What are Study Abroad Programs?

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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2018
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If you have a college student who is restless, wants to see the world, wants to experience other cultures, what do you do? One answer might be a study abroad program. A study abroad program allows students to take college classes at an overseas college or university while living in a dorm or with a host family.

A study abroad program is a great opportunity for a college student to learn about another country and culture, while getting college credit. There are numerous organizations that sponsor study abroad programs and most of these have Web sites, so the Internet is a good place to start when looking for a study abroad program. The student may also want to contact his own college for study abroad possibilities.

The student should first decide where to go and what to study. One may determine the other, so he can start looking by country, to see what subjects are offered, or by subject, to see where these are offered. Once she has decided on a country and subject, she needs to think about whether her classes will be taught in her native language.


Some study abroad programs offer “pre classes” that help a student learn enough of the native language to get by and start learning in class. Students will generally pick up the language fairly quickly, simply by being around people who are speaking it all the time. This is known as the “immersion method.” There are few better ways to learn the language and culture.

Also, will the student stay in a dormitory, or does he want to stay with a host family? The host family option will certainly provide a unique experience, but the student must be willing to help the family around the house, be an excellent houseguest, and provide his own spending money.

Cost, incidentally, is certainly a factor in choosing a country for study abroad. Some programs are funded directly through a college or university, and a student may apply for regular financial aid for these programs. Scholarships and grants are also available, and these details should be worked out completely in advance. The school should be able to help, or the company sponsoring the academic program.

Now that the country, academic and residency details have been worked out, the student will need to focus on getting the proper travel documents and insurance. She will need insurance that covers most eventualities, no matter where she is staying, and she will also need legal insurance — just in case. Most study abroad programs have student representatives who will help families navigate these waters.

Joining a study abroad program will reap tremendous benefits for the student. In fact, in 2006, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 308 proclaiming 2006 as the “Year of Study Abroad” and listed 13 benefits for students from the program. Among these are students learning independence, cultural sensitivity and an unparalleled opportunity for making new and lifelong friends.



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