May 9, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

By now, you’ve read about the benefits of study abroad and have talked to friends about why you should do it.  You’ve talked to your professors and advisors, and attended study abroad information session at your school.  You’re set.  You’ve researched study abroad locations and decided what you want to do and where.  How do you make it happen?  Check out these 4 myth-busters about study abroad and pack your bags. 

 

MYTH #1: I can’t study abroad.  It’s too expensive

FACT #1: No, it’s not.  Don’t listen to the folks who tell you it’s out of your league because of the cost.  There are ways to offset the costs of a study abroad experience so that anyone, with a little planning, can go and have a meaningful experience.

Planning, you say?  Yes.  Planning.  The cost of your study abroad program depends on where you study, the length of the program, and the type of program you attend—is it part of a university or an outside organization? 

The cost of a study abroad semester should be the same or less than what you currently pay.  How can you ensure that?  Pick the right country.  China, Costa Rica, and Germany have highly affordable university programs, and affordable costs of living for international students—even more affordable if you can swing some of the language. 

There are some other great options in cities across South America, Asia, and Africa.  With the exception of Germany, western Europe is on the more expensive side, as is Australia. 

Another trick?  Think about airfare—when you buy and how you buy.  Don’t forget your International Student Identity Card, a resource that can literally save you thousands of dollars on transportation, meals, and cultural events. 

Don’t overlook scholarships either.  Look at private scholarships, ones from your school, and ones from your host country—and your host university.  There are literally millions of dollars available, if you know where to look.  For study abroad funding resources, check out the IIE Study Abroad Funding site.

 

MYTH #2: Studying abroad is all about partying.

FACT #2: It’s also about studying.  We hope you’d have some fun in the process, of course—but studying abroad isn’t one big party.  It’s about studying, learning, making connections with people, and engaging in a culture unlike your own.  You’ll take classes, pick up some of the local language if you don’t know it already, and become a part of the campus on which you’re studying.  You should have fun though, while realizing that you’re there primarily to study—and learn.

 

MYTH #3: Studying abroad is the same as going on a trip.

FACT #3: Living in another country is different... it’s a really long visit, in which you become immersed in the academic and local culture, meet new people, learn new skills, work towards your degree, and immerse yourself in a new culture.  Sure—travel and tourism should be part of your experience, but it’s not the focus.  You’re not just taking in the big sights—you’re taking in the whole experience. 

 

MYTH #4: Employers don’t appreciate a study abroad experience.

MYTH #4: They certainly do.  Who wouldn’t appreciate an experience that broadens your world view, encourages your independence, and gives you real-world opportunities to think critically and make decisions?  We haven’t even discussed empathy yet, either… What does studying abroad show your employer?  That you’re willing to take risks, think for yourself, make decisions, and learn new systems. 

When you add your study abroad experience to your resume, make sure your employer knows where you studied, your language proficiency, the courses you took, and any interesting side trips (see #3) that you took.  Highlighting experiences like homestays and leadership roles is another plus.

Flex your adaptability muscles and show any prospective employer that your study abroad experience helped shape who you are today.

Don’t let myths about study abroad fool you—you can study abroad if you are willing to plan ahead, make educated decisions, take your studies seriously, enjoy where you are and yes—even learn something.

Go forth! 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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