|Photo by Alex Grichenko|
How should students choose a study abroad program?
It's an important choice, and I think that the information online isn't too helpful:
- Some information asks a lot of big questions--e.g., how does your study abroad program fit in with your academic and professional goals? but doesn't really direct students on the process of answering them.
- They tell you to choose the location that will be the best fit for you, but students who have not already traveled abroad extensively probably don't really know much about those locations and how to assess them.
- They tell you to answer "What is it that you want to accomplish?" as if you knew what can actually be achieved in a study abroad program.
I won't try to describe on this post all my thoughts about how students should choose a study abroad program. (I'll tackle that in the future.)
What I will say is that you definitely need a program that has a community service learning component. Or an internship program that has an academic support built in, e.g., reflective essays, portfolio-assignments and feedback along the way.
Like the Costa Rica program we cooperate with at the University of Illinois. The article explains very well why integrating CSL into your study abroad is such a good idea.
Why? Because nowadays it's not just important that go abroad, it's important what you do abroad. You have to stand out from the crowd of other high-achieving college students who have studied abroad. And I don't mean this just as a resume builder. I mean this as: you will be a different person if you have high-quality, faculty-supervised experiential learning while abroad.