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Everything You Wanted to Know About Study Abroad (But Were Too Afraid to Ask)

Your Study Abroad 101

By Adam Salzman | 27th March, 2024
Updated on 22nd April, 2024

Feeling a little bit intimidated by studying abroad? Don’t worry. This guide tackles everything from eligibility and academic credit to the best time to go and where to start.

So, whether you’re just starting high school or nearing graduation, keep reading to get the knowledge on how to navigate the exciting world of study abroad.

Let’s turn your dream into reality.

What is Study Abroad?

Studying abroad is simple. You get to live and learn in a different country for a short amount of time. 

But forget your usual classroom, the focus is on immersive experience. Studying abroad emphasizes new perspectives. You’ll be exposed to things you might not find at home, such as a new language, culture, and cuisine. 

Whilst exploring your new surroundings, you’ll feel yourself becoming more independent, increasingly confident, and gaining a new - global - perspective.

Study abroad programs, offered by universities or dedicated providers (like Projects Abroad) offer plenty of options — from bitesize summer courses to semester and year-long academic adventures. 

See also: Boost your life: 9 benefits of study abroad.

When is the best time to study abroad?

The truth is you can go any time of year or at any stage during your education. However, it is often dictated by academics and your own personal preference. 

You should also consider what time of year is best to go to your location of choice too! For example, it’s very unlikely that you’ll want to wind up ‘enjoying’ a sub-zero winter somewhere. 

Here’s what to consider…

Traditionally Popular:

  • Junior Year: This is the most common choice, allowing you to adjust to college life before diving into a new environment.


  • More time to solidify your major and course requirements.
  • Established programs for juniors at many universities.


  • Might miss out on building relationships with classmates earlier.

Alternative Options:

  • Summer: Ideal for a shorter experience or those hesitant to commit to a full semester.
  • Freshman/Sophomore Year: Provides flexibility in program choice and time to explore before heavy major coursework.


  • Summer: No disruption to home semester and potentially smaller class sizes.
  • Freshman/Sophomore Year: More open program options and time to adjust to being abroad.


  • Summer: Might be a shorter, fast-paced program.
  • Freshman/Sophomore Year: May require careful planning to ensure credits transfer and no delay to your graduation.

Can I study abroad in High School?

Absolutely. Programs exist for high school students, offering options like semester-long exchanges, summer courses, or even full academic years abroad. 

Many of these will include living with a host family and attending the nearest school — truly living like a local.

You may also want to consider a High School Special. These are tailor made volunteer trips for teens aged 15 to 18 that run during the school break.

Fully supervised and supported, they can be a good stepping-stone towards a full blown study abroad experience. 

Where can I study abroad?

With study abroad, there are no limits. You can practically go anywhere in the world.

Popular destinations include places in Europe, Asia, South and Central, America, or Australia & New Zealand.

With each of these locations offering a lot in the way of history, culture, cuisine, and natural beauty — your choice is most likely to be based on your own interests, language, and availability.

You don’t have to limit yourself to English-speaking countries, especially if you want to be immersed in the local culture.

For example, head to South or Central America if you want to improve your Spanish for personal or professional reasons (see: Can I study abroad in a country that does not speak English?).

Your choice of location can also unlock a whole new way of learning.

Are you drawn to the ancient streets of Rome, or would you prefer to learn surrounded by nature on a daily basis, like in a rainforest environment?

How long does it take to Study Abroad?

Just like your choice of timing and location, how long you take to complete your study abroad is completely flexible. Programs come in all shapes and sizes.

Here’s a breakdown of common program lengths:

  • Short-term: These programs typically last from a few weeks to a few months, perfect for a summer immersion experience or those wanting a taste of studying abroad.
  • Summer: Many universities and providers offer dedicated summer programs focused on specific themes or subjects.
  • Semester: A semester abroad (usually three to four months) allows you to experience a full academic term in another country, integrating more deeply into the education and local life.
  • Full Academic Year: This is the ultimate immersion experience, allowing you to spend a full year studying and living abroad. You'll gain a comprehensive understanding of the culture and academic system.

Whatever the length of time you go for, you can still enjoy a transformational experience when you study abroad.

If it’s your first time, we would recommend going for either a Summer or Semester abroad to get the maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time.

What's included when you study abroad?

You’ve guessed it. What’s included varies depending on your program provider, program length, and total cost.

Here’s a list of things to look out for when you’re deciding.

The cost from many providers will include:

  • Tuition: Some programs, particularly those offered directly by your home university, may include tuition fees in the overall program cost.
  • Accommodation: This could be on-campus housing, a homestay with a local family, or an apartment rental (depending on program options).
  • Meals: Some programs might include meals (like breakfast or cafeteria plans) in their costs.

Many will not include:

  • Airfare: You'll likely be responsible for covering your roundtrip flight costs to and from your host country.
  • Living Expenses: This includes groceries, daily transportation, entertainment, phone plans, and other personal expenses.
  • Health Insurance: Make sure you have appropriate health insurance coverage for the duration of your stay abroad.
  • Books and Course Materials: You'll typically need to purchase textbooks and other course materials on your own.
  • Visa Fees: The cost of obtaining a visa to study in your chosen country will vary depending on location.

Other things to consider:

  • Program Fees: Some programs may have additional fees for administrative costs, cultural excursions, or special activities.
  • Spending Money: Factor in additional funds for souvenirs, travel within the host country, and unexpected costs.

For a more precise estimate, it's crucial to research specific programs that interest you. They will usually have a detailed breakdown of what's included in their costs.

Take a look at what’s included when you study abroad with us

What are the benefits of studying abroad?

What are the benefits of studying abroad?

As well as being fun, there are lots of other benefits. These include academic, career, and personal reasons to study abroad.

  • Academic Enrichment: Many programs offer unique courses or specializations not available in your home country, allowing you to broaden your academic horizons and delve deeper into your interests.
  • Cultural Immersion: Living and studying abroad throws you headfirst into a new culture. You'll develop communication and social skills in a different environment, gain a deeper appreciation for diverse perspectives, and build a global network of friends and colleagues.
  • Personal Growth: Stepping outside your comfort zone fosters independence, self-reliance, and problem-solving skills. You'll learn to adapt to new situations, navigate unfamiliar territory, and become a more confident and resourceful individual.
  • Career Advantages: Studying abroad demonstrates initiative, adaptability, and intercultural competence to potential employers. It showcases your global perspective and ability to thrive in diverse environments – all highly sought-after qualities in today's globalized job market.
  • Lifelong Memories: The experiences and friendships gained from studying abroad will stay with you forever. You'll return home with a broader worldview, a deeper understanding of yourself, and a treasure trove of unforgettable memories.
  • Language Skills: Whether you want to learn or improve your language skills, being immersed in your chosen language is a surefire to accelerate your learning and boost your ability (and confidence).

Keep scrolling to read about learning in a country that does not speak English.

Can I study abroad in a country that does not speak English?

Of course you can. In fact, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience — making it a great option.

A good compromise may be to choose a study abroad option that provides academic instruction in English, but also places you in a different culture where English is not the primary language, like Costa Rica.

Here’s why you should not let language be a barrier:

  • Language Immersion: This is your chance to truly immerse yourself in a new language and culture. Living and studying in a non-English speaking country will accelerate your language learning in a way that a classroom setting simply can't.
  • Unique Experiences: Many programs in non-English speaking countries offer courses and experiences not available elsewhere. You'll gain a deeper understanding of the local culture, history, and way of life.
  • Challenge Yourself: Stepping outside your comfort zone fosters immense personal growth. Learning a new language and navigating a different culture will build your confidence and resourcefulness.

Things to Consider:

  • Language Skills: While you don't need to be fluent, some basic language skills will go a long way. Many programs offer pre-departure language courses or resources to help you get started.
  • Program Availability: There are a vast number of programs available in non-English speaking countries. Research options to find one that aligns with your interests and language goals.
  • Support Services: Look for programs that offer support services for international students, including language tutoring and cultural orientation.

How much does it cost to Study Abroad?

Costs vary, and vary significantly, depending on certain factors like your provider, duration, and what’s included.

Here’s a general overview to get you informed before we explore some estimates.

  • Program Length: Shorter programs (summer sessions) tend to be less expensive than semester or year-long programs.
  • Location: Generally, studying abroad in Europe or North America will be pricier than locations in Asia or South and Central America.
  • Program Type: Direct enrollment at a foreign university can be more affordable than programs facilitated by third-party providers, which often include housing and other services in their costs.

Estimated Averages (US Dollars):

  • Semester Abroad: According to the International Institute of Education, the average cost of a semester abroad is around $18,000, with a range of $7,000 to $36,000 depending on the factors mentioned above.
  • Summer Programs: The State University of New York (SUNY) estimates these can cost between $3,500 to $6,000.
  • Year long programs: Depending on your location, the associated cost of living, and other factors, your cost could range from $18,000 to $25,000 (‘low-end’) to over $40,000 (‘high-end’).

Here are some resources to help you estimate the cost of specific programs:

  • University or Program Provider Websites: Most universities and program providers will have a detailed cost breakdown on their website.
  • Financial Aid Offices: Many universities offer scholarships and financial aid specifically for study abroad programs. Talk to your financial aid advisor to see what options might be available to you.

What financial support is available for study abroad?

The good news is, there is a lot of support available. Here’s what you need to know:

From Your University:

  • Study Abroad Office: Most universities have a dedicated office to support students interested in studying abroad. They can guide you through program options, application processes, credit transfer, and pre-departure preparation.
  • Financial Aid Office: It is often the case that your existing scholarships and financial aid can be applied to study abroad programs. Talking to your financial aid advisor can help you explore financial options and potentially unlock funding too.
  • Academic Advisors: Discuss your study abroad plans with your academic advisor to ensure chosen programs align with your major requirements and graduation timeline.

External Resources:

  • Government Resources: The US Department of State offers a wealth of information on study abroad programs, safety abroad, and resources for students with disabilities.
  • Scholarship and Grant Resources: Numerous organizations offer scholarships and grants specifically for study abroad programs. Sites like Go Overseas and compile listings to help you find relevant funding opportunities.
  • Program Providers: Many third-party providers specialize in facilitating study abroad programs. They offer guidance, support services, and often include housing or other logistical arrangements in their program costs.

Additional Support Systems:

  • Overseas University Resources: Once accepted into a program, your host university will likely offer orientation sessions, cultural workshops, and support services for international students.
  • Student Forums and Communities: Online forums and communities connect students planning to study abroad or those already overseas. This allows you to share experiences, ask questions, and build a network of support.
  • Program providers will often have a comprehensive pre-departure program that combines academia with functional skills and knowledge before you leave home to ensure you are comfortable, safe, and to help you make the most of the experience (as well as support available on arrival, and during your stay).

Can I get academic credit when I study abroad?

In many cases, yes, you can definitely get academic credit for studying abroad!

However, it's not guaranteed, so some planning and preparation are crucial.

Here's a breakdown to help you navigate the process:

Earning Credit:

  • Prior Approval is Key: The most important step is to secure pre-approval from your academic advisor and the registrar's office at your home university. They'll assess the courses you plan to take abroad and determine if they will fulfill credit requirements for your degree program.
  • Coursework Equivalency: Ensure the courses offered by any foreign university align with your home university's curriculum. Syllabi, course descriptions, and credit hour comparisons are essential for this evaluation.
  • Official Transcripts: After completing your studies abroad, obtain official transcripts from your host university. These will be used by your home university to award the appropriate credit.

Challenges to Consider:

  • Different Grading Systems: Be aware that some countries use different grading systems than the US. Discuss this with your advisor to ensure your grades translate successfully.
  • Transfer Policies: Every university has its own policies regarding transferring credits earned abroad. It's vital to understand your home university's specific guidelines.

Additional Tips:

  • Start Planning Early: Don't wait until the last minute. Discuss your study abroad plans and credit transfer goals with your advisor well in advance.
  • Gather Documentation: Collect all necessary documents, such as course descriptions, syllabi, and transcripts, to facilitate the credit transfer process.
  • Resources Can Help: Your university's study abroad office and the registrar's office can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process.

Who can study abroad?

Anyone can study abroad, provided they meet requirements. This is often a particular major and/or grade point average (GPA). Others, especially non-English speaking countries, could also include language requirements.

Many will place an emphasis on adventure too — highlighting the personal growth potential of going somewhere abroad.

This means students with an open and enquiring mind plus a natural curiosity about the world are most likely to thrive when studying abroad.

Traditionally Eligible Students:

  • College Undergraduates: This is the most common group for study abroad programs. Many universities encourage students to go abroad during their sophomore or junior year to enrich their academic experience.
  • High School Students: There are a growing number of programs designed specifically for high school students. These can be semester-long exchanges, summer courses, or even full academic years abroad.
  • Graduate Students: Graduate programs often incorporate international research or study components, allowing graduate students to gain valuable overseas experience in their field.

Expanding Opportunities:

  • Non-Traditional Students: Many programs welcome students who may not follow a traditional academic path. This could include returning adults or students taking a gap year.
  • Students with Disabilities: Study abroad programs are increasingly inclusive, offering support services and resources to accommodate students with disabilities.

Key Factors for Eligibility:

  • Academic Standing: Most programs require a minimum GPA, demonstrating academic readiness to succeed in a new environment.
  • Language Skills: While fluency may not always be required, some basic language proficiency can be helpful, especially in non-English speaking countries. Many programs offer language support or pre-departure courses.
  • Openness to New Experiences: A willingness to embrace new cultures, adapt to different environments, and step outside your comfort zone is crucial for a successful study abroad experience.

How do I apply for study abroad?

The application process to study abroad can include several steps. However, it is an exciting process, and each step will take you closer to your life-enhancing education adventure!

Here’s a rough roadmap:

Research and Exploration:

  • Spark Your Interest: Browse resources like your university's study abroad office website, consult scholarship directories like Go Overseas, and program providers like Projects Abroad, to discover programs that pique your curiosity and align with your academic interests.
  • Destination Dreams: Consider your preferred location, desired program length (summer, semester, year, and more), and your preferred language of instruction.
  • Preliminary Consultation: Chat with your academic advisor to discuss how studying abroad fits into your academic plan and ensure it aligns with your graduation timeline.

Choose Your Program:

  • University Programs: Many universities offer a variety of study abroad programs directly through their own partnerships with foreign institutions.
  • Program Providers: Consider third-party program providers who specialize in facilitating study abroad experiences. They often manage logistics like housing and offer additional support services.
  • Program Application: Once you've chosen your program, carefully review application deadlines and requirements. These may include transcripts, essays, letters of recommendation, and proof of language proficiency (if applicable).

Financial Planning and Funding:

  • Budgeting Essentials: Factor in program costs, living expenses, airfare, and potential additional fees. Research scholarships and financial aid opportunities specifically for study abroad programs.
  • Financial Aid Exploration: Talk to your university's financial aid office to see if you qualify for any need-based or merit-based aid that can be applied towards your study abroad program.
  • Scholarship Research: Utilize scholarship directories and resources offered by your university or program provider to find scholarships relevant to your program and academic background.

Pre-Departure Preparations:

  • Academic Approval: Secure approval from your academic advisor and the registrar's office to ensure chosen courses will transfer and fulfill credit requirements for your degree.
    Official Transcripts: Request official transcripts from your home university to submit to your host institution as part of the application process.
  • Passport and Visas: Ensure your passport is valid for the duration of your stay (ideally longer) and research visa requirements for your chosen destination. Apply for the necessary visa well in advance to avoid delays.
  • Health Insurance: Make sure you have appropriate health insurance coverage that extends to your host country. Some programs might require additional insurance plans.

Embrace the Adventure:

  • Orientation Sessions: Many programs offer pre-departure orientation sessions to prepare you for cultural differences, daily life abroad, and academic expectations.
  • Embrace the Unknown: Step outside your comfort zone, be open to new experiences, and immerse yourself in the culture of your host country. Studying abroad can be a transformative journey, so embrace the adventure!

Next steps

Wherever you go, we hope this guide helps you to achieve your dream of studying abroad! Please share this page if you have found it useful and you think it can help others.

And, if you’ve come this far, and still have questions, you can contact an Admissions Advisor with any questions or to ask about our own Study Abroad program in Costa Rica.

Our application process is simple — it all starts with a chat to our Admissions Advisors.

There is no fee to apply and we accept admissions on a rolling basis all year round for all our fall, spring and summer programs.

Thanks for reading!


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