Studying abroad is the act of a student pursuing educational opportunities in a foreign country. Typically classes taken while studying abroad award credits transferable to higher education institutions in the home country; however, students may pursue these opportunities at any age and may not require college credit. Students studying abroad may live in a dormitory or apartment with other students or with a "host family", a group of people who live in that country and agree to provide student lodging.
Length of study can range from one week, usually during a domestic break, to an academic year.
Topics of study can vary. Some students choose to study abroad in order to learn a language from native speakers. Others may take classes in their academic major in a place that allows them to expand their hands-on experience (e.g. someone who’s studying marine biology studying abroad in Jamaica or a student of sustainable development living and studying in a remote village in Senegal). Still other students may study abroad in order to explore topics within the framework of a different educational system (e.g. a student of English who goes to the United States to study American literature).
In the USA, the act of studying abroad originated at the University of Delaware. In 1923, Professor Raymond W. Kirkbride sent a group of eight students to Paris, France. At the time, the concept of students studying in a different country was incredibly unconventional. Kirkbride's program was originally named the "Foreign Study Plan". For a period of time, study abroad was seen as an option primarily for foreign language students. Recently this has changed, and the scope of study abroad programs has increased greatly.
One of the most common reasons students study abroad is language immersion. Students wanting to learn a language will go to school in a country where that language is spoken, the theory being that immersion into an environment where a particular language is spoken is the best way to learn the language. However, this theory is disputed as result of various surveys . Indeed, many schools require that students majoring in a foreign language study abroad. However, this is more often done through an exchange program (see below).
It could be as simple as students choosing to study abroad due to a feeling of wanderlust. For many, college is the ideal time to travel, because they do not have full adult responsibilities yet, and they can take advantage of the option of studying in a different country. In this sense, many see one's early twenties as formative years in one's life, and being immersed in the unfamiliar society and culture of another country can prove rewarding to young adults.
Another popular reason to study abroad is the desire of many to gain an understanding of the world around them.
Many students study abroad in an effort to expand their opportunities beyond those their home university offers. Strategically, study abroad offers many exciting benefits from high school students hoping to get into a prestigious university, to college learners pursuing reputable post graduate schools or professions. It may lead to scholarships, grants, and job opportunities to leading institutions or employment. Recent survey's in the Nordic countries did however show that studying abroad can heavily damage the career in the years afterward because a stay in foreign countries often result in exams that are rendered unusable in the supervior education systems in these countries
A Student exchange program implies that the student is being exchanged to the foreign university (and is therefore taking courses with local students taught by local faculty). These definitions, however, are not strictly adhered to. In fact, new terms are constantly being created and used to more accurately describe different types of programs/experiences (e.g. direct enrollment programs, immersion programs, (faculty-led) study trips, etc).
Students can participate in a program through their home university, a study abroad organization, or directly through the foreign university.
Although some colleges and universities prefer their students to study abroad through their programs and credits are most easily transferred in such programs, this can be limiting. The study abroad companies are generally more flexible, can have more available options, and provide an opportunity to be involved in a group of students from all over the country. One extra available option that a study abroad company may offer that a university may not, is the ability to study during the summer in intensive language schools. These language schools focus only on teaching students a foreign language.
The most independent form of studying abroad is directly enrolling in the foreign university. Some foreign universities offer classes with other students studying abroad or some offer their regular courses with the native students. However, the student should be very independent and have a good knowledge of the language in the country.
The financial aspects and expense of studying abroad varies widely. Sometimes, direct enrollment in a foreign university may be less expensive than participating in a home-university run program. Some programs offered through a home university can be substantially less expensive due to fee negotiations and tuition waivers as a result of reciprocity agreements.
Students may also have to make their own lodging arrangements. Some schools maintain residences in foreign countries or at host universities. Other programs may require a student to provide his or her own accommodations. Most students know where they will be staying when they depart, but some students make temporary living arrangements from home and seek a more permanent residence upon arrival. Arranging for a place to live in a foreign country can be made difficult by such problems as language barriers, students' inability to see apartments in person, and differing procedures regarding contracts, deposits, and payments. However, the internet makes remote apartment finding easier, and is thus a good place to start. Advice from other students who have previously studied in the location is also very useful.
Another important step is to learn about the destination, in order to be aware of any potentially jolting differences. Thus, many study abroad programs include compulsory orientation sessions for students that address many of the possible difficulties that will be faced while the students are abroad.
To get government aid, students must complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Funds are awarded by the United States Department of Education. As long as the issuing institution pre-approves the credit to be earned abroad, federal aid can be used toward study abroad programs.
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