The increasing popularity of study abroad among college students can make seem like yet another requirement that you have to fit into your already tight four-year schedule.
Many students worry about falling behind on the classes they need to take to graduate on time if they decide to spend a semester overseas. They might also lament the campus experiences that they’ll miss out on if they leave.
Fortunately, if you really want to have an overseas experience, there are other options. Studying abroad doesn’t necessarily have to mean studying with your school. You can also participate in other university programs, or you can take part in one that allows you to intern or volunteer abroad. Often, you’ll still be able to earn credit, even if you’re traveling over the summer.
Here are four options to consider.
1. Programs for School Credit
If you don’t have time to study abroad during the semester, there are plenty of opportunities that will allow you to go overseas during the summer and take classes for academic credit. Rather than getting behind, this will allow students a chance to get ahead over the summer. Forum-Nexus is one option; they have summer programs for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as recent college grads, that allow students to earn up to eight credits while traveling to nine different European cities.
If you’re not crazy about the study abroad options facilitated by your school, you also have the choice to go overseas with other universities. While not everywhere will be open to students from other schools, there are several notable programs that you can try.
For instance, if you are interested in traveling to France, anyone can do so through Sweet Briar College’s JYF in Paris program. JYF in Paris is open to undergraduate students at any American or Canadian university, assuming they meet certain academic and French language requirements. They offer courses at a variety of Parisian universities, and hold orientations to ensure that students integrate themselves successfully into life abroad.
Another possibility is the Institute for Study Abroad, affiliated with Butler University, which is open to all North American students. They have opportunities in a variety of countries and you can earn credit to be transferred back to your home university wherever you decide to go.
They’ll give you with all the necessary information to travel to and live in a foreign country, such as how to apply for a visa, and will even provide you with housing. Even though you won’t be traveling with your home university, you’ll nevertheless be well taken care of throughout the process.
2. Internship Programs
If you’re worried about missing out on valuable internship experience while you’re spending your summer traveling, don’t fear; there are many groups that will help facilitate the process of finding an internship abroad, so that you can gain experience while experiencing a new culture.
One such organization is AIFS. Their internship placement services allow you to choose between eight cities around the world, including London, Barcelona and Sao Paulo. Though the minimum GPA required of applicants differs slightly based on the specific program and track you want to take, it varies between a 2.6 and a 3.2.
Most locations offer internships in a variety of areas, such as Business, Communications, Economics and Education. They offer excursions to museums and other cultural monuments as well.
You can also intern overseas with IES, which gives you the choice to either intern full-time or to intern part-time and take courses for college credit. You can be placed in an internship position in the field of your choice, and can work on your language skills as well if you choose to take some classes in tandem with working.
While you don’t necessarily have to be a full-time university student in order to take part in IES, priority is given to college students.
3. Language Immersion Programs
Immersion programs are a great option for anyone who is motivated to learn a second language or is pursuing a language degree. These programs generally involve intensive language courses, either taught by American faculty or native speakers.
Students participating in an immersion program will typically live with a host family, which provides the opportunity for plenty of speaking practice, and will be able to take part in cultural excursions as well. One example is IPEE, which focuses on Spanish and takes place in Costa Rica. Classes are offered for all levels of fluency, and you have the option of using these courses for college credit.
Another organization with many opportunities for language immersion is Languages Abroad. They offer the choice between nineteen different languages and thirty-five different countries. They also have specialized options that allow you to get to know more about the culture of countries such as Mexico or Cuba.
For most languages, you’ll have multiple choices for where you want to go; for instance, if you want to learn French you can travel not only to France but to Canada or Switzerland as well.
4. Volunteer Opportunities
If you want to volunteer abroad, one popular option is to teach English to younger students. You can train to become a TEFL certified English language teacher with organizations like ITTT; They offer both online certification courses and in-person courses in countries including China, Italy, Spain and France.
TEFL certification is usually necessary in order to become an English language teacher abroad, so ITTT can put you one step ahead if you want to teach English internationally. Anyone can apply, provided that you are at least 18 years old and speak English fluently.
Another program that allows students to teach overseas is CIEE. With CIEE, students can travel abroad and earn money by teaching English in foreign countries. They can place students in countries including Chile, China, Morocco and Spain, where they can work either on a volunteer or a professional basis.
While you don’t need to have any previous teaching experience, students are typically required to have or to be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in any field and to have an intermediate ability in the language of their host country. You will generally be able to teach for one or two semesters, and you’ll either be provided with housing or will be given assistance in finding it.
They also help participants obtain TEFL certification if it is necessary for their program, to ensure that everyone is ready to go right away. By teaching English, you’ll be able to gain valuable working experience that can help you in the future, in addition to the benefits of studying abroad.
For more varied options, GVI USA provides students with a range of different areas in which they can volunteer. This would allow you the chance to get involved in local communities and to take action in an area that you feel passionately about. Some of the projects that they offer relate to wildlife and marine conservation, women’s empowerment, construction and healthcare; you have the freedom to choose a focus that truly interests you.
You’ll also be free to decide how long you want to stay, so if you’re busy and don’t want to give up a large amount of time, this will give you some added flexibility. You can volunteer in countries such as Thailand, South Africa and Nepal and have the freedom to visit multiple places if you choose.
Studying abroad is a valuable experience for all students, regardless of when or how it all works out. Even if your school doesn’t have the best opportunities, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your hope to go overseas. Whether you want to get credit for your experience, to add some work experience to your resume, or to improve your language skills, there are a variety of options available. With a little research, you’ll be able to find the right program for you.