In my opinion, the study abroad experience starts before you even step foot in the airport. I believe it starts the moment you say to yourself “I’m going to do this!” and begin researching programs— and Arcadia has so many to choose from. It can be overwhelming at first to find the program that is right for you, so here are some tips to help narrow things down!
1. Remember that it is still studying abroad— think about your academic plan and discuss it with your advisor.
What classes and requirements do you need to meet in the next year or so? What kind of classes would you want to take while abroad? Would you want to do an internship? Certain majors and academic tracks can be very specific about what you need to take, and when. If you have an idea of when you want to go abroad, look at what you would want or need to complete during that time frame. If you haven’t thought that specifically yet, discuss with your advisor when would be the best time to go. You may need to be open with your timeframe— remember, Arcadia also has summer programs!
2. Don’t just consider where your friends are going/have gone.
Traveling with friends is awesome! But what may be right for them and their track may not be right for you. I chose somewhere where I knew I wasn’t going to know anyone, and it was definitely scary at first. But because I chose a program that I truly felt was right for me, I’ve been able to meet plenty of new people and feel right at home.
3. What is the main language spoken?
If you can, try to come up with a general idea of where you want to go— Europe, Asia, Australia, etc. For example, I’m an English major, so I knew I would want to go to an English-speaking country to make the most out of my studies. But Arcadia offers programs in non-English-speaking countries where the courses are taught in English but the area you will be in will be in a different language, such as the Arcadia in Barcelona, Spain program. A program like that could be perfect for you if you are interested in, or have prior knowledge of, a language other than English. For others, it may be too stressful to try to learn a new language on top of everything else they are trying to do while abroad.
4. What is the area like?
Do you want to be in a large city? Somewhere more rural? Your first instinct may be to go in the complete opposite direction of where you grew up or live now but consider other angles. A large city here will be different than one in another country. You can also take into account neighboring areas.
5. What are your hobbies? What do you like to do?
Are you a lover of the outdoors? A food connoisseur? Of course, a major part of studying abroad is trying new things, but it doesn’t mean you need to give up what you already know you like! If you want to be surrounded by nature 24/7, it may be harder for you to study in a more urban area, as you may have to travel outside of your home base to get that experience. If travel and exploration are one of your biggest interests, consider the ease of traveling from where you’ll primarily be. You may want to get an estimate on travel prices to other places you would like to visit while you’re abroad, or even getting around the place you’ll be staying in.
6. Money matters!
There’s no way around it— studying abroad can get expensive, especially if you plan to do some aforementioned travel. Do some research on day to day living expenses where you’re considering going. Once you know you’ll be going abroad, save up! I put my “study abroad money” in a separate part of my bank account so it was isolated. There are also a lot of good saving and budgeting apps out there that can help you before, during, and even after you get back!
7. Don’t wait to apply.
Once you’ve decided on where you want to go, apply as early as you can! That way, you can find out your acceptance status earlier, and get any additional documents or information that may be needed. Also, on the rare chance something goes wrong, you’ll have more time to correct it.
I hope this helps you make your decision, and happy traveling!