Picking a Location for Your Semester or Year Abroad

by Bryce Patterson

So, uh… We offer a lot of programs. Like, a bunch. And that can make the first step in going abroad one of the toughest. Maybe you want to intern with a local media organization, or maybe you need CHEM 3000 or you’re trying to find the right level of language immersion or you’re interested in African dance… and you’re not sure where to even start. Don’t panic. We’re here for you. Read on for a helpful guide to picking a program to match a skill-set as devilishly broad as your own!

Regardless of your interests, your first step will be Abroad 101. A 15ish minute video—which you can access by logging in here with your CU identikey and password—101 breaks down different program types, the process of applying, cost information, and more. 101 is the best way to get a quick overview of education abroad—and it’ll help as you navigate the hundreds of options on our website.

Cool? Cool. Let’s move on to the fun stuff: laying out your priorities.

Language is one of the first ways you can tailor your experience abroad to your interests. There are several tiers of language immersion available. On one end of the spectrum are programs in English-speaking locations like the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand; and peru-callejon-de-huaylas-by-kara-gordon-llanganuco-ciee-limamore broadly the options we offer in English in over fifty countries, including South Africa, Italy, China, and many, many more. Alternately, if language is a priority for you while abroad, there are tons of options to take classes in the local language. If you want to start learning a new language and hit the ground running, check out our language intensive options. As you’re getting started, consider the ways that foreign language study can work with your degree and personal goals, then use the decisions you make to narrow your options.

STEM Majors!
It can be really helpful to save up some core classes and electives to broaden your options while abroad.

Once you have even a vague sense of your language goals, consider your area/s of study at CU and the types of credit you need while abroad. Are you looking to explore your major
from new angles while abroad? Or how’s about a range of content—you know, a little core, maybe a side of engineering humanities, elective credits for dessert? Remember that your classes can be one of the first ways you dig into the culture of your host country. You’ll definitely want to meet with your academic advisor to sketch out your credit needs, but in
the meantime, try this: pick a core class that you could take while abroad and do a search for it on our program search page. Knock out your
Historical Context credit by studying the history of the Middle East in Cairo. Explore Human Diversity in Argentina, or Literature and the Arts in Australia. Programs range in their specificity—from broad-based switzerland-lungern_by-james-harmoush-sap-jumping-into-a-painting-photo-contest-20121university options to some that focus on a single topic or theme.

We should probably talk money for a minute. Yeah, I know–it’s not my favorite topic either. I’d recommend you start this part of the process by looking at a couple of the options that interest you on the cost comparison tool on our website, paying special attention to the comparative cost of attending CU. Remember: these are your total estimated costs, so the numbers include things like airfare and housing. You’ll notice that a decent amount of programs are quite similar in overall cost to a semester in Boulder. Your existing CU financial aid applies to education abroad, and Abroad-specific scholarships are available. Out of state students can potentially save money by spending a semester abroad. Talk to your family about what you can afford, and let us know if cost is a defining factor in your decision-making.

Concerned about cost?
It can be helpful to think about some lifestyle decisions for the term before you go.
  • How much are you currently spending on rent, and can you consider some more affordable options for the semester before you leave?
  • Consider picking up a couple extra hours at work every week before you go, or adding a side hustle like babysitting to your routine. Deposit that cash into savings every week and watch it grow.
  • Save on gas and Uber costs by riding the bus.
  • Consider unique ways that you can raise money through your own talents. Sites like GoFundMe make crowdsourcing a piece of cake, and it’s worth looking into funding or scholarships from within your local community. This is a great time to launch your line of scarves on Etsy, is what I’m really saying.

Finally, think about some of the other opportunities available while you’re abroad. By this, I don’t just mean trips included in the program fee or internships—though seriously, do an internship. I’m talking more generally about your own personal hopes and goals and
the ways you can leverage your education abroad experience to its full potential. Interestedsouth-africa-cape-town-by-alison-greenberg-ciee-students-overlooking-cape-town-2006 in public health? Consider study in a developing nation, and maybe combining your classes with service learning or an internship. Love the outdoors? From Chile to South Africa to New Zealand, we can help you find your mountain. If electronic music is your jam, Berlin might be the city for you; but, then again, you could check out Latin America’s thriving punk scene or dig into traditional Chinese folk music. You have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new location and your existing passions can help direct that immersion.

Dreaming of Summer?
So I’ve talked pretty generally this far, and all of my advice applies to choosing any type of program. But I wanted to
say a bit about summer options specifically:
  • Summer can be a great time to fill in credits you would struggle to take care of during the school year. Consider knocking out a core class or two, or maybe taking care of a language requirement.
  • Summer programs range pretty widely in length, and happen during different terms. If you usually work during the summer, consider the ways you can work the two together–maybe a Maymester option, beginning work in June?
  • Financial aid works differently during the summer term. Make sure to spend a little time in the ‘Finances’ section of our website as you budget for the coming year, and be sure to contact us if you have questions!

One last thought. Remember that at one point or another, every advisor in our office has gone through the same process that you are going through now. We get it. The world is a big place and we think it’s pretty cool too. Don’t hesitate to ask how we eventually made our decisions. There are a ton of different paths to take, and we’re here to ease the process as much as we can.

Photos: Argentina by Kara Gordon, Switzerland by James Harmoush, & South Africa by Alison Greenberg
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