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Study Abroad Programs Guide

Before considering the correct study abroad program or destination for you, we have put together the following comprehensive study abroad introduction, for you to familiarize yourself with the basics.

It answers questions such as what, where and when to study abroad, its benefits, how to get started, its costs, planning your trip, and how to make the most of your experience. It also links out to a wealth of resources which will help you on your study abroad journey. 

What can you study abroad?

Study abroad for North American college students is now a mainstream option. It can easily fit into most degree programs. 

Traditionally, students went abroad in areas such as the Humanities to perfect a language or study areas such as Art or History. 

But study abroad can be for STEM or Business majors, too. Talk to your academic department or your university’s international education office; they can tell you what options are available for your major.

Where can you study abroad? 

Study abroad destinations are now as varied as WHAT you can study abroad. Many students picture themselves in the United Kingdom or other well-known European destinations. Remember that there are now many university-approved programs in Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Australia. 

When can you study abroad?

Study abroad programs have aligned with North American calendars, for the most part. If you wish to take a semester or a full academic year, academic dates are similar to most colleges.

For short-term programs, it will depend on your school’s calendar. There are many January term options and short courses of 2 to 8 weeks during summer break. These can start as early as May.

Who are ‘study abroad’ programs for? 

You might be asking yourself, “Are study abroad programs right for me?” US universities have seen tremendous growth in the number of students who travel abroad to study. 

The growth has not just been in the total number but also in the diversity of participating students. More often, students are first-generation college students, and many are minority students.  

It does take some resources to study abroad, but this is also a time with a wide range of options to meet different academic and budgetary needs. There is now a wide variety in choice of programs, from short-term faculty-led programs to semester and academic year programs

Students can find something that fits their interests and timeframe and help get that first career job. 

Let us reiterate – studying abroad can be a part of almost all college students’ experience if it is a priority for them.

If you have even a little interest in studying abroad, we recommend taking a look at our blog post on why study abroad is a great idea to consider

There are many reasons why students choose this type of experience, but let’s start with the growth you can have as a person. 

Living outside of your country – your comfort zone – puts you in situations that require you to be independent and problem-solve. These experiences are also useful when you are interviewing for jobs after graduation, and you can relate how you navigated another culture.

Of course, at Spanish Studies Abroad, we focus on intercultural competency and language fluency. These both can contribute to your career success and personal development.

International travel in itself can be an essential goal. After graduation, many Americans struggle for opportunities to make these types of trips. Embrace a once-in-a-lifetime experience while you can! 

How to study abroad will vary depending on your situation, current level of education, and other factors. We encourage you to check out our guide on how to study abroad.

What are the requirements for studying abroad?

Most programs have a simple process. After deciding where you want to study, you should meet with a counselor at your university’s international education office. It is essential to learn what internal processes are in place there.

Pay attention to deadlines and think many months in advance. Most programs have a relatively simple application process. Requirements will include your biographical information, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and, in the case of language programs, a form or letter from a professor estimating your proficiency level.

How can I find the right study abroad program for me?

That answer lies with considering your interests, area of study, and budget. Have you always wanted to live in France? How about the South of Spain? What programs does your university recommend in your geographic area of interest that work with your major?

Find a program

Get advice from everybody

Many people can and will contribute to your success in studying abroad. These can include staff in your study abroad office, financial aid workers, friends, older students in your major, parents, professors, and advisors. Feel free to reach out to our admissions team at if you have any questions. 

And Google will be a useful tool as you look at options.

Keep in mind the following:


What interests you? Where have you always wanted to go? Can you match that up with your intended area of study?

Educational benefits (i.e., transferring your credits). 

If you are a degree-seeking student, chances are you want the classes to transfer back. So do the legwork with your university and your academic program to make sure you get the full value from your program. 


The cost to study abroad varies greatly depending on many factors, including how careful you are with your expenses. Determine a realistic budget for yourself. Remember to include extra spending money and then check all the ways that might make your adventure more affordable.

Talk to your parents

They are probably involved with financing your on-campus studies, and they’ll need to be part of your decision-making. Make sure that they know how a study abroad program can impact your graduation plan and approximate costs.


There are enough steps to take to achieve your study abroad goal that you will have to do some investigation.

Financial aid

Your college can help you with that. If a program belongs to your school, you may be able to apply all your financial aid to the program. In other cases, state and federal aid may apply, but institutional aid does not. Start early and find out how the process works because it is probably not straightforward and will require careful planning.


Some scholarships are available – fight and compete for everyone that you can get. Look for scholarships from your academic department, your hometown, the country you will be traveling to, and more.

Most of these scholarship funds have deadlines, so you have to think far in advance. They often reward high academic achievement, so keep those grades up!


In the case of credit-bearing programs, many students do not realize that they can use the same student loans that they use for their on-campus studies. Obviously, loans are not ideal, but understand that if they’re needed to finish your degree, they can be used for a study abroad program.

Crowdfunding / Fundraising

You can get creative to get the word out to your community about a Gofundme campaign or other types of fundraisers. We like to help young people achieve their dream, and even if your fundraising doesn’t bring in the amount that you were hoping, every bit helps!

Getting a job!

Yes, the oldest form of fundraising still applies. “Jobs” can mean anything from babysitting to working in retail, to driving a ridesharing car. There is no better way than getting a steady income and putting it in savings. Of course, this can apply to your regular college expenses as well as study abroad.


Visas & Passports

Unless you plan to study in a US territory such as Puerto Rico, you will need a valid passport. Ensure that yours will still be valid or begin the process to obtain one.

Research and consult with your study abroad program to see if a visa will be needed for your destination country. In many countries, if you stay for more than 90 days, a student visa may be required. The first step is to have your passport in hand, so start there but be ready with the documentation needed to get a visa.



One of the more challenging areas of living abroad is dealing with healthcare. Each country has its own system, and learning how to function within it takes some time.

One thing that you can find out immediately from your study abroad program is if any additional vaccinations may be needed. You can start your search by using this resource as well. In other cases, you may require proof of vaccinations. All medical record applications can take some time, so don’t leave this too late.

If you need medication, the best way to handle it is to take enough for the entire time that you’ll be in a country. This is a topic for your doctor and you.

Insurance / Access to Medical Care 

Study abroad programs are typically required to provide medical insurance. Study your program policy to understand; whether is it restricted to specific hospitals and clinics. Does it provide for ongoing care or only emergency care?

This is another thing to pay attention to in the program’s orientation information. Make copies of any identification cards and policy numbers.

Accommodation options

This is one of the fundamental questions – where will you live? This often comes down to either a host family or a student residence. If your program offers a choice, consider it carefully. Host families are often better for language practice and can provide insights into a culture and local information.

Student residences are less personal and sometimes more convenient. They offer greater privacy, typically, and sometimes have the chance to interact with local students.

Many programs don’t offer a choice, so you simply adapt to what the program provides.


This seems like a simple thing, but getting your mix of clothes “wrong” for a semester or academic year can cause complications. Study the weather where you’ll be going for the months of your program. For example, seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are reversed. A place like Argentina is in the middle of its winter in July and August. 

Your packing should also have culturally appropriate clothing. Nothing too revealing, for example, if your host country is traditional and conservative. 

It is best to take clothing with multiple uses (to “dress up” and “dress down”). If you still struggle with what to pack, take inspiration from this checklist.

Gifts for homestay families!

Start the relationship off right with a host family. Think of things that have some meaning based on where you’re from that they may not have access to. The important thing is to give it some consideration more than to spend a lot of money. 

Leave your comfort zone and embrace the challenge

It is easy to stay in a “bubble” with other North American friends. But where is the challenge? That is not how you grow and develop, not to mention, create memorable experiences. Especially if you are working to improve your language skills, put yourself out there! You will find that most people will help you and appreciate your efforts to learn about their culture and language!

Investigate the local area and beyond

One of the best – and most memorable – ways to get out of your comfort zone is to leave the typical tourist areas. Find those culturally unique villages and lesser-known neighborhoods. You will challenge yourself and will have great stories to tell to your friends and family but also in job interviews.

Meet the locals and immerse yourself in the culture

It’s easy to go out with friends in your program always but look for ways to meet people in the community. You can volunteer, go out with your host family’s children, start a conversation in a cafe, or give free English tutoring. Your program should also provide ways to introduce you to other young people. 

Try foods that you wouldn’t eat back home and converse about any kind of topic. As long as you are willing to make some mistakes, flash polite smiles and enjoy yourself, you will be well-received in almost any culture.

Find a balance between work and play

Spanish Studies Abroad takes pride in its academic quality, so we want you to study! But learning is not just school work in study abroad – it also includes things like practicing the languages with locals, trying out elements of your new culture, chatting with your homestay family, exploring, etc. You can’t do those things if you have your nose in a book the entire time.

Come home a new person

Sometimes this happens, and students don’t even realize it. Putting yourself in new settings, and then handling them often changes your perspectives. This is how to become more independent. 

Parents often notice it first, but others will perceive it as well.

All good things come to an end; beat the blues by continuing to look forward.

Most students feel a little down when their program ends because whatever they return to is not usually an adventure like study abroad. Feeling down is not depression (we hope that it goes without saying that lasting depression is serious and you should seek professional help). 

Most of us can bounce back by looking ahead at how they can apply their experiences to new settings. Many universities hold seminars for returning students to help them process their experience. They’re also useful for thinking about how it might help you pursue your next degree or tackle a job search.

Lessons from Abroad holds events in various regions of the USA. Students share their experiences and what they learned. There are sessions on many different ways to take advantage of your new skills and perspectives.

Become a global citizen and a study abroad ambassador

Sharing your experiences with others is an excellent way to be a global citizen. Universities have programs like this in which they ask you to discuss your program and experience with others. 

We love to find young people who are willing to be ambassadors for our programs. Please reach out if you’ve finished your adventure with us in Spain, Argentina, Cuba or Puerto Rico.

Plan what comes next – the end of your studies, your next trip, a new job 

What comes next in your life will vary greatly depending on each person’s circumstances. You may be heading back for your final year of study, so use your maturity and problem-solving skills to finish strong.

For some, they could be thinking of their next trip. Some students take a short study abroad experience and decide that a whole semester would be even better. 

If you’re getting close to looking for work, don’t forget to include your study abroad experience on your resume – make yourself stand out. You can create exciting narratives as to how your study abroad experience makes you different from other candidates.

So, start thinking, and soon you’ll be ready to research. Figure out how a study abroad program can fit into your degree studies and make it happen!

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Beth Tyler


Beth is your go-to contact for navigating the complex process of study abroad. 

She aims to respond to all inquiries within one business day.

Don’t hesitate to drop a message. No question is too small!

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