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Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I study abroad?
Study abroad is an enriching and eye-opening adventure, Student Abroad - Be significant where learning extends far beyond the classroom. The experience will expose you to new ways of thinking, living, and viewing the world. Benefits include the opportunity to learn about another culture firsthand, learn an entirely new language or become fluent in one you have already studied, you can travel, fulfill major and minor coursework requirements, and develop new intellectual pursuits, skills, and perspectives. By living within another culture, you are likely to gain a new understanding of, and perhaps even appreciation for, the United States and its way of life. You can also expect to make friendships and create memories that will last a lifetime.
When should I start planning to study abroad?
Early planning is the key to successful study abroad. Hundreds of study abroad opportunities exist; they differ in location, duration, curriculum, language, degree of cultural immersion, cost, and many other factors. In order to find the program that is the right "fit" for your personal and academic objectives, you should begin planning your study abroad experience at least one semester before you actually depart.
How will I choose the program that is right for me?
The possibilities for study abroad are abundant. Before researching programs you will want to have made some preliminary decisions as to the type of experience you want to have. Start by realistically assessing your academic and personal preparation and your objectives. Consider the following questions to help you think about the kind of study abroad experience that would be the right "fit" for you.
- Where do you want to go? Why?
- Do you want to study in a less-developed or more-developed country?
- Do you want to be in a big city or a small town/rural area?
- What do you want or need to study to meet academic objectives?
- Are there specific academic requirements that you need to fulfill during study abroad?
- Are you fluent enough in a foreign language to take classes, write papers, and take notes, or will you need to take some or all of your coursework in English?
- Are you interested in taking courses on the language and culture of the host country?
- How will study abroad positively affect your academic program?
- What do you want or need to study to meet personal objectives?
- To what extent do you wish to integrate yourself into the host culture?
- How much contact do you want with other American students?
- Would you feel more comfortable with the services of a resident director or are you confident you can handle problems on your own?
- Do you prefer to participate in planned excursions included in the program or to arrange your own sightseeing and travel?
- Do you want to live in a university dormitory?
- Would you prefer to live in an apartment?
- Do you want to live with other Americans or with local students?
- Do you want to live with a local family?
- How much time can you afford to spend abroad in terms of economic resources?
- How much money can you spend on the study abroad experience? Consider not only tuition and fees, but also housing and food, personal expenses, and international travel.
- Do you need to apply for financial aid? Is it available to you?
- Are you willing/able to take out loans or use personal funds in order to pay for study abroad?
- Are there scholarships that you might be eligible for to help fund your study abroad?
- Does your GPA qualify you for the program? Minimum GPA requirements vary from 2.5 - 3.0 depending on the program.
- Do you have the language skills required for the program?
- Do you have time to apply before the application deadline?
- How long do you want to study abroad (academic year, semester, summer, special short term program)?
What types of living accommodations are available?
The options range from apartments, to residential halls, to homestays with families and are dependent on the program that you choose.
Can I study abroad if I haven't declared my major yet?
Yes. A variety of general education courses are offered within most study abroad programs.
Can I get credit towards my degree for studying abroad? What if I am going on a non-SU program?
If you are an undergraduate going on a SU study abroad program, you will receive in- residence credit with grades, as if you were taking courses at SU. Note that if you seek credit towards your major, you must get additional pre-approval by a concentration advisor, for both SU and non-SU programs. For non-SU programs, students should contact an academic advisor when deciding on a program in order to make sure that credit will transfer.
Can I study abroad if I don't speak a foreign language?
Yes–you can study in a country where English is the local language, of course. Alternatively, even in countries where another language is spoken, study abroad programs taught mainly in English usually are available.
I've studied a foreign language, but studying abroad entirely in a foreign language sounds scary. What kind of academic achievement is expected of me?
Many study abroad programs offer special foreign language courses for program participants which are designed to be appropriate for the student's level of competency in that language (this will be stated in the eligibility requirements). Students who take regular classes in a foreign language alongside host-country students should expect a challenging academic environment and should be prepared to put forth extra effort in overcoming the language barrier. But it is important to note that most professors understand the situation of international students and will usually issue grades and evaluate effort with a student's language difficulties in mind.
Are visas hard to obtain?
The answer to this question depends upon your destination. For some countries, the process is straightforward and relatively quick, but for other countries, obtaining a visa can be very time consuming and quite expensive. For this reason, please visit country-specific Embassy/Consulate websites to learn about visa requirements for the programs and countries that are of interest to you. You will need to begin preparations for obtaining your visa soon after your acceptance into a study abroad program. Obtaining a visa is the responsibility of each individual student.
Please note that some visa applications require you to apply in-person at your host country's regional consulate. You may be required to travel to the consulate in order to do so.
Also, if your program requires you to apply for a student visa, you may have to submit your passport to the consulate along with your visa application. For this reason, we suggest that you not plan any international trips in the months prior to your departure for study abroad.
I receive financial aid – can I use it for study abroad? What about scholarships?
For SU programs, you can use your financial aid and the Office of Financial Aid will process your package. For non-SU programs, the Office of Financial Aid will usually not process financial aid (the non-SU program may do so, though many do not have that capability). As for scholarships, these are most often made available for specific study abroad programs, although there are a few national scholarships which can be used for any study abroad program. For more information, see the Financial Aid tab.
How do I make friends at a university abroad? Should I just hang around with the Stetson students who are also on the program or other Americans who are there?
Most students study abroad with the intent of making friends with local students in the foreign country. This is an excellent goal, but one that is not always easy to attain. You are the one that must be active in making friends, since local students may seem standoff-ish. Another group of students to make friends with is other international students studying at your site. These students are in your situation and are trying to make friends too, and socializing with them is a great low-stress way to practice the foreign language (where applicable). Don't think that orientation seminars or ice-breaker events are pointless, because they will facilitate valuable global friendships. Finally, there is nothing wrong with becoming friends with other Americans and SU students abroad. Probably, they will become your best friends while abroad, but don't limit yourself to Americans. Part of what makes a study-abroad experience great is cultural immersion (which may include practicing a foreign language in real-life settings), and making new friends.
(When abroad): Sometimes I get extremely homesick, sometimes I feel like I never want to go back home. Are these feelings normal?
It is normal to get homesick and it is normal to fall in love with your host country. In short, be prepared for many emotional ups and downs, but do not let these spoil your experience abroad. It is the good things that you will remember, and very few students report negative experiences when they return.
(When abroad): I am sick of people complaining to me about how much they don't like American foreign policy. How should I react in these situations?
Indeed many students have reported being bombarded with criticism about the current president, American foreign policy, and sometimes even the American lifestyle. This may make students uncomfortable, especially when they are torn between defending policies they might not personally agree with and standing up for their country. Don't be surprised if you find yourself expressing opinions you never thought you would just because someone is telling you how bad they think the USA is. The best strategy is probably to keep discussion on the level of civilized debate and not to let passions run too high.
How much luggage can I take?
We recommend that you pack a small carry-on bag with a change of clothes, a towel, and personal toiletries. In some cases access to your luggage is restricted during the arrival orientation and it's important to have these items with you.
Helpful hint: Clothes dryers may not be available in every household--drip dry is the way to go. Also bring one or two nice outfits for special occasions. Once packed, weigh your luggage to make sure that it is less than 44 pounds. Even though most international carriers permit you to take more than 44 pounds of baggage, you may have to take a domestic flight within your host country. These flights often have more stringent rules regarding baggage. If you chose to bring additional or overweight bags, you will be responsible for all extra fees that may be charged by the airlines.
For safety reasons, most airlines have introduced stiffer carry-on baggage rules. Keep your carry-on bags limited to a backpack or something similar in size. The carry-on bag is limited to 8 inches x 16 inches x 21 inches; and a weight of 22 pounds. Most airlines will permit passengers to carry a purse, umbrella, or camera in addition to one carry-on bag.
What should I pack?
Research your host country to learn more about the climate, how teens dress, and any school dress code that might be required. The best advice from other AFS Participants is to take things that you're comfortable wearing. Avoid trendy outfits--chances are they won't be in fashion in your host country and you may feel out of place.
Do I need a bank account? How do I open one and what is the best way to transfer my money abroad?
For an extended stay abroad a local bank account can be very useful. You usually receive an ATM/Debit card that will make financial transactions much easier and more cost-effective. Most American banks will perform international wire transfers to your new account abroad for roughly $50, but you could also withdraw cash abroad with your American ATM/Debit card for a small fee and then deposit it in your new account. It is also useful to give a friend or parent power-of-attorney over your American account so they can endorse checks for you or transfer money from that account to you abroad. If you plan on using your ATM/Debit card abroad, it is a good idea to change your PIN to a 4-digit number since foreign ATM machines may only accept 4 digits.