Steps to Studying Abroad

“How do I study abroad?”  Following these six steps will help you choose a study abroad program that is right for you and help to ensure that you are properly prepared for your study abroad experience.
Step 1: What do you hope to get out of your study abroad experience?
Saddleback offers a variety of study abroad programs.  The program that is best for you depends on what you hope to accomplish through your study abroad experience.  As you consider the possibility of studying abroad, first think about following questions:
Why do you want to study abroad?
  • Academically?
  • Professionally?
  • Personally?
Step 2: What type of program will best help you achieve your study abroad goals?
Once you have determined what you hope to achieve by studying abroad, you should consider what type of program will help you achieve those goals.  Consider the following questions:
  • How long would you like to spend in another country?  Why?
  • What type of academic focus/classes would you like on your study abroad program?  Why?
  • Would you like to spend your time abroad getting to know one place very well or moving frequently from place to place?  Why?
  • Would you like to be exposed to a foreign language while you are abroad?
  • Would you like your classes to be in English or in another language?  Why?
  • Would you like to live and/or study primarily with local students in your host country or with other study abroad students?  Why?
  • Where would you like to study abroad and why?  Besides considering which countries you would like to study in, you should also consider why you might prefer to study in:
    • an urban or rural environment 
    • a country that is similar or different to your own (politically, economically, and/or culturally)
    • a country where English or a different language is spoken
    • a hot or cold/wet or dry climate
Step 3: What type of program will fit your logistical needs?
Now that you have determined the general type of program that you are looking for, you should consider your logistical needs and limitations.  Consider the following questions:
  • Based on your academic, work, and personal commitments, how much time are you able to spend away from home?  When would you be able to spend that time abroad?
  • What type study abroad coursework & experiences will further your academic plan/goals?  How would it do so?
  • What type of study abroad coursework & experiences will further your professional skills & aspirations?  How would it do so?
  • What type of lodging best fits your interests/needs (ie. homestay, dorms, apartments, hotels, etc.)?
  • How much money can you budget for a study abroad program?  NOTE: It is very important to start looking into programs early so that you can save for your program and apply for scholarships and/or financial aid, as appropriate.
Step 4: What specific study abroad programs best fit your needs and desires?
With a clear sense of what you are seeking in a study abroad program, explore the various programs with your study abroad needs and desires in mind.  In particular, you should attend Information Meetings for all programs that you might be interested in and communicate with the program director or faculty member in charge of each program.  As you explore the various available programs, pay close attention to:
  • Each program’s academic focus and course offerings (and whether credits earned as part of the program are transferrable, if applicable)
  • Whether any pre-requisite course work or knowledge is recommended or required
  • Where the various components of the program take place
  • What type of lodging/living situation each program offers
  • What type of instructional environment/approaches each program uses
  • When each program begins and how long it lasts
  • What is and is not included in each program’s services and costs
  • Whether program-specific scholarships or financial aid are available
  • The information provided about the specific program site(s)/country(ies) (you may want to complete a bit of outside research on your own to find out additional information about the site and what it is like to spend time there)
  • The experiences that other students have had in each program—if possible, try to contact former students from the program(s) that you are most interested in to get their perspectives and advice.
Step 5:  What do you do once you have chosen a program?
When you have decided which program you want to apply for, be sure to communicate closely with the program director or faculty member in charge of the program.  In particular, make sure that you clearly understand pre-trip logistics:
  • Submit your program application (and follow-up with the program director or faculty member in charge of the program to confirm that your application is received)
  • Be aware of all program deadlines, such as application deadlines, deposit deadlines, and full-payment deadlines.  If you have not already done so, begin saving for your program and/or look into scholarship and financial aid opportunities to help fund your study abroad experience.
  • Make sure that your passport is valid for the entire period that you will be abroad; if it is not, be sure to order a new passport as soon as possible because new passports can take a long time to arrive.
  • Obtain a visa for your passport, if a visa is necessary (your program director or lead faculty can let you know if you need a visa)
  • Research your options for financial assistance, if applicable
  • Check with the U.S. State Department to see if there are any conditions or advisories about the site(s) that you will travel to
  • Cross-reference your health record with the guidelines posted by the Center for Disease Control for traveling to your program site(s)
  • Complete additional research about logistics for travel & living at your program site(s): transportation, currency, communications, etc.
  • Complete additional research about the conditions at the program site(s): everything from the economy to politics to culture to food to customs to climate to health care to personal safety
  • Pay close attention to all additional information and recommendations from your program director, lead faculty member, and/or study abroad provider
Step 6: Get ready to enjoy a unique and exciting experience abroad!