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Study Abroad Planning
Where to Start
Dian in Cambridge

"Study abroad was the best decision I have made! It helped me to become a strong, independent person who can withstand any challenge. I now have a clear vision of my career goals and a well-developed idea for what I want to do with graduate school. This isn't the last time I'll be abroad; it's only the beginning!"

- Dian Bagent
London, England
Spring 2013

Choosing a study abroad experience is much like choosing a university; you need to consider which program fits your academic and personal needs, background and financial situation. The Office of International Programs is ready to assist you in the process, but the choice is ultimately yours. Here are some factors to consider when making your choice:


Is there a place that has always fascinated me? Will I be comfortable with the culture and laws of that country? Do I prefer a big city or a smaller city? Am I looking for a small program or to be immersed in a large university? What do I know about the academic system in that country?

  1. Big City
    A big city offers many opportunities, activities, and a plethora of people and connections that may not be as readily available in a small town. Large international cities such as Rome, Barcelona and London will have a higher cost of living than smaller towns.
  2. Smaller City
    A small city might provide a needed sense of community and allow for more opportunities to engage in local activities. It is likely that a small town will have a lower cost of living than a big city.
  3. Climate
    Choose a climate to which you will not have difficulty acclimating. Keep in mind the switch of seasons between the Northern and Southern hemispheres. While exploring your program options, ensure you research the climate. The World Weather Information Service is an excellent online resource.


What am I trying to achieve? Am I mainly interested in language acquisition? An international perspective on my major? An intercultural experience? An adventure? Career skills? A resume builder? Use the Study Abroad Goals worksheet to identify your goals for your study abroad program.

Academic Needs

Am I looking for courses to fulfill my major, minor, core, general education or elective requirements? Do I know what I still need to complete my SIUE degree? When is the best time for students in my major to study abroad?

You should see your academic advisor to find out what type of credits are necessary to finish your degree at SIUE. When you meet with a study abroad advisor, it will be important to know which specific SIUE requirements you hope to fulfill through study abroad.

Dates and Duration

Is a semester or academic year abroad practical for my major? Would a short-term program fit better? Do the dates of the programs I am considering conflict with SIUE semester dates or my summer internship? Am I planning to graduate in the near future?

Regardless of your major, there's a way to make study abroad fit within your academic schedule and still graduate on time! It is important to think about how the duration of your study abroad experience will affect the achievement of your goals.

Independent Options vs. Group

  • Do I want to go with a group of other SIUE students? Then you should consider an SIUE Faculty-Led Short-Term Program.
  • Do I want to go on a program where I am the only one or one of a few traveling from SIUE?
  • Do I want to study mainly with other Americans or to immerse myself in the host culture?


Do I understand what is and is not included in the program fee? What will be my personal costs for things such as a passport, visa, transportation, etc.? How will my current financial aid  apply toward study abroad? Have I investigated whether there are other scholarships available?

A good way to think about cost would be to ask, how much does it cost for me to study and live at SIUE for any given semester? Alternatively, how much will it cost for me to study and live while I am abroad? It is important to consider how much you and your family are willing to spend as well as what sources of outside funding are available.

There are many scholarships available including the SIUE Ambassador Scholarship as well as the federally-funded Gilman Scholarship for those students who are receiving a Pell Grant. Have you talked to your parents about the potential costs of study abroad and their willingness and ability to support you?


Do I want to live with a host family, in a student residence, or in an apartment shared with Americans/locals/other international students?

  1. Student Residences
    Student residences will vary from university to university and country to country. Residence halls abroad will likely be very different from dorm life at SIUE. Living in a student residence may offer the opportunity to interact with local students and international students also studying there. The exposure to many cultures can be invaluable, but keep in mind the common language may or may not be English.
  2. Apartments
    Apartments are great for people looking for a lot of independence while abroad. Be aware that you would most likely live in an apartment with other American students. Consider how those you live with will affect the goals that you have for your study abroad experience. For example, if you are looking to become proficient in your host country's language, this may not be the best option for you.
  3. Homestays
    Homestays are a way to experience the family life of another country. Homestays provide students with the ability to not only experience student life abroad but also home life in their host country by participating in traditional festivals or holidays that their family may celebrate. Homestays are also a great option for those looking to improve proficiency in a certain language.

Further Research

Check the useful websites page to research various countries and information related to living/studying abroad.

What Now?

Research Your Options
After learning about each of the factors you should consider when thinking about study abroad - academics, duration, location, housing and cost - it is time to reflect upon the following question, "What do you want your study abroad experience to be?"

When answering this question you should be able to formulate a sentence that addresses all of the factors mentioned above. As an example, your sentence could look like this: When I study abroad, I would like to study in Argentina at a local university for a semester, while taking courses in my major and living with a host family. It is important to me that the cost of the program is comparable to what I pay as a student at SIUE.

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