A common problem students encounter when planning a semester abroad is deciding where to go. It sounds simple, but when you mix curiosity and wanderlust with the multitude of options UT offers, it often becomes a difficult decision.
Maybe you’re a travel nut, or hope to be, and pretty much anywhere sounds good. Or perhaps you find yourself stuck between two programs that both sound right for you. Here are a few tips to help narrow your search:
1) The top-of-the-list method: Is there somewhere you’ve always dreamed of going? When I chose a destination for my summer abroad (which wasn’t easy), I picked Ireland because it was always a country I’d longed to go to. Think about your travel dream list and start your search with programs in that country to see if they offer classes compatible with your degree.
2) The academic compatibility method: If you have a fairly rigid degree plan, talk to your academic advisor about programs that have been completed by students in your major. He or she can help you find programs that have worked have worked well for students in the past. And if you’re struggling with where to start, it can be a good push in the right direction.
3) The travel method: How important is travel to you during your semester abroad? There was a lot of Europe I wanted to see, so I decided to go there so I could travel easily and relatively cheaply. Travel between countries in Latin America or Africa, while certainly possible, can be a bit more expensive. My friend studied in Lima, Peru, and traveled every weekend without leaving the country because there was so much to see. Another friend realized she would probably go to Europe at some point and decided to go to Australia instead because she wanted something different. Think about your priorities and whether you’d rather spend time exploring one country or seeing a few.
4) The language method: Is fluency in another language a top priority for you? If so, choose a location where you’ll be immersed in that language. Living with a host family in Spain allowed me to practice my Spanish every day and dramatically improved my language capabilities. Look at programs that offer classes at a local university so you can take classes in the language you’re learning, or try to live in a homestay if the option is available.
5) The culture method: Fascinated by a certain culture? Try choosing a program in that area. If you’re into Middle Eastern art and architecture, for example, a program in Turkey could be a good fit. If you like nature and wildlife, think about options in Africa. If you’ve always wanted to learn to tango, try Argentina. Thinking about the kind of cultures you’re drawn to is often a good way to start planning where you’ll go.
6) The no-regrets method: I’ve never heard anyone who studied abroad say they didn’t enjoy themselves. Don’t fret too much about where you go. Each experience is unique and wonderful and will be a highlight of your time in college. Go forth and find your adventure!