With the world becoming more of a global economy, employers are looking to hire employees that have intercultural experience. Globalization demands employees navigate the waters of cultural sensitivity, communication and understanding. That said, the benefits of the overseas experience goes beyond employability. A research survey looking at the long-term benefits found that a study abroad program is often, “a defining moment in a young person’s life and continues to impact the participant’s life for years after the experience.” Knowing this, any student considering a college or university today should look at what study abroad programs are offered.
But what kinds of study abroad programs are there? Is there financial aid available if you go off-campus? What happens to a student’s financial aid package when they return from overseas? Questions like these and many others, need to be explored in detail before packing your bags and heading to the airport. Let’s consider just the first question on “types of programs” to begin with.
Typically, study abroad programs fall into a couple different categories. For example, is the program short-term or long-term? Popular “J-term”, “May-term” or summer breaks (usually a few weeks), will give a student 2-4 weeks of study-abroad experience. Because of the short duration, these programs focus more on introductory topics that can be reasonably covered in the time period. On the other hand, long-term programs, that can run from a semester to a year, allow for more of a cultural living experience, language immersion and in-depth study. Obviously, the cost difference between these two time frames can be quite significant and needs to be considered.
Another distinction in programs is how they are focused in areas of academics. Some offer general studies when going abroad that is a continuation of the general liberal arts degree, while others are more laser-focused on a specific major or topic. So, depending on if you need to pick up a few English/Humanities credits or if you’re intrigued by Japanese ceramic pottery and kilns, you will need to decide what your educational priority is for going overseas.
In the next post, we’ll look at if/how your financial aid package might change when you study abroad.