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How do I Choose the Best Work-Study Abroad Program?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois

The best work-study abroad program has four components: strong administrative support, an excellent reputation, reasonable pricing and a credit arrangement with the participant's educational institution. A work-study abroad program typically is available at the post-secondary level, although it also can be found in select high schools. In this type of program, the student travels to another country, attends classes and works part-time. He or she is provided with a unique opportunity to learn about another country, enhance foreign language skills and obtain academic credit for the experience.

The most common work-study abroad programs are in major, industrialized nations. Europe, Japan, the United States, Australia and Canada are all popular options for students. Arrangements with India, China, Mexico and other locations are less common but can be found with additional effort. These programs usually are four, eight or 12 months in length. It takes time to adjust to a new country, and a shorter term does not provide the breadth and depth of experience that the students get during longer periods of time.

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A strong, professional administration is essential when looking for a work-study abroad program. The quality of work, follow-throughs and accuracy plays a huge part in the relative success or failure of a work-study program. The arrangements must be made with legitimate, reputable organizations. Firms that have weak administration might not be up to date on the current business practices of these organizations.

Students who are abroad will rely on the administration of the placement firm to resolve any problems, to make alternate arrangements when required and to provide emergency support. For many students, they are completely reliant upon contacts and arrangements made by the placement agency. A quality program has multiple contacts in every location it places students and is able to provide immediate support for a range of issues and topics.

To choose the best program, talk to former students, administration staff members and teachers. Ask others about the reputation of the program. Request a list of references from the placement agency and follow up with them. Ask specific questions about the quality of the support and any issues with travel documents or accommodation.

Compare the pricing for the work-study abroad programs at a detailed level, in order to determine how much of the fee is related to travel, accommodation and tuition. Conduct independent research of the travel costs and similar accommodations, to ensure that the program's pricing is reasonable. Keep in mind that there is a 20 percent to 25 percent mark-up for the agency to recover its costs of administration and business.

Make sure that your educational institute has a formal agreement to recognize credits earned at the school you will be attending. This is an essential part of a work-study abroad program. Make sure that the confirmation of credit recognition is part of the package provided by the agency and is issued by the school itself.

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