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Meet Your Match: Tips on Choosing a Program

Soon you’ll be headed back to school, and it will be time to start finalizing your plans for your time abroad. Whether you’re thinking about going to the bustling city of London, the beautiful wine region of Stellenbosch, or perhaps the historic town of Galway, Ireland, you’re in for a fresh perspective and wonderful memories.

You might think that coming to a conclusion on where to study is an easy decision. I mean, no matter where you decide to go it is going to be a life changing experience right? While this is not completely wrong, there are still key elements to consider before finalizing the decision of where you want to go abroad. To help, we’d like to share a list of factors to consider when choosing a study abroad program.

1. Location, location, location: So you’ve at least narrowed down the country where you’re hoping to study. That should make the rest of the process a walk in the park right? Not so fast. There can still be a big difference between campuses. Do you consider yourself to be more of a ‘city slicker’? Or would you prefer to be in a more suburban area? Keeping these details in mind could help you find the best-fit program.

A perfect example of this is the comparison between Interstudy’s University of Cape Town vs. Stellenbosch University programs. Both provide our students with top-notch academics, active student bodies, and countless things to do around their respective areas. The difference lies within UCT’s city living vs. Stellenbosch’s suburban ‘college town’ atmosphere. Would you prefer to have a quaint, lively, student town where everything is walking distance while being a short ride away from the city of Cape Town? Or does the idea of living in the heart of the always energetic Mother City sound simply too amazing to pass up? Neither answer is wrong, but the difference is important to recognize when coming to your decision. 

2. Area of study: Although the allure of a specific area or university may be set in your head, it is important to remember that your academic interests when choosing a program. Yes, all of our partner universities provide a broad range of courses, but some programs have specialties in specific majors. Be sure to research available course offerings to ensure your semester abroad will not only include amazing travel stories, but will also fulfill your academic requirements. Feel free to give us a call if you need help with course selection.

For example, the University of Westminster in London allows for students to take part in a work-placement style internship for approximately 16-20 hours per week. This internship allows for potential placement in industries from journalism, to arts, fashion and design. But, University College Cork in Ireland also has an internship module. This opportunity is focused on political issues in the region, granting students the opportunity to study, first hand, the unique political systems of the Irish Republic, and the European Union. 

3. Extracurricular Activities: Hoping to continue a lifelong hobby or play a sport while abroad? Are you musically inclined and hoping to join in on a traditional Irish folk band at the Galway pubs? Ever consider getting your scuba diving certification and diving off the coast of South Africa for a semester? All these incredible extracurricular opportunities are readily available for all students attending any of Interstudy’s programs. Whether it is learning a new sport like rugby, immersing yourself into African culture through dance, or maybe taking a diving trip up the coast of Mozambique with the Maties Underwater club, there are endless possibilities to help enhance your time abroad. Be sure to think of what it is you would like to do outside the classroom and base your decision from there!

4. Being the lone American vs. Part of a larger group: It is safe to say that most students have the goal of meeting local friends and immersing themselves into the culture during their time abroad. This is definitely an important aspect of the abroad experience and can even define someone’s trip. One element that is largely overlooked before one’s move overseas is the context in which they will be living. Some students are one of a few on their specific university program and are forced to get out of their comfort zone to befriend fellow peers. Others have a community of fellow Interstudy students living around them, which forgoes the feat of making new friends in a foreign new country. Are you excited by the chance to be truly on your own and ready to assert yourself and make friends from all corners of the globe? It is important to be honest with yourself about this as your choice of program could differ greatly based on your answer.

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