Locale decisions vex study abroad hopefuls


For many students with dreams to study abroad, choosing a location can often be the mostdifficult choice. | Allie Daugherty, editor in chief

by Ashley Williams

The idea of studying abroad often sounds fantastic at first, but the nuts and bolts of moving from point-home to point-adventure can complicate the process. The first technical hurdle any student can face is selecting a study abroad program.
This is not only a prospective traveler’s first barrier, but it’s also often a difficult and time-consuming process. Here are a few questions pertaining to the study abroad experience students should explore before selecting a program:


For many students with dreams to study abroad, choosing a location can often be the mostdifficult choice. | Allie Daugherty, editor in chief
For many students with dreams to study abroad, choosing a location can often be the mostdifficult choice. | Allie Daugherty, editor in chief

What is my goal?
No matter what program is selected, you’re almost guaranteed to gather new skills and life experiences. However, it’s helpful to choose a few top priorities to find the best program for you. Whether it’s language-learning, immersion in a specific culture, gaining work experience or aiding a community by volunteering, find the program that will guide you there.

What area do I want to go to?
Once a goal is in mind, the next step is to narrow it down by region. If your goal is to learn Spanish, you have a rather large chunk of the globe at your disposal. However, if you want to learn Norwegian, geographical options shrink substantially. Keep in mind, if you still have nightmarish flashbacks of conjugating verbs in high school while ordering a carne asada burrito at Trujillo’s, you may want to consider English-friendly countries first.

How far outside of my comfort zone am I willing to go?
While I’m all for wanting to spend a semester in southwestern Africa learning Khoisan, there comes a point when we must be realistic in the feasibility of our endeavors. One semester won’t be long enough to pick up a click language, unless you’re some sort of linguistic prodigy.
Safety should also be considered when choosing a location, as it can be largely influenced by your actions in respect to the region you choose. You can manage external factors by choosing destinations that minimize risk. However, if you choose to visit areas known to be more dangerous, extra preparation such as learning the native tongue and researching the cultural ins and outs of the region is necessary.

How long do I want to stay?
You may wish you lived a life free from financial woes where you would have as much time to graduate from college as you desired (unless you’re a rare breed of student who doesn’t have to wish). However, in real life, you probably have work and financial obligations, and would like to graduate in less than a decade. If this is the case, you have a few extra factors to consider.
There is a possibility that the credits you earn abroad will not transfer or meet degree requirements. So, if your goal is to graduate in four years, you will have to consider how much time (and how many units) you could afford to lose while abroad.
Also, don’t forget to keep in mind how long your funds will support you abroad, as many countries require a special visa to work and you may have to rely on savings.

How much money am I (or my generous, loving parents) willing to spend?
The much-dreaded but entirely necessary money talk is something you must have, whether you’re seeking loans from Bank of America or Bank of Mom and Dad. Before selecting a program, you will need to determine the limits of you and / or your family’s combined funds. This will reflect the duration and location of your stay. For instance, London may be significantly more expensive than Bangkok.
While filtering through the many programs available on San Diego State’s study abroad website, you’ll encounter plenty of outdated, unprofessional and “page not found” links, but don’t fret. You’ll find your share of excellent resources if you keep to it.
Now it’s time to answer the questions above and use them as a map. Once, narrowed down, you’ll still have dozens of choices to pick from. So, use this as a guide to consider the basics and make a realistic assessment of what you expect of your experience abroad. And don’t forget to breathe a little; you’re about to have the time of your life.

— Ashley Williams is a public relations sophomore.