Even though you’re only starting your first year as an undergrad, it really is never too early to be thinking about a possible semester abroad at some point during your college years. Spending a semester or summer exploring a new part of the world can be a life changing experience, so here are some tips for navigating your way through the decision-making process:
Don’t limit yourself to Wake Forest’s abroad programs. The university offers some great options, but you may be looking for a unique program that has an internship opportunity, or you may want to study in a country where Wake may not have a presence. Check out programs offered by other universities to get a full view of the opportunities out there.
Attend the information sessions before you commit to a program. Usually the professors leading each program will make presentations and answer questions for students interested in attending; this is a great way to meet some of the people you might be living and studying with while also learning more about the program itself. This is definitely something you won’t want to miss!
Make sure the program you choose will let you finish the semester with enough credits to graduate on time. Certain programs may give you fewer credits than a normal semester. If that’s the case, be sure to plan ahead and make up for it so you’re not caught by surprise when you’re ordering your cap and gown.
Don’t be afraid to choose a different program from your friends. It’s easy to go along with whatever they may be doing, but be sure to choose the city and program that’s right for you, even if you are in a different country than a lot of people you know.
If you choose a non-Wake Forest program, be sure to get your classes approved by the right department head so that you get credit for the courses you take while abroad. Meet with your adviser and the department chair in person to make sure you don’t miss anything.
Make an appointment with the Center for Global Programs and Studies to ask questions, get advice and learn more about the university’s requirements and programs for students who want to study abroad. This is another valuable resource that’s definitely worth taking advantage of.
Talk to family and friends who have studied abroad to get as much input as you can before you make a decision. There’s no harm in hearing about people’s different experiences so you can make the right choice.
Consider the financial and linguistic realities before you apply to a program: some cities are much more expensive than others, and the possibility of a language barrier is something you should definitely think about when considering studying abroad.
Think about the length of the program. If you tend to be more of a homebody, or even if you just don’t want to miss out on a full semester at Wake Forest, look into the possibility of summer programs. If you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum, you may want to consider spending an entire year overseas.
Be aware of the visa/passport related requirements for the country you plan on living in; the Center for Global Programs and Studies office can help you with this, too.
Some countries require student visas, but no matter what, you’ll need a valid passport before you hop on the plane. Make sure to have all of your travel documents in order.