How to Make the Most of Study Abroad?

Study Abroad

Study Abroad: You have spent countless hours in the classroom studying subjects that will serve you well in your future career. But what about experiencing new cultures, improving your foreign language skills, and gaining a global perspective? Now is the time to make the most of study abroad. With so many options for programs, destinations, and durations, planning the adventure of a lifetime can feel overwhelming. But this guide will walk you through the entire process, from researching programs and applying for scholarships to packing your bags and preparing for the journey ahead.

We’ll share tips from past study abroad students, professors, and program advisors. You’ll learn how to choose the country and university that best fits your academic and personal goals. We’ll also provide a checklist of essential documents and items to bring. If you want to get the most out of your study abroad experience, keep reading. This is your chance to have the experience of a lifetime and return home with stories to tell for years to come. Let’s begin!

Benefits of Studying Abroad in High School or College

Study Abroad

When you study abroad in high school or college, you open yourself up to a world of opportunities that can enrich your life in many ways.

Gain Independence and Confidence

Living in a foreign country, away from familiar surroundings, you learn self-sufficiency and develop confidence in your abilities. You navigate new situations, solve unexpected problems, and push yourself outside your comfort zone. These experiences build character and resilience that will benefit you for years to come.

Learn a New Language

There’s no better way to learn a new language than by immersing yourself in it. Hearing the local language every day, you’ll pick it up quickly. Speaking with others is the best practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Language skills are invaluable personally and professionally.

Experience a New Culture

A study abroad program allows you to experience life in another country firsthand. You can learn the subtle nuances of culture that you can’t get from books. Try the local cuisine, celebrate holidays, and make new friends. Expand your understanding of cultural differences and develop an open and curious mindset.

Enhance Your Education

Some study abroad programs allow you to take classes that count toward your degree. You may even be able to focus on topics related to the host country’s culture or history. Studying in a foreign academic system challenges you in new ways and exposes you to different styles of teaching and learning. You can bring these perspectives back to enrich your education at home.

Studying abroad as a high school or college student is a transformative experience that shapes your growth and worldview in meaningful ways. The life skills, cultural insights, and cherished memories you gain will stay with you for life. If you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it. The rewards are well worth any challenges along the way.

Popular Study Abroad Destinations for Students


Spain is a top destination for students looking to study abroad, especially those interested in learning Spanish. You can immerse yourself in the language and culture while studying at world-class universities in cities like Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. Spain offers a vibrant social life, stunning architecture, Mediterranean coastline, and mouthwatering cuisine. With over 60 programs to choose from, you’ll find options for every academic interest.


For students attracted to the romance of Italian culture, food, art, and history, Italy is an ideal place to study abroad. You can take courses in majors like business, humanities, and social sciences at schools in cities like Florence, Rome, Milan, and Venice. While the cost of living in Italy is higher than in Spain, many students find scholarships and financial aid to make studying abroad affordable. The experience of living in the heart of European culture and beauty is unparalleled.


Australia provides an exciting opportunity to study abroad in an English-speaking country with a different cultural experience. You can take classes in fields like environmental science, marine biology, and tourism at one of many excellent universities. Australia’s natural beauty, outdoor lifestyle, and unique wildlife also make it an appealing destination for students. The school year in Australia runs from February to November, providing a chance to get away during the winter and ring in the New Year on the beach.

Costa Rica

For students interested in environmental sciences, sustainability, and improving their Spanish, Costa Rica is an excellent place to study abroad. Its focus on eco-tourism and biodiversity make it a living classroom for learning about rainforest ecosystems, wildlife conservation, and sustainable business practices. The pace of life in Costa Rica is pura vida – nice and slow, providing opportunity to immerse yourself in the peaceful culture. Program costs tend to be lower in Costa Rica compared to other destinations.

Finding the Right Study Abroad Program

Do Your Research

With so many study abroad programs out there, doing your research is key. Check out your school’s study abroad office website to explore options they offer. Then search online for highly-rated programs in countries or regions you’re interested in. Talk to your advisor and professors to get their recommendations based on your major or career goals. Gather details on locations, courses, activities, housing, costs, and scholarships or financial aid available.

Determine Your Priorities

Think about what’s most important to you in a study abroad experience. Do you want to focus on learning a new language? Experience a different culture? Take classes in your major? Participate in an internship? Live with a host family or in a dorm? Travel to multiple countries? Figure out your priorities to find programs that are the best match.

Apply and Prepare

Once you choose a program, start the application process as early as possible. This typically involves an application form, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Make sure you understand any requirements related to visas, immunizations, or insurance. Talk to your school about having credits transfer. Begin preparing for your experience abroad by researching the culture and history of countries you’ll visit. Learn some basic greetings in the local language. Get ready for an adventure that will change your life!

Consider Costs and Scholarships

While study abroad can be expensive, there are many resources to help. Check if programs offer scholarships or grants. See if you qualify for national scholarships like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship or Boren Awards. Talk to your school’s financial aid office about using your existing aid for study abroad. While costs shouldn’t deter you from this opportunity, go in with a realistic budget and look for ways to save money on the trip. The experience you gain will be worth the investment!

Key Steps for Applying to Study Abroad Programs

Do Your Research

Start by researching different study abroad programs that match your interests. Consider destinations and subjects that excite you. Browse program websites and speak to a study abroad advisor to learn key details about academics, housing, activities, application deadlines, and costs. Make a list of your top choices.

Check Eligibility and Deadlines

Once you have a list of preferred programs, check that you meet the eligibility requirements like GPA and language proficiency. Pay close attention to application deadlines and required application materials. Most deadlines are 6-12 months before the start of the program. Create a schedule to ensure you submit a complete application on time.

Gather Application Materials

Every program will require an online application form. Many will also ask for additional materials like a personal essay, letter of recommendation, official transcripts, financial statements, etc. Give your references plenty of notice and draft your essays well in advance of the deadlines.

Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships

Don’t assume study abroad is out of your budget. Apply for financial aid through FAFSA and check with your school’s study abroad office for scholarships. There are also many external scholarships and grants for study abroad like the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship** and Boren Awards. Start researching and applying for aid early!

Make Pre-Departure Preparations

Once accepted into a program, meet with your study abroad advisor again to discuss next steps. You’ll need to make travel arrangements, obtain proper identification like a passport or visa, purchase insurance, and handle tuition or housing payments. You should also prepare culturally by learning common courtesies and basic greetings in your host country’s language.

With advance planning and diligent preparation, you’ll be ready to embark on a memorable study abroad adventure. Keep an open and adventurous spirit – some of the best experiences are the ones you didn’t plan for! Study abroad will challenge you and push you outside your comfort zone, but the personal growth and life-changing rewards make the journey worthwhile.

Types of Financial Aid Available for Studying Abroad

Study Abroad


Many scholarships are available for studying abroad, including those offered by the study abroad program provider, your home university, private organizations, and government agencies. Look for scholarships that match your destination, field of study, language skills, and financial need. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship offers up to $8,000 for students receiving Federal Pell Grants. The Boren Awards provide up to $20,000 for studying languages in regions critical to U.S. interests.


Grants are need-based aid you don’t have to repay. Check with your study abroad office and university financial aid office about grants they may offer. The Fund for Education Abroad provides grants up to $10,000 based on financial need. Federal grants like the Pell Grant can also be used for study abroad.

Student Loans

You can use federal student loans, private student loans, and personal loans to help fund your study abroad program. Federal student loans offer fixed interest rates and flexible repayment terms. Speak to your university’s financial aid office about using your existing federal student aid for study abroad. Private student loans and personal loans also have the potential to fund study abroad, but often have higher interest rates.


Crowdfunding allows you to raise money from many donors through websites like GoFundMe, FundMyTravel, and Experiment. Create a profile sharing details about your study abroad program, set a fundraising goal, and spread the word to family and friends. Many students find success combining crowdfunding with other sources. Every dollar helps!

With a mix of scholarships, grants, loans, personal savings, and crowdfunding, studying abroad can be within your reach. Start researching and applying for funding opportunities early – up to a year before your intended study abroad departure date. Persistence and creativity can pay off in finding ways to make your international education dreams come true.

Packing Tips and Preparing for Your Time Abroad

Studying abroad is an exciting new chapter, but preparing to leave home can be stressful. Focus on packing light and efficiently to avoid excess baggage fees and ease your transition into a new culture. Only bring necessities and leave room for souvenirs!

Prepare for different weather. Research the climate of your destination and pack versatile pieces that can be layered. Thermals, scarves, hats and a rain jacket are useful extras. Don’t forget comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll likely do more exploring than usual!

Bring essential documents. Make copies of your passport, insurance cards, boarding passes and student ID. Leave one set at home and pack the others in your carry-on.

Learn about cultural norms. Study basic language phrases, local etiquette and dress codes to avoid unintentionally offending anyone. Dress conservatively until you get a sense of typical attire.

Pack a mini first aid kit. Include any important medicines, pain relievers, bandages, hand sanitizer, tissues and over-the-counter remedies for common travel ailments like indigestion or diarrhea. See a doctor about any necessary vaccinations or medications specific to your destination.

Leave space for your new belongings. Only bring about two weeks’ worth of clothing and leave half your luggage open for gifts, souvenirs and anything you may pick up abroad. You can also buy toiletries and extras at your destination, so no need to overpack those.

Make time for goodbyes. Saying farewell to friends and family will likely be emotional. Schedule time to see loved ones in person beforehand and let them know ways you’ll stay in contact from abroad. Though bittersweet, studying abroad will create lifelong memories! Focus on this new adventure and embrace all it has to offer.

Making the Most of Your International Study Experience

Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity. To get the most out of your experience, here are some tips:

Go in with an open mind. Experience the local culture fully by trying new foods, learning some basic greetings in the local language, and attending cultural events. Don’t judge what is unfamiliar – embrace the differences! Adapt to your new environment with patience and curiosity.

Make local friends. Don’t just stick with other students from your home university. Strike up conversations with people in your classes or join local social groups to make new friends. Let them show you the side of their country that tourists rarely see. These friendships can last well beyond your time abroad.

Take advantage of travel opportunities. If possible, schedule in extra time before or after your program to travel independently. See other parts of the country or nearby regions. Traveling solo or with new friends you’ve met can be rewarding. Even weekend trips to nearby towns or natural areas will allow you to gain valuable experience.

Choose challenging courses. Don’t take the easy way out with courses you could take at home. Select ones that leverage your location and learning a new perspective. Courses in anthropology, political science or regional history will complement your experience. Classes that require field work or local engagement are ideal.

Keep in touch with your contacts at home, but don’t cling to what’s familiar. Call your parents and close friends regularly to share updates on your experiences, but spend most of your time embracing the present rather than being homesick. Study abroad will change you in wonderful ways, so dive in fully!

Making personal connections, gaining independence, and engaging deeply with another culture will make your study abroad experience life-changing. Keep an open and curious mindset, and you’ll come home with memories and friendships that will last forever. The opportunities for learning and growth are endless if you make the effort to step out of your comfort zone. Take a risk – you won’t regret it!

Returning Home After Study Abroad and Next Steps

Study Abroad

Returning from studying abroad is exciting but can also be challenging. Here are some tips to help you transition back to life at home:

Take time to reflect on your experience. Look through photos, share stories with friends and family, and think about how you grew personally. Studying abroad often shapes you in ways you don’t realize until returning home.

Reconnect with old routines. Get back into a normal sleep schedule, diet, and exercise regimen. Call up local friends and make plans to meet in person. Re-establishing your old routines and social connections will help combat reverse culture shock.

Set new goals. Now that you’re back, set academic, career, and personal goals to work towards. Maybe you want to pursue internships, join new clubs, or travel domestically. Having purpose will help motivate you.

Consider more international opportunities. If you loved studying abroad, look for more ways to incorporate international experiences into your life. You could do an internship abroad, learn a new language, volunteer to help international students on your campus, or plan future trips overseas.

Talk to your school’s study abroad office. Let them know you’re back and interested in promoting study abroad to other students. They may invite you to share your experience at an upcoming event. This is a great way to maintain your connection to study abroad and inspire others.

Take it easy on yourself. Don’t feel pressure to immediately jump back into intense socializing or schoolwork. Give yourself time to readjust to life at home again. Be patient through ups and downs, and remember the rewards of your experience abroad. With time, you’ll feel fully settled in again.

In the end, studying abroad changes you for the better. The transition back may be challenging, but by following these tips you’ll be on your way to a smooth re-entry and able to hold onto the meaningful impacts of your time overseas. The experience will shape your perspective forever.

Study Abroad FAQs: Answers to Common Questions

Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity, but also comes with lots of questions. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions and their answers to help you prepare.

What are the eligibility requirements? Most programs have a minimum GPA requirement, typically around 2.5, and require you to be enrolled at a college or university. Some programs are open to high school students or recent graduates. Check with your specific program for their requirements.

How do I choose a program?There are many factors to consider when selecting a study abroad program. Think about the location, courses offered, program length, and cost. Meet with your study abroad advisor to explore good options based on your interests and goals. Popular destinations for U.S. students include Europe, Australia, and Latin America.

How much does it cost? Costs vary significantly based on the program and location. Semester or year-long programs are typically more expensive than summer programs. Private providers usually cost more than exchange programs through your university. You’ll need to budget for tuition, room and board, airfare, local transportation, and personal expenses. Many students are able to use financial aid and scholarships to help fund their study abroad.

Will I get credit for courses? Most study abroad programs offer courses that will transfer as credits towards your degree. Meet with your academic advisor to determine how credits will transfer and fulfill requirements for your major or general education before enrolling in a program. Some programs offer internship or research opportunities for credit as well.

What about health and safety?Your health and safety abroad are top priorities for program providers and universities. Make sure you understand all health and safety information provided by your program including insurance coverage, emergency procedures, and any health risks associated with your destination. Register with the local embassy when you arrive and provide emergency contact information for someone at home. Take normal safety precautions as you would when traveling anywhere. Don’t let health and safety concerns stop you from gaining this valuable experience—just go in fully informed!

Studying abroad will open your mind to new ways of thinking and allow you to gain valuable skills that will benefit you for years to come. Overcoming obstacles and navigating challenges in a foreign place will give you confidence in your ability to adapt to new situations beyond your time abroad.


So in closing, while studying abroad can seem daunting, making the most of the experience is completely doable. By setting goals, managing your finances, being open to new things, and appreciating every moment, you’ll gain so much personal growth. This will lead to a life-changing adventure you’ll cherish forever. With some planning and the right mindset, your study abroad journey will exceed your wildest dreams. Just go for it!



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