India-Manipal-Manipal Univ


This is the third in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” This post will address the “who” part of the question. This series is written for American students interested in studying abroad, but it provides useful information and thoughts for everyone.

Living in a foreign country is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly ok. The problem is that some students misunderstand what studying abroad is about, and end up in an environment that they didn’t expect and don’t enjoy. So before spending considerable time and money you should take a moment to consider if studying abroad is something that would suit and benefit you.


Studying abroad is an experience that would be extremely valuable for the majority of students, so it’s easier to talk about who should think twice before studying abroad. In my opinion, the most important issue is the popular confusion between living abroad and traveling abroad, because expectations (and ultimately the overall experience) hinges on initial motivations.

One of my pet peeves is being asked how I managed to travel for twelve years. This is the question I sometimes get when I tell people that I lived overseas for twelve years. It’s immediately clear that they see me as a kind of global Christopher McCandless, hitching rides from one place to another with a dusty backpack and not a care in the world. Living abroad is not like that. For whatever reason, American culture confuses being abroad with travel, and travel with vacation. Disappointing experiences abroad often stem from this confusion.

Close your eyes and picture yourself “studying abroad.” Do you see yourself sunbathing on a beach, taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, or partying with exciting foreigners? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to this popular misconception. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about those things and looking forward to them as part of your experience, but if they are your primary motivations then maybe you’re really looking for a vacation. A vacation is about getting away from reality and enjoying creature comforts, living abroad is about embracing an unknown reality and getting outside your comfort zone. If the latter sounds exciting to you (and it’s completely normal if that excitement is mingled with nervousness), then you probably have the right kind of personality for studying abroad.

Getting out of your comfort zone has become something of a cliché, so let’s look a little deeper. Do you enjoy meeting new people, trying unknown food, visiting unfamiliar cities, or starting new activities? These things define life as a foreigner and will be part of your daily experience, at least for the first few months. Everything is new, from figuring out where to do your grocery shopping to creating new social circles. This is intimidating to everyone at first, but if you already dislike change in your home country and a life of constant adjustment and unknowns sounds terrifying then you should seriously examine your motivations for studying abroad. Similar to this is homesickness, which is something everyone deals with to some degree, but if you’ve had recent experiences when being away from home for more than a couple weeks was nearly unbearable, then there’s no reason why being in another country would magically change this and there’s a good chance you’d have a very difficult time getting much enjoyment from living abroad.

To be fair, I have known people who went abroad because they were introverts, homebodies, or generally unadventurous, and they wanted to change those characteristics. In most cases they were quite successful in these goals, so clearly all personality types can benefit. I think the key is entering the experience knowing that it will be hard and wanting to grow and change as a result, so again the key is a willingness to step outside comfort zones and embrace the new and different. You can be even more sure of your readiness if you close your eyes and see yourself practicing a foreign language, experiencing how people live differently from you, and discovering new food, music, art, sports, hobbies, and passions that you never knew existed. These are the defining features of study abroad.


Moving on to more practical concerns, Matthew Karsten sums it up well when explaining why he never studied abroad: “Like many people, I assumed it was expensive, I’d fall behind in credits, would have difficulty with the language, and was nervous of the whole idea.” (http://expertvagabond.com/reasons-to-study-abroad/) He goes on to explain why all of these were misconceptions. If fact, because American tuition is higher than in much of the world, studying abroad can often be managed for the same cost (or even less! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/10/29/7-countries-where-americans-can-study-at-universities-in-english-for-free-or-almost-free/ ) as a semester at your home university. Likewise for falling behind academically, there’s no reason why studying abroad should slow you down if you plan carefully. There are study abroad programs designed for practically every major imaginable (and studyabroad101.com is a great place to start with this list of study abroad programs by major: https://www.studyabroad101.com/subjects), and if you go early in your college career you will have considerable flexibility in taking courses for GE credit. Finally, foreign language is definitely a perk of studying abroad but not at all a prerequisite. You could study in one of many English speaking countries like Ireland, New Zealand, or South Africa, or a country where English is commonly spoken like Sweden, Singapore, or Ghana. There are also countless programs taught entirely in English all over the world, so don’t let a lack of foreign language skills slow you down. For better or worse, studying in a foreign country does not mean studying in a foreign language. So, none of these concerns should stop you from at least researching your options further.

However, there are other practical elements that should give you pause. If you do all the math, apply for scholarships, and realize that in the end you’ll go deeper into debt in order to study abroad, then you need to think carefully about what it will bring to you in terms of career opportunities and academic advancement. As valuable as it is I’m not going to tell you that studying abroad is worth any cost at all, especially when there’s the option to wait and plan for a tuition free graduate degree abroad, for example. Health is another factor, although I’ve met people who went abroad despite being blind or in a wheelchair, so there are ways to make it work with proper preparation. But in general living abroad means being ready for the unexpected, so if you have a condition that means an unexpected event could result in a life or death situation, then you need to be sure that the benefit to you is worth the higher level of risk that your situation entails. Being in a serious relationship is also a factor. Long distance relationships are not impossible to maintain, but it definitely adds a strain and requires discipline from you to invest time into the relationship despite being far away. Could the two of you study abroad together? Would you be able to visit each other every few months? In all these cases of financial, medical, or relationship concerns, consider short term study abroad program for two to four weeks. That would mitigate the risk, and if you absolutely love it then you’ll be able to plan for a longer program with the confidence that it’s worth it.

Some readers probably found this article because they’re wondering if they’re old enough to study abroad. I see this more as a question of maturity, since there are some 14-year-olds who are absolutely ready and others of any age who will well suited for the challenge. More and more high school students are studying abroad, whether for a few weeks or a year, but it’s more complex than for college students because it’s definitely not cheaper than studying in a public high school at home, the program needs more oversight and adult supervision, and it can be difficult to make sure that credits abroad fit into the standard high school curriculum. That said, as I will detail in the “When to Study Abroad” article next week, if there’s a will and a way then the sooner the better! As for maturity, it goes back to the first section of this article: If you’re ready to embrace change, accept differences in people without judgement, seek opportunities for personal growth, and the idea of being pushed out of of your comfort zone sounds like an adventure, then you’re probably mature enough!


There’s a final question about who should study abroad in a challenging country. There will be a lot more information about this in the “Where to Study Abroad” article, so don’t miss that. In that article I will explain why I strongly recommend studying in a less mainstream country (i.e. outside Europe). However, this means that everything I’ve said here about evaluating your flexibility and openness to change counts doubly. Living in Paris or Rome is already a challenge, even though the way of life is not dramatically different than in the US. Before considering a less-developed country you need to do some deeper self-examination. How would you respond to suddenly not having electricity for a day? How would you handle standing out as a foreigner everywhere you go? Could you cope with the presence of critters (bugs and small reptiles) in your home? Are you ready to eat something you can’t identify? These are just a few examples, so be sure to read about the experiences of students who lived there in study abroad reviews and blogs, and ask yourself honestly if the challenges they faced would prevent you from enjoying the overall experience. That being said, and as I’ll explain in a future article, greater challenge means greater reward!


Ultimately there is no solid checklist or personality test you that can clearly demonstrate how well suited you are to studying abroad, so I can only stress the importance of internal evaluation. If the idea of being immersed in an entirely different culture fills you with excitement rather than fear, if meeting a new circle of people sound like an adventure rather than hell, and if being pushed out of your comfort zone to do new things sounds like an opportunity for growth rather than senseless torture, then you’re probably the type of person who would thrive abroad. If that’s your case, then no logistical concerns should stop you from at least taking the next step in researching your opportunities. There are programs to advance every major, scholarships abound, and medical obstacles can be overcome. Talk to your academic advisor, do some more research, and pursue the goal!

You should be very cautious, however, if your list of primary motivations for studying abroad make it sound like a long vacation. Likewise, if you find yourself saying things like “I just need to get away,” or “I need a break from my problems here,” then you’ll probably be disappointed to discover the truth of the saying “wherever you go, there you are.” We have a way of taking our problems with us, and a new environment do not magically transform us unless we are first open to changing and growing irrespective of the environment. If your motivations are good, however, I truly believe that nothing will help you grow and learn faster than studying abroad.

Feel free to share this article with someone who’s considering studying abroad, and all comments or questions below will be answered. Next week we’ll discuss “When to Study Abroad,” so don’t miss it! Thanks for reading!

Caleb House –

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and administrator. He holds graduate degrees in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his soulmate in her tiny village in France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted with questions on his Facebook page “How to Go Abroad” or on Twitter @HowToGoAbroad.  


SIT’s Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans – Abroad101 Cool Program of the Week


For those who want to understand the complexities of conflict, this week’s CPOW is SIT’s Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans.  See all sides of a conflict that tore apart a region and drew in the world.

Examine peace building, post-conflict transformation, and the impact of international intervention in the context of Southeast Europe. The program explores the origins of the conflicts in the Balkans, from the breakup of Yugoslavia to the violent wars of the 1990s, as well as current challenges and opportunities in post-conflict transformation.

You can choose between two different tracks for your independent study: you may either conduct field research and produce a substantial academic paper or work with professional journalists to research and produce a full-length print or broadcast feature story on a topic related to the theme of the program.

To find out more about this program, read returning student reviews and learn more or apply, please visit:


Why Study Abroad, Part II

AmericanUniv sharjahPart Two

This is the second in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” This post will continue the question “Why Study Abroad?” In the previous post you may have noticed that most of the arguments for studying abroad apply to living abroad in any capacity, as a student, teacher, volunteer, or businessman abroad. So this post is targeted at students who find the idea of living abroad appealing, but are considering finishing their education first and finding a way to go abroad after their studies. While that’s a perfectly reasonable option, I think that if you have the opportunity to go abroad as a student then you should seize it. Why? Read on!


Study abroad is to life abroad as university is to “real life.” It’s designed to be a transition that guides and prepares you while maintaining a security net to protect you from the harder falls. In short, it offers nearly all of the benefits of living abroad while excluding the more annoying difficulties. This is because there will be at least two and possibly three entire offices of professionals (your original school, the school abroad, and often a third study abroad “provider” that organizes the exchange) dedicated to making the experience as smooth and rewarding as possible. There is no other opportunity to live abroad that will offer you that kind of support. This means that some of the most frustrating elements of living abroad (finding a place to live, getting through visa bureaucracy, learning how to get around, paying bills correctly, even going to the post office!) will all be made much easier for you, if not taken care of entirely!


In most cases, you’ll have a much better start socially as well. Living in a foreign country can be a very lonely experience even for the most outgoing people. While study abroad programs vary widely according to whether you spend most of your time with locals, other internationals, or students from your own country, in almost all cases you are immediately introduced into a social group that you’ll spend a lot of time with and you’ll have a lot of social opportunities from the beginning. Very few other opportunities abroad offer this kind of “ready to wear” social environment. This is critical, because in my experience living in nine different countries, what makes or breaks the experience is the friends you do or do not make.


Finally, there’s the long-term structural benefit of studying abroad. You won’t need to take “time out” from your long-term goals to experience life abroad, and soaking up a foreign culture and language while taking your necessary classes is like catching two fish with one net! It’s also easier to explain that fact to others, like parents, university admissions departments, and prospective employers. Whether it’s the only time you’ll live in a foreign country or the beginning of an international life, study abroad translates onto résumés and application letter better than any other experience abroad (with the possible exception of something prestigious, like the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders). Teaching in Korea, or volunteering in Tanzania, or backpacking across India, as wonderful as the experiences are, need to be explained and carefully translated so that the gate-keepers of your next life-step understand how the experience made you more valuable to them as an employee or student. Depending on the person you’re trying to convince, it’s not always easy. Study abroad, however, is a universally accepted concept that everyone understands (or thinks they do), and it is always seen positively.


Of course, these are the advantages to studying abroad compared to other foreign opportunities, and study abroad comes with all the rewards discussed in earlier posts that apply to living abroad in any capacity. The adventure, increased independence and tolerance, foreign language experience, the revolutionized worldview, the way it enriches your passion for the world and makes you a more interesting person, and the excitement of stepping out of your comfort zone and really “living life,” these are all benefits of living abroad, and no less so for study abroad! So if living abroad is on your bucket list, there’s no time like the present!

Next week I’ll discuss who should study abroad, and how to know if you’re “ready.”  To find a study abroad program that suits you please visit www.studyabroad101.com 


– Caleb House

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and school administrator. He holds an M.A. in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and an M.S. in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his French soulmate in her tiny village in the north of France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted on his facebook community page, “How To Go Abroad,” or on Twitter: @HowToGoAbroad.  

Study Public Health and immerse yourself in Vietnam – Abroad101 Cool Program of the Week

Vietnam-Ho Chi Minh - CET

Vietnam is a fast growing, exciting and very cool place to be. CET’s Public Health & Service-Learning Program in Ho Chi Minh City will let you pursue an Internship, study Public Health and immerse you in Vietnam.  Open for those who know or don’t know the Vietnamese language.

Looking to experience international development in action? In CET Vietnam, students roll up their sleeves to conduct service-learning internships at local philanthropic organizations. They take multidisciplinary courses, taught in English, that provide background knowledge for their hands-on experiences and challenge them to look for broader applications of these experiences. Students also study Vietnamese language and live with a Vietnamese roommate. The program’s optional emphasis on Public Health attracts pre-med students, budding policy makers and students who want to study social change in the developing world. The program is open to students of all majors and language levels, including heritage learners.

To find out more about this program, read returning student reviews and learn more or apply, please visit:




The steady flow of positive stories from the DIS program continues making it once again, our cool program of the week.  In the center of Europe you can build your own curriculum from 23 programs and over 200 elective courses. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worthwhile.

DIS is a Danish non-profit study abroad institution in Copenhagen offering semester, academic year, and summer programs taught in English. Established in 1959, DIS offers American students intensive, rigorous coursework enriched by field studies, hands-on learning opportunities, and study tours in Denmark and across Europe. These ensure students gain academic knowledge and intercultural leadership skills to prepare for their future careers in a globalized world. DIS students are usually undergraduate juniors or seniors from the most selective U.S. universities and 90% intend to go to graduate school.

DIS offers 190 elective courses and 22 different academic programs. The vast majority of courses are taught by Danish faculty. There is an average of 20 students per class. The three signature features of DIS are: (1) high academic quality, (2) course-integrated study tours all over Europe, (3) immersion opportunities allowing you to integrate into the Danish culture and meet Danes.

To find out more about this program, read returning student reviews and learn more or apply, please visit: