Choosing a program
The number of study abroad programs can seem bewildering at first. How do you begin narrowing down the options? It will be helpful to brainstorm goals and preferences you have for your study abroad experience. Write down some things you want to accomplish abroad. Start with a few categories:
- What is your intended major or areas of emphasis?
- Do you have another interest or a complementary subject area that you want to focus on? For example, an engineering student may want to take business courses.
- Do you have a senior project, honors paper, or foreign language requirement? You could conduct research abroad or study a language intensively.
- Do you want to concentrate on one subject or take a variety of courses? You should speak with your Academic Advisor about potential options and flexibilities.
- Do you want a program in which you take university classes with local students, with other Americans, or only Texas Tech students?
- Do you learn better in the classroom or in another setting with greater interaction and physical activity?
- Do you like independent or guided learning?
- Are you able to adapt to different styles of learning?
- Are you interested in a world region or a specific country?
- Is there a current global issue (political, environmental, social, etc) that you want to explore?
- Would you prefer to live in a major metropolitan area, in a small town, or rural area?
- Are you looking for a program that will offer in-depth cultural immersion in a single location or a traveling program with multiple destinations?
- Do you want to explore your cultural background and family heritage?
- How do you want to change by studying abroad?
- What experiences do you seek in becoming a more well-rounded person?
- How important is completing an internship in your chosen career field?
- Do you have the language skills necessary to do an internship abroad?
- What will strengthen your graduate school applications or make your résumé stand out?
Other Practical Considerations
- How much time do you want to spend abroad?
- What are the eligibility requirements of programs that interest you?
- Do you want to study abroad more than once before you graduate?
- Would you prefer to live with a host family, in a local residence hall, or an apartment?
- Do you have any special needs such as medical condition, learning disability, mental health condition, or dietary restriction that may need accommodation?
- You may have other ideas . . . include them all!
Now consider what barriers you must overcome in order to study abroad. Use the same kind of brainstorming technique to record the challenges. Identify the factors you will have to consider:
- Family - do they support your desire to study abroad?
- Financial constraints
- Job obligations
- Social, academic, or athletic commitments
Consider how these factors may impact the type and duration of study abroad program you ultimately select. The aim of this exercise is to list the real challenges along with your goals.
Once you have completed this list, you can start setting priorities. Try ranking the factors. You may place the number 1 beside a geographic location that is extremely important to you, and then the number 2 next to money if affordability is a major factor. You are not making final life decisions here, simply outlining your priorities.
Some students like to rewrite their list combining both sets of factors (goals and challenges) in order of importance. Others compose goal statements, which combine the most important factors. An example of a goal statement that might result from this exercise might be, "I want to identify a semester-long, affordable study abroad program taught in French that will allow me to complete credits toward my psychology major and do an internship or research."