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21 Dec, 2017   |   

How To Choose A Study Abroad Destination

Studying abroad can be an incredible experience no matter where you go. Perhaps you already have a location in mind. But if you are like most of the hundreds of thousands of students who want to study abroad every year, you may not know where to go or even where to begin. It’s critical to make an informed decision before enrolling in a program. Above all else you should go! Many times the number of countries and choices can lead to a sort of study abroad paralysis but don’t let that stop you.

Time is not on your side when it comes to study abroad because the later in your educational career, the harder it becomes to find a place that matches the remaining credits you will need to graduate. Many study abroad programs offer courses that are easier to transfer to satisfy general ed requirements as opposed to upper level classes.

Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help you make a good decision, and this post will take you through those resources to make the best decision for you. 

It can be expensive to study abroad and location is a huge factor. Costs can vary greatly depending on where you go. Below is an estimated tuition cost for a year of study abroad per country.

  • UK – $20,000 – $55,500 USD (Does not include living costs, travel, room and board)
  • Australia – $17,000 – $60,000 USD (Does not include living costs, travel, room and board)
  • USA – $10,000 – $41,000 USD (Does not include living costs, travel, room and board)
  • Up with People Multi-Country Study Abroad Program $27,350 for 1 Year World Travel – (Room, board and travel included)

(Source: Times Higher Education)

When it comes to location there are so many destinations to choose from. It’s helpful to narrow down the type of location that interests you the most. For example:

  • Do you want to learn another language while abroad or does the thought of studying abroad ANDlearning a new language sound like a chore?
  • Do you prefer living in a big city or a more rural location?
  • Do you want to live in 1 location or would you rather travel to multiple countries while you study abroad? For example you can study on ships that travel from port to port or participate in a multi-country study abroad program such as that offered by Up with People.


Once you have at least a few locations in mind, it’s time to consider the timing. Most study abroad students choose to study abroad during their sophomore (or equivalent) year from their home universities. Many home universities don’t allow students to study abroad during their freshman year. More and more are also choosing to earn university credits during a gap year between high school (or equivalent) and university. But timing is everything as many home universities have specific requirements and rules when it comes to study abroad.

Typically you should give yourself plenty of time (think 12 months ahead of the departure date) to plan your adventure. Some study abroad programs require an applicant apply no later than 6 months prior to the start of the program.

Do you love to hike? Then maybe New Zealand is a great place for you to spend some time. Do you live for skiing? Perhaps Switzerland should be on your shortlist. Enjoy singing in the shower or air-guitaring in your living room? Consider a touring musical program like Up with People. Whatever your hobbies, many destinations fit perfectly with those things you love to do. This can be a huge factor in combating culture shock and homesickness which many study abroad students experience at some point in their time abroad. Spend a little time researching your top location choices to find out which are the best match for the hobbies you love. 

If you have specific requirements for courses during your study abroad time there may be a program for you. Most colleges and universities now have study abroad offices on campus. That is the best place to start as these offices can help you find schools and programs within your major that they already know will easily transfer credits back to your home university.

Depending on your home country some destinations require more bureaucracy (and fees) to acquire the necessary visa to study abroad. This should be considered before setting your heart on a specific location.

A great way to meet people and enrich your resume is to volunteer or get an internship while abroad. If you have narrowed down your options to a few locations, simply contact the program coordinator and ask if their might be internships or volunteer opportunities available. You might be surprised at the amazing things you discover just by taking the time to ask.

In a world with so many wonderful places to explore, choosing a study abroad destination can be stressful. At the end of the day, trust your gut and go with that option that makes you feel the most excited. Remember the words of Mark Twain. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” Happy travels!

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