Studying abroad has many advantages, you already know that. If you are still not so sure about that, read more here about the advantages of studying abroad. But once you made the decision to go study abroad, you have to decide whether you want to go with one of the many study abroad programs or rather organize it yourself. I studied abroad myself and I was “recruited” by a representative (ISOgermany) of my American University (CIBU) in Germany. The difference however was, that I was not shipped to the US with 60 other German students from my university, but I went there as an independent student. ISOgermany helped me with the necessary paperworks, the visa process and gave me advice on moving to the US. I believe very much in their way of recruiting students that I actually started to work for them. I am now Director of International Programs at ISOgermany. However, I am very much against organizations that promise cultural immersion in a 3 week study abroad program with 50 other students from the same country. It always depends, whether you should organize your study abroad time Do-it-yourself-style or if it makes sense to use an organized study abroad program. Both of course have their pros and cons, so here a short and hopefuly helpful overview over the advantages and disadvantages of study abroad programs:
Advantages of study abroad programs:
- Less work intensive; as the study abroad program will take care of most of the things for you
- Acceptance of credits; usually with a study abroad program, they will tell you exactly, what you need to do to transfer your study abroad credits back to your home university. This will safe you time, energy and will let you finish your degree in the same time as without study abroad break.
- Structure and Safety; as most likely you will be studying abroad in a group, you will always have a safety net and better structure. Of course, it will also be easier to convince your parents to let you go study abroad half way around the world!
- Network; you won’t be alone and probably have some students from you university in your group with whom it will be easier to connect. You share a common background, the language and in case of a problem, you have somebody you can talk to and who understands you without the language difficulties and cultural barriers.
Disadvantages of study abroad programs:
- Too much structure and organization; you will be studying abroad in a group of people from your home country and get less language practice, cultural immersion and might miss out on the “true experience” of studying abroad.
- Expensive; study abroad programs are usually very expensive and charge you your regular tuition fee, even though your tuition fee abroad may be way cheaper. For example, if you go to Germany, the tuition at a public university is 1,000 Euros per year, however most universities from abroad will still charge you their regular tuition.
-Group structure; as always when you travel in a group, there is less time and chance for individual experiences and adventures during your study abroad and you might miss out on a great learning experience of taking care of things yourself!
- Meeting locals; when you travel in a group of other international students, it will be very hard to get to know locals. As it is easier to connect with other people from your country or other exchange students that have a similar experience as you, it will be hard to really get to know locals, especially if you are put up with all other foreign exchange students in the “international domitory”. A better way to connect with locals is to stay with a host family. Learn more about the advantages of living with a host family here.
As you can see, study abroad programs have their advantages and disadvantages and it depends on what kind of study abroad experience you want to have, what choice is right for you! However, considering to organize your study abroad time yourself, is definitely worth it!