Myths pervade our lives about all sorts of things. Does chewing gum really take seven years to digest? Is the Great Wall of China actually the only man-made object visible from space? Is Brad Pitt really still in love with Jennifer Anniston? We’ll have to come back to those pressing questions another time. The real myths that concern us today are the Top Ten Myths About Studying Abroad. Someone has to set the record straight and the Select Study Abroad MythBusters are here to do just that. We hope to debunk some pesky popular beliefs that can stop a student from studying abroad, because that my friends, is just a crying shame.
1. The application process to study abroad is difficult. Nowadays, most applications to study abroad can be done quickly and easily online (like Select Study Abroad’s online application). Most programs require a transcript and
if you are applying to a specialized program (like one for Architecture majors or scientific research in the Galapagos Islands) you may also need a personal statement or letter of rec. Chances are you’re looking at a matter of minutes – and not hours – to take the all-important first step to studying abroad. It is pretty rare to have to put in such little time and effort for such a rich reward.
2. Studying abroad is a waste of time. First of all, if you’re reading this, chances are that you don’t believe this. However, you may have someone in your life that does and needs some convincing. Now keep in mind that like anything else in life, you get out of studying abroad what you put into it. If you are motivated, eager to meet new people and seek out adventure the odds are that you will approach studying abroad the same way (i.e. with awesomeness). But, with all things being equal, studying abroad gives students an edge over the competition.
Students who have spent meaningful time living and learning in another country are perceived to be independent, mature, culturally sensitive, and ambitious. These characteristics may or may not be true and vary from person to person, but the perception is pretty clear. Studying abroad not only makes you more marketable when entering the workforce or when applying to graduate school, it can certainly have a tremendous impact on your life while still in college. By studying abroad during the summer, for example, students can earn course credits that could lead to early graduation or help to complete that second major or minor. Above all, the personal advantages are really the most powerful. Your time abroad will give you an appreciation for your field of study, your host country, and your home country in a way that no other experience can really claim. You will learn so much about yourself. We know it is a cliché, but it’s true. Don’t believe us? Check this out.
3. Studying abroad is just an excuse to party in another country. Again, if you are a partier at home you will be a partier abroad. The temptation is there and drinking limits are (sometimes) not. But, our myth-busting team has found that more often than not students take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad and do not squander it. The fact that studying abroad has an end-date tends to encourage students to “live life like a tourist.” And by this we just mean that the ticking clock motivates students to see and do as much as possible within their allotted time. Honestly, after spending time, energy and money to get to the final destination, what would be the point of wasting it? Even after a late night out, students who are studying abroad are more likely to rally and make it on time to that train headed to Rome or that special lecture by some guy from the History Channel (inside joke). Time management and personal responsibility (and power napping) are skills that every student who studies abroad learns to hone better than most.
4. If you study abroad you have to go for a semester or a whole year. The great thing about studying abroad is that the programs vary widely in duration. Some are quick 1-week trips, while others are for the entire academic year. Students really have tons of options to choose from when it comes to how long they want to study abroad for. This flexibility has fortunately led to students being able to study abroad more than once. Students may want to start off with a short-term or summer program, especially if they have a less flexible academic schedule or are apprehensive about spending an entire semester abroad. The important thing is to study abroad, because wherever you go and however long you go for IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
5. You have to choose one of your school’s study abroad programs. Students can study abroad through their home university, another university, or any study abroad program they choose. There are many study abroad programs that involve students from universities all over the U.S. and around the world. While some colleges offer various study abroad programs, many colleges do not personally manage their own study abroad programs. Sometimes the programs “offered” by a home university are actually run independently by a private study abroad program that the school has given approval for students to attend. Many schools only have limited options to choose from. Essentially, you have a lot of freedom in choosing the right study abroad program for you. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. Last summer, students from all over the country chose Select Study Abroad over programs offered by their home university (and they loved it, duh!).
6. The credits taken while studying abroad won’t transfer. Making sure that credits from coursework completed abroad often has more to do with the courses taken then the program you took them through. Students should be proactive and check with their Registrar, Academic Counselor or major/minor department when choosing their courses. The courses that are generally the most easily transferable are those that are most similar to courses your home university already offers. If you want to take a class that your school does not offer (often the case with many of the coolest classes offered abroad), you may have to file a petition to get credit. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds! It can involve submitting a course description or tentative syllabus, which many programs can provide for you. Whatever class(es) you do end up taking, we recommend keeping and bringing home your coursework, syllabi, and projects regardless. Whether you take courses for your major, required credits, or simply for the sake of learning (like Wine and Food Pairing or Fashion Illustration), those course credits and/or experience will always put you head and shoulders above the rest.
7. You can’t get financial aid to study abroad. FALSE! This myth is aggravatingly untrue. The general rule of thumb is that if you already receive financial aid in college that you should also be able to receive financial aid to study abroad. It does not matter if you study abroad through a program your home university offers or an outside program. You can still apply for and receive adequate financial aid. There are often some guidelines or requirements to do so – like, you must enroll in a certain number of course credits or the courses must be transferable. Study abroad is no longer an experience for the super wealthy. If you really want to study abroad, jumping through the necessary hoops will always be worth it.
8. Studying abroad is expensive. Studying abroad programs come in all shapes and sizes (and costs). Students that want to study abroad can always find a program that fits into their financial comfort zone. When researching study abroad programs you should look carefully at what each program does and does not include. All program costs should be clearly outlined and understood upfront. It is recommended to choose a program (like Select Study Abroad) that includes as much as possible and does not surprise you with extra fees later. Don’t be surprised if the cost of your study abroad program is comparable (or even less expensive) than the cost of staying at home. We had a student who told us that it actually would have cost her more to stay in her apartment and attend summer school at her home university than studying abroad. Do the math and do everything in your power to study abroad – pull an extra shift at the coffee shop, ask grandma and grandpa for an early graduation present, or recycle all of those bottles and cans like you have been meaning to. You will be glad you did.
9. You can only study abroad during your junior year of college. This myth is just silly. While many students opt to study abroad their junior year, students can choose to study abroad at any point during their college career. Some programs allow high school students (with a high enough GPA and demonstrated level of maturity) to study abroad. You can even study abroad after you graduate or while you are in graduate school. Don’t let the myth of “junior year” abroad hold you back. Start plotting your first trip abroad now and you may have time to go more than once (you lucky devil).
10. You have to speak a foreign language before studying abroad. Besides the fact that there are many other English-speaking countries out there (England ring a bell?), many study abroad programs in non-English speaking countries do not require prior foreign language experience. While Select Study Abroad values and promotes language learning, we understand that it is not or cannot be a priority for everyone. For that reason, programs like ours offer a wide spectrum of courses taught in English. Doing so gives students interested in Business, Literature, Sociology, History, etc. the chance to learn abroad without requiring foreign language knowledge. So, go ahead and study abroad wherever your heart desires.
Now that you know the truth behind these study abroad myths, spread the word or better yet – study abroad now!!