Steps to Study Abroad
The planning stages outlined below will help you have the best study abroad experience possible. We recommend that you begin this process at least one year prior to the semester you plan on studying abroad.
Study Abroad 101 Webinar Transcript
Students seeking an accessible version of the recorded Study Abroad 101 webinar should refer to the transcript.
On behalf of the Education Abroad Office we would like to welcome you to Penn State’s Study Abroad 101 presentation. We look forward to assisting you in pursuing a study abroad experience!
During this presentation we will discuss a variety of topics including why students choose to study abroad, the different types of programs available, how to get started, the application process, different ways to finance study abroad, and other resources where you can go to get more information.
Each student's personal and academic goals for studying abroad will vary. However, some of the main reasons students give for studying abroad include immersing themselves in a new culture, developing global competency skills, enhancing their employment opportunities, experiencing the world while earning academic credit, and setting themselves apart.
I now would like to present to you some statistics about the education abroad impact on job search. Studies have shown students who study abroad have a lot of success after they graduate college.
- 97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, compared to 49% of other students in the same period.
- 90% of study abroad alumni who applied got into their 1st or 2nd choice grad school.
- Study abroad students earn 25% higher starting salaries than other college graduates who did not study abroad.
- Finally, 84% of study abroad alumni felt their studies abroad helped them build valuable skills for the job market.
Before we continue, let’s first dispel a few myths about study abroad.
- Myth number one: you must be fluent in a foreign language to study abroad. The language of instruction for many programs is in English, while for others it is in a foreign language. On language-specific programs, the language requirements vary by program from beginner to advanced.
- Myth number two: only students in certain majors can study abroad. Students from all majors are encouraged to incorporate a study abroad experience into their academic plan. Talk to your academic adviser as soon as possible in order to include study abroad in your college experience.
- Myth number three: the duration of all study abroad programs is one year. The length of study abroad programs vary from short-term, embedded programs or summer programs, to semester and year-long programs. The varied lengths offer flexibility to all Penn State students.
- Myth number four: only students at University Park campus in State College can study abroad. Students from all campuses, including world campus, are encouraged to study abroad, and the same resources available to University Park students are available to students from all campuses.
The Education Abroad home page is a great place to get started searching for all this information. Within the side menu options of the EA homepage you'll be able to find links to all the information that you will need to get started. Under the prospective students tab you'll find information on the steps to studying abroad, the different programs available, how to apply, and how to contact the peer advisers and EA advisers. The finances tab will lead you to information about costs, scholarships, and how to keep study abroad affordable. You can find information about course equivalencies and grades under the academics tab. We encourage you to visit the various sections of the Education Abroad website to familiarize yourself with your options.
There are over 200 study abroad programs offered through Penn State. To begin your search for programs click on the link to program search under the "going abroad" menu item at the top of the Global Penn State homepage. Then you can search the specific program by name or country in the simple search page. Click on advanced search to take it a step farther, allowing you to narrow down your choice by location, term, minimum GPA, class standing, language of instruction, course offerings, internship availability, housing options, and more.
An important factor when trying to choose a program is deciding on the type of program that you want to go on. There are 5 different types of programs offered through Penn State Education Abroad: Faculty Led, Embedded, Exchange, Direct Enroll, and Third Party. Faculty Led programs are like moving a Penn State classroom abroad. You will be taught by a Penn State faculty member and the other students in the class will be Penn State students and together you will travel abroad for the duration of the class. In Embedded programs you enroll in a residential class here at Penn State and then as a portion of that class the Penn State Faculty member will lead your class on an excursion abroad either during a break (thanksgiving or spring break) or it could be for a few weeks at the beginning of the summer depending on the class. Exchange programs are one for one exchanges with another institution abroad. In these programs you will go abroad and take the spot of a student from the host university and that student is going to come here and take your spot. In Direct Enroll programs your application will be facilitated by the EA office and then you will directly enroll in the host university. You will essentially be an international student at that host university, taking classes with local and other international students. Finally third party programs are sponsored through non-profit organizations such as IES, CIEE, and Arcadia. You will take courses at their study center abroad and some of the programs also allow you to directly enroll in a university they partner with to take courses there as well. These programs tend to also provide a group orientation, housing, and field trips as part of the program.
Furthermore these programs vary in length. They can last for an entire academic year or one semester (fall or spring). There are also summer programs that range from 3 to 8 weeks long. As well as the Short-term embedded programs which range from 1 week to 2 or 3 weeks during the semester—for example, during spring break or at the very end of the semester.
Another important consideration is the available living options. There are typically three living arrangements available on study abroad programs offered through Penn State: living in a residence hall, in a home-stay, or in an apartment. Residence Halls typically house local students, students from other countries, as well as other American students. A cafeteria or restaurant may be attached to the residence hall. In a home-stay, the students are integrated into the family or the student may be in something resembling a boarding house situation. Living in a home-stay is a great way to get insight into family life, integrate into the host culture and to learn the language, and possibly even enjoy some meals together. Again depending on the program, there may be another international student in the house, or the student may be the only one joining the family. Lastly, students may live in an apartment, similar to residence halls, the tenants may be local, international or other American students. Students are responsible for their own meals when living in an apartment. Host institutions typically organize the living arrangements. For more information about the housing options for your program of interest, speak to the Education Abroad adviser who advises for the country in which you are interested in studying abroad. For some shorter programs like embedded courses, students may stay in hotels for parts or all of the program.
Non-Traditional Locations are areas of the world that are historically less traveled to by study abroad students. These geographic areas include countries in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Asia. These destinations tend to offer more affordable programs and a wider range of scholarship opportunities.
Now let’s look at some factors associated with the cost of education abroad. Costs vary by program for a variety of reasons. For example, is the program length for a summer, a semester, or a year? The more time you spend abroad the more expensive it will be to live there. The destination can also influence the cost of study abroad, it is important to consider traditional vs. non-traditional countries, and to think about checking the exchange rate of the countries you are interested in, as this may help you to consider how much money you will need to have to live in the location.
One of the keys to making study abroad affordable is planning ahead. Begin to save money for your educational experience abroad now. Speak to a student aid adviser about how to apply your financial aid award to your study abroad experience. Keep in mind that financial aid only applies if participating on a Penn State approved program (all programs on the Penn State website are approved). Start looking into possible scholarships and grants as well to see where else you may be able to get some money.
To get a better idea of the cost of the programs you are considering take a look at the budget sheet. Budget sheets are located on the main program page for each study abroad program. You will find options for different terms depending on the program; you may not see the term you wish to study for, however you can use what is available to give you an idea of the cost.
The costs of different programs will vary depending on many things. The type of program is one thing to consider when you are looking at the different costs. Exchange programs are based on exchanging a student at the host institution with one from Penn State; on these programs you will pay your normal Penn State tuition according to your residency status, but not any additional program fees. However, this may mean that you will have more additional expenses, such as housing. On Direct Enroll programs you will have to pay your normal Penn State tuition, again according to your residency status. On these programs you may have a program fee; this will vary by program and is based mostly on the difference in the tuition between the Host Institution and that of Penn State. This could also include housing or other fees depending on the program, look at the notes section on the budget sheet page to get an idea of what all is included in this fee. Finally three of the program providers we partner with, CIEE, Arcadia, and IES, allow all students to pay in-state tuition no matter what their residency status is. However, you will also see that these programs charge a program fee; this usually includes an in-country orientation, field trips, housing and program support in-country.
On each budget sheet you will see a total after the top several items labeled “billable subtotal.” This is the amount that you will see charged to your Penn State bursar bill. The items listed under this are other expenses you can expect to also pay, these include things like airfare, and depending on the program housing or meals. The final total at the bottom of the page is the amount that is given to the financial aid office to consider when looking at the award package they will offer you. The budget sheets are estimates of the price you can expect to pay based on the current rates that are accessible. These sheets are updated frequently as new prices become available. It is important that you speak to your Education Abroad adviser to get the specifics on the different budgets for different programs, because each program is different as are each student’s circumstances. Make an appointment with your Education Abroad adviser to discuss the budget sheets for the programs you are interested in.
Once you have an idea of the cost you may want to look into ways you can fund study abroad. There are a variety of options and funding resources for students to research to support study abroad. First and foremost, it takes time and effort on behalf of the student to find the sources, it can be time consuming, but worth the effort. In previous years, the University Office of Global Programs has awarded approximately $300,000 in scholarships and grants-in-aid. Remember with the Global Programs scholarships the application deadlines are the same as those for the application to study abroad.
- Whole World Scholarship is a merit based scholarship for non-traditional locations
- Africa and Latin America is a need-based "grant-in-aid" for students studying abroad in Africa and Latin-America which can be used for summer, semester, or year-long study abroad
- Diversity Grant-in-Aid is for racial/ethnic minorities or for students with disabilities
- Grants-in-Aid vary between need-based and merit based
- Pennsylvania Commonwealth Grant is need-based for Embedded programs
It is highly recommended that all students apply for or have a FAFSA on file, as some awards are need-based.
Penn State Colleges and campuses offer their own scholarships and grants for students. The Smeal College of Business offers the Smeal International Study Scholarship and the College of Liberal Arts offers students Liberal Arts Students Enrichment Support. There are several Federal and Government aid options available as well, such as the Gilman International Scholarship for current recipients of the Pell Grant as well as the Boren Undergraduate scholarships for study abroad, which gives scholarships to students studying in non-traditional countries. Students should also check into community-based opportunities such as local service clubs, town halls, and fraternal groups. Students need to promote themselves by offering to share about their education abroad experience in return for financial support (donations/scholarships). Students should also look into independent agencies and private large organizations who may offer scholarships.
To learn more specifics about these funding options, visit the education abroad webpage, highlighting the Going Abroad drop down menu and click on the Costs & Funding link. Students are also encouraged to view the Easy Guide to Study Abroad Scholarships to see college and campus-specific scholarships. There you will also find links to scholarship databases that will give access to other scholarship opportunities that can be applied to your Penn State approved study abroad experience.
There are several key players involved in helping you study abroad it is important to know what each person does. You can start by researching possible courses that you would like to take abroad and making sure that you will meet the minimum GPA for the program you want to go on. Also you should get a degree audit so that you know what classes you still need. The EA adviser's role is to help explain and facilitate the different aspects of study abroad (the course equivalencies, the grading process, the application process) and also to assist you with selecting an appropriate country and program. Your parents and family are there to be supportive, to assist you in this journey, and to help motivate you. Your academic adviser will help you determine which courses you still need to take and which are the best to fit into your academic plan. Finally you will have one other important job and that is to communicate all this information among the parties. When planning which classes to take, keep in mind that as long as you are on a Penn State approved program you will receive Penn State credits for all classes taken abroad, you cannot take classes on a pass/fail basis, and your grades will be calculated into your GPA and you cannot fulfill your GHA requirements abroad.
Once you have decided on a program you will want to start the application process. Students may apply for an education abroad program online on the education abroad webpage gpglobalea.gp.psu.edu. You will need to log into the system with your Penn State unique name and password and locate the program of choice. If that program is accepting applications, an "apply now" button will appear on the page. Click "Apply Now" to start a new application. A special homepage is generated for each student that lists program application requirements, recommendations, questionnaires and contact information. Students will find all necessary information and communication regarding the study abroad program in this personalized system. Once the homepage is generated, students must complete all of the tasks listed in the application check-list. Once all items of the check-list have been completed and all necessary paperwork has been turned in your application is complete. Decisions will be made about two months after the application deadline date. During this time it is wise to look for additional funding, to obtain a passport, and learn more about the culture of the planned destination. Students are typically placed in their first choice location, however, occasionally student are placed in their second choice destinations, depending on how competitive the program is.
As you are completing your application you'll need to keep in mind the application deadlines. It is important that you plan ahead. Most students do not realize that application deadlines are roughly eight to ten months prior to the start of the program. For example, if you want to study abroad in the spring of your Junior year, the application would be due May 1st of your sophomore year. These deadlines remain the same year to year. The fall and academic year deadlines are March 1st of the spring before you want to go abroad. The summer deadline will be February 1st of the winter before you are going abroad. Finally, spring will always be May 1st of the spring before you wish to go abroad. Keep in mind that the scholarship awarded through the Office of Global Programs follow these same deadlines. If you are studying abroad in the Fall and you wish to be considered for any of the Office of Global Programs scholarships then you need to have those applications completed by the March 1st deadline as well.
You can read what studying abroad is like through Education Abroad GeoBlogs. This is a blogging community of students who are currently abroad as we speak! Check out the blog to learn about student experiences as they happen. Feel free to blog with these students to ask questions about what they are going through, how they are adjusting, how are classes and more.
GeoBlogs are not the only way to get information. You may want to hear about study abroad from students just like you in person. How did they do it? Where did they go? What's the benefit? You can talk to other Penn State students about study abroad in a variety of ways: Education Abroad Peer Advisers are Penn State study abroad returnees who have enjoyed their experience so much that they volunteer their time to advise other students on education abroad opportunities at Penn State. Each Peer Adviser can explain program options, give an overview of the study abroad application process, as well as provide information about his or her own experience abroad. Peer advisers are available Monday through Friday from 11am - 4pm in 426A Boucke. Global Ambassadors is a student run organization of study abroad returnees dedicated to helping Penn State students learn more about education abroad across the campus. They promote study abroad by giving Study Abroad 101 presentations to first-year seminar classes and other student organizations. They also host other programs and activities centered around helping students learn more about study abroad opportunities at Penn State. Finally, you can also get connected by liking our Penn State Education Abroad Facebook page, following us on twitter at Penn State Abroad, and on instagram @ PsuAbroad.
When you've narrowed down your search, and talked with one of our Peer Advisers, you are ready to talk to an Education Abroad Adviser. The EA advisers have advising sessions Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons from 1-4pm and Thursday morning from 9-12pm. You'll need to make an appointment, as EA advisers do not accept walk-in meetings like the Peer Advisers. Scheduling an appointment is easy, just click on the schedule an appointment link under the "going abroad" menu on the Global Penn State website. Then scroll down to the list of EA advisers, click on the appropriate adviser's name based on which country you would like to go to. Finally select the link to request an appointment.
There are additional resources available to help students of special populations study abroad. Mobility International USA is an organization aimed at helping students with disabilities study abroad. They are a non-profit working with students who have cognitive, hearing, learning, vision, and physical and other disabilities realize their dreams of studying abroad. Students of the LGBTA community can also find additional resources through the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association. This organization has compiled information related to the right of the LGBTA community across the globe. On their website students can find information related to the climate surrounding the LGBTA community in different countries of interest to them. If you are concerned about studying abroad due to a disability, your sexual orientation, race, or religious beliefs please know that your Education Abroad Adviser is available to help address these concerns.
Thank you for joining us for this presentation. Please visit the Global Penn State website at global.psu.edu for more information to study abroad and to start searching for programs.