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Choosing a Program

There's more to a program than its location.

We recognize that every student is unique and looking for different opportunities to fit their personal, academic, and professional goals. Below are some key factors that contribute to your study abroad experience and should be considered when choosing a program.

We will walk you through how to get started with choosing a program that works for you.

Program Information

  • Academics

    • Not every program offers the same academic opportunities.
    • It is important to consider your plan of study and your academic goals (take general education, major courses, or university-wide electives).
    • Be sure to consult the Snapshot and Academics tabs of the program page as you explore your options.
  • Duration

    • Students are able to study abroad from 10 days to 10 months in duration. Consider your comfort level with being away from home for extended periods of time.
    • You can also study abroad multiple times!
    • Not all programs follow the ISU academic calendar. Pay attention to the program dates listed on the Costs and Dates tab on the program page.
  • Cost

    • Program costs for study abroad vary considerably. Review the Cost page for a master list of budgets if you are looking to stay within a certain price range.
    • Having an accurate idea of your ISU cost of attendance can help you determine an affordable program that meets your budget.
    • If you are still uncertain about duration, consider that more scholarship opportunities are available for programs of longer duration like a semester
    • Keep in mind that financial aid and College Illinois! can be applied to study abroad program costs.
  • Location

    • Having an idea of where you wish to study abroad is great. However, it is helpful to keep an open mind, as there may be a destination that is a great fit that you may not have considered.
    • Keep in mind that more scholarship opportunities are available for programs in non-traditional locations.
    • All ISU programs offer courses taught in English (excludes language immersion programs). You do not need to know the language of your host country, however, you are encouraged to enroll in a language course to fully immerse yourself in the local culture.
  • Identity and Diversity

    • Consider aspects of your identity and how these may be perceived and treated in the cultures you'll be spending time in.
    • Do some research into social norms, cultural mores, and local practices before your program begins. You'll want to participate as much as possible in the host culture and should be prepared for the experience, which can be both personally challenging and rewarding.
    • Please consult the Identity and Diversity page for additional considerations.
  • Professional Benefits

    • What will make your graduate school applications or your résumé stand out?
    • How important is completing a professional internship in your chosen career field?
    • International experiences provide excellent talking points in cover letters and during interviews.
    • While abroad, you can gain and strengthen transferable skills that will make you an asset in the workplace. Refer to the NACE Competencies for Career Readiness for more information.

Other Practical Considerations

  • What are the eligibility requirements of programs that interest you?
  • Do you want a program in which you take university classes with local students, with other Americans, or only Illinois State students?
  • Do you want to study abroad more than once before you graduate?
  • Would you prefer to live with a host family, in a local residence hall, or an apartment?
  • Do you have any special needs such as medical condition, learning disability, mental health condition, or dietary restriction that may need accommodation?
  • You may have other ideas . . . include them all!

Identify Challenges

Now consider what barriers you must overcome in order to study abroad. Use the same kind of brainstorming technique to record the challenges. Identify the factors you will have to consider:

  • Family - do they support your desire to study abroad?
  • Financial constraints
  • Job obligations
  • Social, academic, or athletic commitments

Consider how these factors may impact the type and duration of study abroad program you ultimately select. The aim of this exercise is to list the real challenges along with your goals.

Set Priorities

Once you have completed this list, you can start setting priorities. Try ranking the factors. You may place the number 1 beside a geographic location that is extremely important to you, and then the number 2 next to money if affordability is a major factor. You are not making final life decisions here, simply outlining your priorities.

Some students like to rewrite their list combining both sets of factors (goals and challenges) in order of importance. Others compose goal statements, which combine the most important factors. An example of a goal statement that might result from this exercise might be, "I want to identify a semester-long, affordable study abroad program taught in French that will allow me to complete credits toward my psychology major and do an internship or research."

Contact a Study Abroad Advisor or Study Abroad Ambassador at any time for assistance and/or suggestions.