While considering the option to study abroad, you may have doubts as to whether or not this experience is for you. Below, common myths about study abroad are addressed. I want to arm you with information so you can make an informed decision about whether or not studying abroad is right for you.
When considering the cost of a study abroad program, it is important to keep the following factors in mind:
Location: Where you decide to study abroad may have an impact on your wallet. Studying abroad in India, for example, may be less expensive than if you were to study in London.
College connection: Is the program you’re looking at administered through your college?
Programs that are administered through your university might be more affordable than external organizations. For example, if you decide to study overseas for a semester, you may be eligible to take your financial aid with you. If this is the case, you would pay about the same amount overseas, as if you were going to stay at your home college. Scholarships may go with you too. If you decide to go with an external organization, you may be able to find a study abroad program that does not have an outrageous price tag.
This point ties in with the first. There are many scholarship opportunities to take advantage of.
Internal: See what scholarships your study abroad office offers. The study abroad office may have internal grants and scholarships you can apply for that will reduce the price. An internal scholarship helped me to study abroad in India. It paid for the majority of my flight.
External: There are many external scholarships out there. If you choose to go with an external organization, they also may offer scholarships. (Just be mindful of deadlines). Some well known external scholarships are:
The Benjamin A Gilman Scholarship International Scholarship
Critical Language Scholarship
If you search “study abroad scholarships” in a search engine, you will see tons of websites that have study abroad scholarship lists.
Also, check out:
If you plan well, it’s possible to still graduate on time. The earlier you start planning, the better. Talk with both your academic and study abroad advisors to ensure that the courses you take overseas will be counted towards your degree program. Although there may be some rules about the type of classes you can take during your time abroad, approved courses may be transferable. Just make sure you work closely with your advisors.
Nowhere in the world is entirely “safe,” including your own backyard. Some places are safer than others. However, when you’re studying abroad, your school should vet the program and the area that you will be in. If the region becomes plagued with conflict or danger, the school will hopefully examine the risk and pull the plug on the program.
With that said, you are not going to study abroad in a war-torn or high conflict zone. If you still feel uneasy, check out the U.S. Department of State’s travel website, travel.state.gov, to see if there is a travel warning or alert in the country you would like to study in. It is important to do your research.
Anyone can study abroad. I am not white, and I studied abroad and I know many people of color who have studied overseas. If you’re interested, check out Hey, Ms. Traveler’s Women Who Inspire interview series to find out where amazing women of color studied abroad and where they have traveled.
But to be clear, there is an underrepresentation of people of color who study abroad. According to a NAFSA survey, African Americans or black students make up 14.1% of U.S. Postsecondary enrollment. However, only 5.9% study abroad. 17.3% of Hispanics or Latino Americans are enrolled in college, but only 9.7% study abroad. This is in comparison to 57.6% of white students enrolled in college, and 71.6% studying overseas.
Some factors that discourage people of color include worries about racism, delayed graduation, finances, and not having role models who have studied abroad.
But, this is why Hey, Ms. Traveler! exists. Together we are going to break down barriers so that you can study abroad like a boss! We are going to change this narrative. Just because people of color have been underrepresented in study abroad does not mean that it has to continue this way. If I can study, work, and live abroad, you definitely can too. I believe in you and am rooting for you 100% of the way.
Can we continue to be real? Racism occurs anywhere, even in the United States. With that stated, do not, I repeat, do not, let someone’s perceptions of you prevent you from living your best life. Travel the world! If it’s not your skin color, people are going to hate on you for another attribute or characteristic that you have. It’s human nature.
With that being said, you may or may not be targeted based on your skin color. It just depends on where in the world you are, and who you meet. Speaking from personal experience, I have never felt unsafe being black abroad. However, there were times, depending on the country, that I stood out and the locals took notice. Sometimes people took pictures of me, gave me their baby, stared, or followed me around the store to make sure I wasn’t stealing. Most of the time, I attributed these situations to curiosity, other times to racism. But you know what? I kept traveling, and I will continue to do so.
Sure, you can visit tourist sites and travel within your host country. But, study abroad provides a much deeper and richer experience. For one, you are studying. You are able to study and live in another culture. You will be immersed in the country’s culture because you will be taking classes with locals, making local friends, building your language skills, and experiencing life the way people in that country do. You gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of that culture because you’ve had the opportunity to live within it.
Traveling scratches the surface. Studying abroad goes beneath.
All academic majors can be studied through an international lens. The latest Open Doors reports show that study abroad attracts students from a wide variety of majors. From the 2015-2016 academic year, 25% of students came from STEM fields, 20.9% were business, 17.1% were from the Social sciences, 7.4% were international relations/foreign languages, and 3.7% in the Humanities. If you were wondering, I was a sociology major.
I can’t speak for you, but it definitely helped my career. Study abroad is the reason why I am in international affairs today. If you want to know more about my story, be sure to read “How I Landed A Job In International Affairs.”
Students can study abroad almost anywhere. There are programs all over the world. It is true that the majority of students go to Europe, but this trend is slowly changing. According to an Open Doors Report, the top countries for study abroad outside of Europe include China, Australia, Costa Rica, Japan, and Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, and Argentina.
If you decide to study abroad in a “non-traditional” location, you will stand out from others. Also, there is scholarship money out there for students studying in non-traditional countries.
This is largely program dependent. Check to see your potential program’s housing accommodations. Some may require that you do a homestay as part of the experience. Few will require that you find your own housing. But more often than not, you will live in a dorm or apartment with other students, including other international students. It just depends on your program.
Don’t let the fear of not knowing a language stop you from studying overseas. Even if your program is in a country where you are not fluent in the language, your classes may still be taught in English. Also, this could be a good time to begin learning another language.
False. Even if you do go alone, you will meet people. There will be people in your classes, your dorm, apartment or homestay, in your neighborhood, etc. At the end of your experience abroad, you will probably have a difficult time saying goodbye to the people you met abroad.