Choosing Your Destination
Can’t decide where to go? Here are some important questions to ask yourself. This will also serve as a guide to the many questions you might have about studying abroad.
What is the best way to begin narrowing down my choice of study abroad destinations?
Read through this entire list of questions, come to a study abroad information session held at the beginning of each semester, or visit the study abroad advisor in Nicarry 120. Also, start visiting program websites and doing some research. Links to all programs can be found on this website.
Do you want to be in a big city or a smaller community?
Most overseas destinations are in cities that are larger than Elizabethtown. Some are in very big cities, such as Sydney, Quito, and Barcelona. Very few overseas destinations will be in rural or small communities, so be prepared to live a much more urban life abroad. That means you will need to walk or take public transportation in most cases.
Are you interested in experiencing a developing culture, or would you prefer a more ‘first world’ experience?
Most study abroad destinations in Europe, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand will feature developed societies with all the mod cons that you are accustomed to having in the US. Less developed destinations are often found in South and Central America, Asia, and Africa (although not always). The really important question to ask yourself here is…
How far out of your comfort zone are you prepared to go?
No matter where you go you will encounter differences that will result in some degree of culture shock. However, there is a big difference between living with a French family in Strasbourg (BCA) and camping out on a Tanzanian game reserve (School for Field Studies). Plumbing will be different wherever you go, but the plumbing in India and Ecuador will be very different, while the plumbing in England and Japan will be only slightly different. If you’re a picky eater, you may want to opt for Ireland or New Zealand rather than Bangkok or Accra.
Do you want to improve your language skills?
Some destinations – Barcelona, Strasbourg, Xalapa, Quito, Marburg, Tokyo, Sapporo, Dalian, Beijing, Lima – are designed for you to be fully immersed in a different language. These destinations are usually only for students who have completed (or have the equivalent of) two or more years of college-level language. Check the program website to be certain.
Do you want to study in English but also learn another language?
There are a number of sites in countries where English is not the native language but courses are taught in English. Some examples include Athens, Greece, Brussels, Belgium, Cusco, Peru, and Florence, Italy. If you haven’t completed your language Area of Understanding core yet, you can transfer any language back to Elizabethtown to qualify for that requirement. Students who have studied in Ghana have transferred the native Twi language back to fulfill a core requirement!
Some of our destinations are located in tropical zones, such as India, Thailand, northern Australia, Ecuador, Peru, Ghana, Costa Rica, The Gambia, Tanzania, and Kenya. When you study in these parts of the world, be prepared to get additional immunizations (which cost extra money) and malarial medications. Also, be prepared for severe heat and humidity!
Are you a fan of wildlife?
Some areas have more wildlife than others (see tropical zones above), and some destinations have some very unusual wildlife. Australia is a very interesting continent and claims more wildlife that can sting, bite, attack, or poison than any other continent. All of it is stunningly beautiful too, especially the corals on the Great Barrier Reef. If you don’t like the outdoors and you’re afraid of insects and reptiles, think twice about studying in Australia (or just stay in the cities!). Africa has some of the most astounding wildlife you will ever see – but get there soon because much of it is in danger of extinction!
When is the best time for you to go abroad?
You will need to work with your program and major advisors to work out the details of when best to fit in a semester or summer overseas, but remember that not all educational systems work on the same calendar as ours do in the US. If you study anywhere in the southern hemisphere you will either start your program in February (the beginning of their fall semester) or July (the beginning of their spring semester). Japan has its own three-term system that does not coordinate exactly with our two-semester system, as do some British, New Zealand, and Australian schools. Greece, Germany, and Sapporo, Japan all begin their spring semesters quite late – around the middle of March – and finish in June or July.
Are you hoping to apply for a scholarship to study abroad?
One important date to keep in mind is that most scholarships must be applied for at least a semester before your semester abroad. In some cases, scholarship deadlines come only once a year – usually in early February for the following academic year. Check this website under ‘Scholarships and Financial Aid’ to find links to many different types of scholarships that are available for study abroad programs. In many cases, the program provider will offer their own scholarships, such as BCA, AustraLearn, Herstmonceux Castle, and Nihon University. Most scholarships require a GPA of at least 3.0.
Will all the classes you take transfer back to Elizabethtown?
Yes, no matter where you study, all of your courses will transfer back and be applied towards your degree requirements. In fact, this is a great opportunity to take courses you could never take at Elizabethtown, such as ‘Maori Studies’ in New Zealand, or ‘Underwater Photography’ in Turks and Caicos Islands, or ‘Peace Studies’ in Derry, Northern Ireland, or ‘Incan History’ in Peru, or even ‘Arabic’ in Morocco. In some cases, you will just receive elective credit for courses, but in many cases you can complete core requirements and major/minor requirements abroad.
Is cost an important factor? (Is this a stupid question?)
All students who take part in affiliated study abroad programs pay Elizabethtown College tuition and remain registered at the College during their semester abroad. This means that all financial aid, including institutional aid, is applied to the cost of studying abroad. In some cases, housing costs are also paid to the College as normal, and in other cases students pay the program provider directly. Most housing costs are comparable to Elizabethtown College costs. Students who participate in non-affiliated approved programs also remain registered at the College, but they pay the program provider directly and do NOT pay Elizabethtown College anything. That means that only federal financial aid is applied towards costs (in most cases).
HERE’S THE SECRET TO SAVING MONEY WHILE ABROAD: It costs far less to study in China than it does in England! The cost of living in most Asian, African, and South American destinations is far less than in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, or Japan. The exchange rate is something very important to take into consideration too (check it right now at http://www.xe.com/ucc/). The worst exchange rate for the US dollar is in the UK (and that includes Northern Ireland). The second worst rate is against the Euro and a few other European currencies. The cost of living in Tokyo, Japan is astronomical. Be warned!
Do you want to live in a dorm, an apartment, or with a family?
Different programs have different housing options. In most cases, you will be asked to provide your preference for housing and will have a choice of where you will live. In some cases – usually language programs – you will be placed with a host family to insure that you have a full immersion experience.
Is a meal plan important to you or would you prefer to cook for yourself?
Again, many programs offer you the option of how you will feed yourself. Cooking for yourself is a great way to save some cash! In some cases, you will live in a shared apartment and cook most meals for yourself, but still have the option of a partial meal plan so that you can have lunch at your university cafeteria. Be warned that most overseas universities do not have anything close to the Marketplace. Choices will be fewer, servings will be smaller, and in most cases there are no ‘seconds’.
What if I have a disability? Do overseas universities make accommodations?
In most cases today the answer to this question is ‘yes’! Provided you can show evidence of your disability and you work ahead of time with your program provider, most overseas institutions will do everything they can to accommodate you. Some locations are more disability-friendly than others, however (usually due to architecture or legal limitations), so please check before deciding on your location.
Is one part of the world safer than another?
Elizabethtown College, the Office of International Programs, and all study abroad providers put safety before everything else. We would never send students to a part of the world we felt was unsafe. We rely heavily upon International SOS, our program providers, and Department of State recommendations to determine the relative safety of each destination. HOWEVER, be aware that there is no such thing as a completely safe part of the world. There are risks of things going wrong no matter where you go. International Programs holds pre-departure meetings with all study abroad students to go over health and safety considerations, and we provide each student with an International SOS card. Here’s an interesting fact: STATISTICALLY, MOST OVERSEAS DESTINATIONS ARE SAFER THAN THE UNITED STATES! However, wherever you go there is always the risk of petty crimes, thefts, and other things going wrong. One piece of advice: make sure your parents have their passports up to date, just in case they may need to travel to your overseas destination in an emergency.
Where do most Elizabethtown College students go?
Our students go all over the place. There is not a favorite destination. Some students opt for shorter programs that are led by Elizabethtown faculty (see options below). Others go where their majors require them to go. Some follow their hearts. Some follow their friends. Students who seem to have the most rewarding experiences go somewhere they had never thought about going before and leave their friends far behind. There is nothing like the adventure of not knowing what will happen next!
What if I just can’t take an entire semester to study abroad? Are there other options?
Yes, there are many! You can browse online (www.studyabroad.com) to search hundreds of options for summer study abroad programs. There are all kinds of short-term options available. You could also choose to work, volunteer, or intern abroad (see our page with links to many options). And, finally, you can travel overseas on any number of our faculty-led programs. Here is a sampling:
Some of our faculty at Elizabethtown College take groups of students abroad each year for 2-3 week intensive programs. View the list of programs here.