So you want to study abroad but you’re not sure where? Keep reading to see my advice, as a student who spent a semester abroad, on how to pick your study abroad destination!
As the academic year is coming to an end, many of you may be planning what you need to do for the coming academic year. Unfortunately, due to the COVID crisis, many people’s study abroad semesters/years have been canceled for 2020/21, but that doesn’t mean those of you looking to go abroad in 2021/22 can’t start thinking about where you want to go!
I spent the Autumn semester of my final year at Cardiff University studying abroad at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. For me choosing to study abroad in LA was a no-brainer, but many people don’t have as clear an idea of where they want to study abroad as I did. So I am going to talk you through some key pointers in choosing where to spend your semester or year abroad.
Study Abroad Finances:
Whilst many of us wish we could have the freedom to be able to choose anywhere to study abroad, finances do play a major role in deciding where to go. As a student from the UK, it is always going to be cheaper to study somewhere in Europe than other places further abroad.
Many things factor into this, for example, going to the USA means you have to pay for insurance (most of the time your host university will have set insurance you have to have so you can’t really shop around), accommodation (halls in America are far more expensive than halls in the UK), VISAs, flights, food, and any other fees that the host university charges. If you are thinking about going to America, you’re going to need at least $10,000-$15,000 before you even get there! Some of these costs are recoverable from Student Finance if you are from the UK. Personally I didn’t receive the money from my travel grant until after I had returned home, so that is something to bear in mind.
I would assume that traveling to other places such as Australia, China, Japan, Canada would cost similarly to the US.
Although there is uncertainty around Brexit, currently European exchanges are far cheaper. Firstly, insurance for Europe is a lower price, flights and travel is reasonable in cost, and accommodation is most likely cheaper than other places mentioned.
I’d highly recommend figuring out your budget before looking at your options for destinations to study abroad and figure out what you can truly afford – factor into this money to spend on experiences whilst you’re there.
Choosing your Study Abroad Location:
Once you’ve figured out your budget for study abroad, you can have a look at the different places that are open to you from your university. Most unis have partner schools all across the world so you should have a wide range to choose from.
This is where you need to think about where you would like to live. Personally for me, I always knew I wanted to study in America so all I had to do was look at what options Cardiff had over there. I actually looked at partner schools when I was in my first year, because of this I managed to take the opportunity during a family holiday to LA to have a little drive around LMU to see if it was the kind of environment I’d like to be in.
However, most people won’t have this opportunity that I had so make sure you take a look around the area your potential exchange school is in to make sure it looks like it will suit you. Having lived next to London my whole life, and going to university in Cardiff, I knew that I’d want to be in a city that had lots going on. This is why LA was perfect for me.
Just like you would have done when choosing your home university, make sure you research the area, checking that it is somewhere you really want to explore and take advantage of!
Choosing Modules for your Year Abroad:
This is perhaps one of the most important things to look at when choosing a university. You want to make sure that your host university has modules that you are going to find interesting. You can usually find these on the university’s website under your subject’s subpage.
I think to fully appreciate studying abroad you need to be doing modules that you will enjoy, but also modules that may not be available at your home uni. For example, as I was studying in America I took an American Literature module as I thought I would get a unique perspective studying this with American Professors and students.
Although I knew I wanted to go to LA, I did look into other options to make sure that LMU definitely had the right modules for me! Whilst researching LMU I also researched San Francisco State. Ultimately, I chose LA.
Although this isn’t a conclusive list of what you should factor into choosing where to study abroad, I do hope that it has given you a starting point in trying to decide where to go!
Let me know in the comments where you are thinking of studying abroad! You can contact me on my social channels if you have any other questions about studying abroad that you think I could answer for you!
See you in my next post,