5 Myths (and Realities) About Study Abroad

Studying abroad is a popular pastime for many college students. Living and learning in a foreign country can provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar culture while also earning college credit, meeting new people, and traveling. It also allows you to increase your confidence. Despite these benefits, many students still choose not to participate in study abroad because of intimidating information they have heard from others. Here are five myths (and realities) about study abroad:

1. It’s too expensive

Study abroad may seem expensive at first, but when you begin to evaluate program options and costs, you might just change your mind. Many universities offer exchange programs, in which students pay their regular tuition, but attend a school abroad. Additionally, students can select housing and meal plans that may be comparable to – or even less than – what they pay at home. In some study abroad programs, students pay the tuition of the foreign university, which may be less costly than your home college. To study abroad, you will need to pay for round trip airfare, which can be expensive. Keep in mind that you can apply your financial aid to some study abroad programs, and remember that there are also study abroad scholarships that can help students cover extra expenses. Speak with your school’s study abroad office to discover such funding opportunities. These tips may also help you to maximize your financial aid.

2. I must be able to speak a foreign language

Another common myth about study abroad is that students must speak the language of the country where they intend to study. In reality, there are many study abroad programs where the foreign institution teaches courses in English. Although it can be helpful to speak the home language, many students learn to do so by interacting with people in the country they visit. Some students also choose to sign up for language immersion programs while abroad. If you are uncomfortable with not knowing the language, remember that there are several English-speaking countries where study abroad is very popular, such as Australia, England, and Ireland. Here are 5 tips to help you learn a foreign language if you do choose to study abroad and want to learn the language of the country you are visiting.

3. I’ll lose an entire semester or year

This myth about study abroad programs is simply not true. With the variety of study abroad options available at most colleges, many majors can go abroad without delaying their graduation dates. First, meet with your academic adviser to determine when it would be best to study abroad. Many schools have even created study abroad programs whose credits align perfectly with their major requirements. To avoid delaying your graduation or losing a semester, it is imperative that you carefully time your study abroad experience. After speaking with your adviser, consult with the study abroad office about programs that fit your scheduling needs. If your major is very rigid, perhaps you can go abroad in the summer or during winter break.  

4. Study abroad is like a vacation

One popular belief is that students act irresponsibly while abroad and away from their daily lives. While some students do shirk their responsibilities while studying abroad, many others take this experience seriously without sacrificing fun. Read these tips on how to best study for a test. Students may not only take classes abroad that require quite a bit of studying, they may also be hired for internships. They might join university clubs, travel to nearby sights, or do research with faculty members.

5. Non-traditional students can’t study abroad

Many non-traditional students – including individuals who are returning to college, transferring from two-year institutions, maintaining a family life, or studying in the United States as international students – attend school each year. As these populations grow, so too do the study abroad options available to them. If you are a non-traditional student, don’t just dismiss the idea of studying abroad. Instead, speak with a study abroad coordinator, express your concerns, and find out what options will suit your needs. 

These are only five of the common myths (and realities) about study abroad, but there are many more. If study abroad has piqued your interest, investigate it with a knowledgeable person at your college or university. They can help you demystify the experience, debunk any additional myths about study abroad, and connect you with the study abroad options that best fit your situation.