A complete guide to study abroad programs, their benefits, and their cost.

If you are considering studying abroad, whether it is a six-month study abroad program or a summer course to sharpen your foreign language skills, you’ve come to the right place. To clarify, we will mainly discuss study abroad programs and not study-abroad degrees or certifications.

Before diving into the topic, Hi! I’m Harsh. I am from India and a study abroad student at Northeastern University, Boston. I’ve been studying abroad for more than a year, at the time of writing this, and currently, I’m interning at StudentUniverse. I chose to study abroad because I wanted to gain international studying and working experience with a diverse group of people.

We will explore the following topics related to studying abroad:

  • What does studying abroad mean?
  • Types of study abroad programs
  • Why study abroad?
  • Is studying overseas worth it? 
  • How much does it cost to study overseas?
  • How to study abroad?
  • What are the top study-abroad destinations? 
  • Can I study abroad for free?
  • Where to find study abroad scholarships?

What does studying abroad mean?

As the name suggests, studying abroad literally means studying abroad, whether it is taking lectures or doing research at a university overseas or through your home university’s study abroad program. The duration can range from a week to a whole year. The definition of study abroad varies from university to university, where some universities have foreign internship options under the program. Other universities typically have study programs abroad during any regular term. In that case, students can take classes at a university-partnered institution abroad and experience studying at a foreign school for up to a year.

Types of study abroad programs

As mentioned earlier, types of abroad programs differ by university and are usually offered for a semester term or a year. But here are some common study abroad programs across the universities in the United States:

Internships for study abroad

Students can work as an intern abroad to gain valuable international working experience. The internships can be paid (if you can bag one) or unpaid (the experience is worth it).

Group of study abroad interns are working in modern office.

Faculty-led study abroad Programs (Dialogue of civilization)

In this type of program, students get to do research work or other field-related work/projects to get real-world experience under the guidance of the faculty from their school. These can also range from a week-long to a complete semester of international study experience varying from university to university.

Exchange Programs

While on an exchange program, you can study at one of your university’s partner institutions. This agreement can be at a domestic institute or an international university. So, not every exchange program is overseas, but you should have international options. Similarly, that institute’s students can study at your university, hence the name “exchange program”. But these partnerships need to have a balance. If there is any imbalance in the number of exchange students between the two, the university with more exchange students will make it even tougher to get accepted for the exchange program. You will most likely have to pay tuition to your home university while on an exchange program, while paying for housing (and food) in your host university.

Program Providers

As the name suggests, institutions and organizations that offer education abroad services to students from various institutions are considered program providers. These can be a college or university, for-profit organizations, or non-profit businesses (like IES Abroad). Some of these can be a complete package, including accommodation, food, and group flight options.

Why study abroad?

Let’s go through some benefits of studying abroad:

Level up your foreign language skills

If you plan your studies overseas in a country whose language you learned in high school, this is a great opportunity to refresh that skill set. It is much faster to learn a language when surrounded by its speakers, as you can improve your fluency and pronunciation and learn slang and phrases.

learn foreign language german french spanish portugese english

Explore the country and the culture

Studying abroad can be a great way to explore different cultures both traditionally and authentically. You’ll get to try authentic local food, go on various adventures, and explore the country like a local.

Make new friends!

You will meet some super awesome people during your time as an international student, and you might nourish a friendship of a lifetime with them. And who knows, maybe your soulmate is waiting for you at your next study destination. 😉

Group of study abroad friends having fun on San Marco Square with gondolas and Grand channel at the background in Venice.

Learn international skills

When choosing where to take a study abroad program, you can pick your university based on the skills that the school offers that most interest you. This way you will learn from top-notch faculty in areas you’re interested in, get to be in a new country, and gain a different perspective on the world.

Make international connections

It’s good to have friends around the globe, whether you want to visit for a few months for work or look for a job there at some point down the line. Whatever the reason, it’s good to have friends to hang out with and show you around.

Make you stand out

Believe it or not, international studying or working experience stands out from other applications while looking for a job. Why? It’s simple. Studying abroad promotes traits that jobs often require in addition to your studies like –

  • Ability to take risks
  • Boldness to study in a country that doesn’t speak your language
  • Zeal for learning a new language and exploring culture
  • Shows your financial management skills
  • Ability to adapt to a new place (weather-wise and culture-wise)
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Curiosity to explore a different country, language, culture, and people

Is studying overseas worth it? 

Definitely! For all the reasons mentioned above, it helps separate you from other candidates while applying for a job and builds life skills and memories worth remembering. Study abroad programs allow you to add valuable skills based on the program, and if under a faculty, you will experience some real-world working experience with an industry expert. My study abroad experience has been fantastic! It’s not only a great way to expand your knowledge and apprehend a country’s culture and importance but also to understand your home country better.

I was on an assignment last year for the Diwali festival when I spoke to a student from my home country, India, who was in his first semester and was celebrating his first Diwali outside India. He said he learned a lot about the festival being in the US and celebrating it with his roommates. Although he had celebrated Diwali in India a couple of times, he learned about the history and the reason behind the Diwali celebration in the US. Just like the saying, “grass is always greener on the other side,” we only think about problems in our country and don’t focus on the good things. But, it is when we go away from our country that we realize the positive things. It just helps you get a different perspective on your home country, an outside or far away view.

How to study abroad?

It’s straightforward if you are looking for study abroad programs at your home university. All you have to do is visit your university’s website and look for overseas study options, and you will get all the required details and contact of the faculty if you need further assistance. If you are not looking through your home university, you can always go through program providers like CEA Study Abroad and the Institute of International Education. Just visit their website, find the program you are interested in and apply.

How much does it cost to study abroad?

Firstly, it depends on the type of program you are into and how short or long it is. So, the expenses will go up as you choose a study abroad program with a longer duration. You can get the cost details on the programs page of your university, but according to GoAbroad’s 2019 study abroad cost analysis, the average semester cost around the globe is $14,295. Although typically, when you take a semester abroad, you pay tuition to your home university, so your regular semester tuition is your tuition cost in the case of a semester abroad.

Can I study abroad for free? Where to find scholarships? 

There are a lot of outside scholarships available apart from any your university may offer. If you have received a scholarship at your home university, it is very likely that it is applicable for your semester abroad if you will be paying tuition to your home university. Apart from that, there are also a ton of outside scholarships to which you can apply. USA Study Abroad lists scholarships you can apply for if you are looking for abroad study options for US colleges.

Read: 5 ways to study abroad on a budget

What are the top study-abroad destinations? 

According to USNews, the top five study-abroad destinations for US students are:

  • UK

  • Italy

  • Spain

  • France

  • Germany

Read: Top 10 places to study abroad

top study abroad destinations europe uk italy spain france germany

Did we miss anything? Let us know on Instagram @studentuniverse and don’t forget to share your overseas study experience. Good luck!