If you have even the slightest inclination of studying overseas, don't dismiss it as a passing thought. Act on it. You'll be following countless students who did so too. In today's world there is a growing number of students heading for different countries all over the world -- from England to Vietnam -- to take up diverse courses and soak up the culture. They come back with glowing reports about how wonderful, exciting and experiences they have had.
Taking courses outside the country wasn't always for everybody. It was generally assumed that only rich youngsters could go. Not so anymore. Not only is studying abroad within the financial grasp of just about anyone who wants it, but there are literally thousands of programs to choose from so that almost any college student will find the right program, the right country, and the right time.
But there are some lingering myths that need to be dispelled first.
Myth : Study abroad mostly benefits language majors
Fact : Students from just about any major can find study-abroad programs to fit their specific academic needs.
As always, language and literature majors find tremendous value being immersed in another country's culture. However, they are by no means the only ones. Humanities majors discovered some years ago that they could get something out of going abroad, too. When communications opened the door to globalisation, business and social science students saw that they also would benefit tremendously from knowing other cultures first-hand.
Even more recently, the sciences and engineering disciplines realised the value of international experience. "It is more difficult for the natural science students to make their way abroad," admits Lewis Fortner, Associate Dean of Students in the College, University of Chicago, owing to their less flexible curricula and the sequential nature of their courses. But he maintains that with the growth of choices these days, nearly any student can study overseas. "Sequential courses do create obstacles, but things are changing to accommodate them," adds John Boyer, Dean of the College and Professor of History, University of Chicago.
Myth : Only the rich can afford to study overseas
Fact : Finances shouldn't stop any student.
The growing number of students studying abroad dispels the myth that only the rich or those with a high GPA can go. It's not that there are more wealthy or smart students. Rather, more students are seeing the benefits, and more institutions are finding ways to facilitate the demand. The costs mainly depend on what country students choose. Lorna Stern, Deputy Director for Education Abroad at Beaver College in Glenside, Pennsylvania, says "There are good programs for everyone at every price range,". It makes a great deal of difference whether you choose a university in Scandinavia or in Mexico or if you choose London over a small rural town, for instance.
Undeniably, studying in another country does cost money, especially if you want to travel while there. But if you plan well and long enough in advance, you'll find the program that is within your budget. With a wise savings plan and a thorough look at all the options, you should be able to go.
Whatever you do, don't jump to the conclusion that you can't afford it. State and federal financial aid is available, provided your home institution approves the program. Plus there are scholarship competitions from local organisations like Lions Clubs and Rotary International. Some students will find that their own institutions offer scholarships and financial aid.
Myth : Only junior students willing to commit a whole semester or more can study abroad
Fact : Students with unique personal circumstances and at different stages in their education can find programs to suit their needs.
As the population of undergraduate students changes from the typical 18-year-old to an older student, so do the possibilities to study overseas. Nowadays, even freshers who have the right qualifications can find opportunities. As mentioned earlier, some disciplines require more consecutive course-work as student's progress through college.. By the first year, students have satisfied most of the core requirements for their majors, they have a track record, and they have the maturity to deal with the challenges ahead of them.
Likewise, working students, those with children, and part-time students are seeking ways to go overseas, and they are finding them. Study-abroad advisors agree that a full year is optimum; however, they recognise that many students don't have that much time. Colleges and universities are responding with a variety of programs of different lengths. "
Short-term programs are valuable, but not a substitute for really living overseas for an extended period of time, Students who go for less than four weeks tend to keep a tourist's perspective rather than becoming assimilated into the culture of the host country. But, short-term programs are valuable for students who work or whose disciplines are less flexible.
Myth : Study Abroad is not safe
Fact : More and more people are realising that the world is a safe place to get an education.
It is easier and cheaper to book a flight from Delhi to London than ever before. It could be that e-mail allows students who are overseas to tell worried parents that everything is fine. Or it could also be that foreign student offices have finely-tuned strategies to take care of any event, from the most minor to the most major. The idea that students are put on a plane and that's the last that's heard from them until they come home is false. Foreign students offices and associations keep close tabs on what's happening worldwide and in the particular cities where their students are located.