for 2 hours each morning, then I had a two hour break (which I spent napping on the beach... everyday) following which I had an hour long Spanish culture class. We watched YouTube videos, googled the Spanish Royal family, and even discussed Spain's fashion sense and wine varieties. The class was conducted in Spanish, but the fun subject matter made you want to participate. I also had English-taught classes for an hour and a half in the late afternoons Monday-Thursday. Two days I took International Marketing and the other two days I had History of the European Union.
Bottom line: If you choose to study abroad, make sure to really look into where you want to go and what company you choose to go with. This is your chance to have an incredible experience abroad, and you don't want to ruin it by failing to plan. For more information on my study abroad experience, watch for future posts!