Frequently Asked Questions
A successful study abroad experience requires careful planning and students should begin this planning early in the process. Part of study abroad preparation involves selecting the right program. Students may consider the following Frequently Asked Questions in making this determination.
However, these questions should not replace the advice and support students will get in consultation with their Campus Study Abroad office, academic advisors, parents, financial aid officers, registrars, admissions personnel, program coordinators, and other faculty, staff and students who have participated in the program(s) you are considering. Students should be certain they understand their home institution’s policies and procedures relating to study abroad.
How much and what kind of structure and support are you going to want or need from a program?
Many “study abroad” programs involve a group of students and professors from one or several U.S. universities and a program director going abroad together. These programs provide a high level of support. Travel arrangements and excursions, as well as housing and meal arrangements, are often arranged by the director and are included in the program cost. This type of program may be good for someone going abroad for the first time.
“Exchange” programs give less support but a higher degree of cultural immersion. While arrangements for your housing, meals and course registration will usually be made by the international education office of the school you will be attending, there may be less support than in a study abroad program. Excursions are usually not included, and you will often be one of a small number of U.S. students at the university you attend. This gives you an excellent opportunity to meet both students from the host country and other international students and form cross-cultural friendships, but does require a more independent and adventurous spirit.
What region or country most interests you?
Are you prepared to adjust to living in a new country and adapting to its culture? Consider the popularity of the destination for study abroad or tourism. Will you be the only U.S. student, or one of many?
Do you prefer living in a larger city or a smaller town?
Remember that there is always time to visit the well-known cities during weekends and school breaks. Sometimes living in a smaller or less touristy destination means you will have a greater chance to get to know people from the host country.
Do you want to study in an English-speaking program?
If you do not speak a foreign language, it does not mean that you have to study in an English-speaking country. Many programs in non-English speaking countries offer classes in English, even if the official language is not English.
What language(s), if any, do you want to study? Are you hoping to become fluent in a language while abroad?
Most schools will not allow you to repeat a language course for which you have already received credit. Immersion programs are the best way to acquire language skills. A semester or longer program is recommended for students with goals of foreign language fluency.
Are you sufficiently advanced in a foreign language to take courses at a foreign university in that language?
In general, you should have at least two years of college language courses or the equivalent.
What is your preferred duration of stay abroad?
The majority of University System of Georgia students attend short-term summer study abroad programs. However, most students who attend short-term programs wish they could have stayed longer. Frequently, students who have gone on short-term programs decide to go abroad again for a longer stay. The longer the duration of the study abroad program, the greater the development of foreign language and cross-cultural skills. Students should plan early for study abroad so that they have the time and flexibility in their academic schedules to go abroad for a longer period of time.
What year or semester of your university stay is best for study abroad?
Students study abroad from freshman through senior years, as well as in graduate school. Sometimes going abroad in your freshman or sophomore year affords you the greatest flexibility in course selection, and concentration on major requirements is not as important. On the other hand, certain programs may offer upper-level courses in your major, allowing you to go during your junior or senior year.
Do you have particular courses you must take while you are abroad?
If you know you must take a particular course while abroad, this can help you narrow your possible program choices. However, sometimes courses are cancelled, so it is better not to base your program selection on one course.
Do you want to take courses in your major or minor while abroad?
Be sure to check with an academic advisor in your department to verify the number of courses you can take off-campus to count toward your major or minor. This will be a factor if you are considering a program offered through a university other than your own.
Are you interested in an internship or practicum experience abroad?
Many study abroad programs now offer internships and practica in a wide variety of fields. While some offer academic credit, others do not.
What level of academic rigor do you expect or want from a program?
Some programs are more academically challenging than study at your home university or may seem more difficult as you adjust to the educational system at a foreign university. Others are less academically rigorous. Speak to former participants and the director to get a sense of the academic rigor and the various class workloads.
Do you need to earn academic credit while abroad?
In most cases, students want to earn academic credit while abroad. This will enable them to receive financial aid. Most universities will only accept transfer credit from an accredited college or university program, so be sure to verify that your institution will accept transfer credit from the program you select.
How many hours do you need to take based on guidelines given by your academic program or your student financial aid office?
Consult with officials at your university to determine if you must take a minimum number of credits
Do you understand the details of credit transfer?
If your program is through another university, make sure you know who will be issuing your transcript and how grades will be awarded on your home campus (pass/fail vs. letter grades). Find out where to go on your home campus to receive pre-approval of study abroad transfer credit.
What are the costs of a study abroad program?
Costs for study abroad programs may appear high, aside from travel costs and related expenses, tuition and fees, housing costs, meals and entertainment at your home university, may cost virtually the same as a study abroad program.
Are short-term or summer programs less expensive?
While short-term programs may appear less expensive in terms of total cost, the per day cost is actually much higher than that of semester or longer programs. A comparison of some of the more popular programs across the System to locations in Western Europe showed that the average summer study abroad program tended to cost more on average per day than a typical semester study abroad program, which in turn costs more per day than the average semester exchange program.
When will the study abroad program fees be due?
In general, study abroad program fees will be due several months before the start of your program, sometimes in various installments. Therefore, you will probably need to make arrangements to pay the fees before your financial aid is disbursed. Some programs may offer payment plans, or allow you to pay the portion covered by financial aid once you receive it.
Do you plan to use federal, state, and/or institutional financial aid for study abroad?
In general, if you are otherwise eligible to receive state and federal financial aid and/or the HOPE Scholarship, you may use such money for study abroad. Some types of institutional aid will also apply to study abroad. Consult with study abroad and student financial aid officials at your home institution to determine how to apply for aid, whether you will receive your aid from your home university or from the university sponsoring the program, and when and in what form your aid will be disbursed. Find out if additional loans are available.
Do you need to work while abroad?
Some countries allow foreign students to work while they are studying. Consult with an advisor or the foreign embassy Web page to determine the regulations for the country in which you plan to study.
Where do you envision yourself living while overseas (e.g., hostel, homestay, campus residence hall or apartment)?
Most programs offer a specifc housing option and each housing option has its pros and cons. Homestays will allow the greatest amount of cultural immersion, the opportunity to practice a foreign language, and frequently, home-cooked meals. However, staying in someone else’s home will require a certain amount of flexibility on your part and you will need to adjust to the habits of your host family. Students can not always expect a “typical” family.
Sometimes singles or retirees host students. You can usually choose whether you would prefer to have small children in your home. Residence halls, if shared with students from the host country, are an excellent opportunity to meet many people. However, in many non English-speaking countries, residence halls, when available, are often populated primarily by international students. If you are looking for cultural immersion, make sure you will not be on a hall full of students from the U.S.
Will you be sharing a room or have a single room?
Sharing a room in a homestay may be comforting to many students, especially those struggling with a new language. For others, it means an easy escape back to the world of English. If you wish to become fluent in a foreign language, room with a host national, if possible.
How do I know if I’ve chosen a good program?
A good program is a program that meets your needs. Carefully research your options and choose one or two programs that meet a combination of your personal criteria, criteria recommended/required for study abroad at your home institution, and the generally accepted professional standards in the administration of study abroad programs listed on this page. Then, to get a better idea of the quality of a study abroad program or to choose between several programs, speak to former program participants or the program director.