Abroad101’s Advisor Newsletter Winter 2018

Thanks for taking a few minutes to check-in with Abroad101.  Now in our 10th year, Abroad101 continues to be the only website focused on capturing the impact of international education through student-generated reviews.  For those of you who use our system, this is a reminder to send invites to your recent returnees.  For those of you considering new ways to raise awareness of study abroad participation, Abroad101 is here to help.

What Are Study Abroad Reviews?

  • Reviews are Published Program Evaluations
  • Reviews are Testimonials
  • Reviews are Points of Pride
  • Reviews are Social Media
  • Reviews are Popular

When students publish their program evaluations they become reviews, and when they are on Abroad101, they also become Social Media.  As Social Media, these first-hand accounts of experiences abroad becomes a great point-of-pride for students.  They become powerful reference material for future students and parents.  As social media, reviews have many uses, enabling:

  • Universities to promote study abroad to their own students
  • Students to research programs and view first-hand accounts from their peers
  • Parents to set their expectations
  • Advisors to keep informed of outcomes and student satisfaction
  • University Administrators to gather data.

Students are encouraged to share their finished review with their friends, family and other students.  Students are also prompted to include their review in their Linkedin profiles and to reference the review in cover letters and grad school applications.  The ability to include photos and writing samples can boost the pride a student takes in their review.  Each day, Abroad101 reviews are fed into Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets by our editor, school advisors and students.  Sharing further spreads their impact. 

Make Public Your Program Evaluations

We encourage you to take the leap and become fully transparent by turning your private study abroad program evaluation process into a public review process.  When every student is required to complete a review in order to received credit, you get more candor, usable data and testimonials of the impact of study abroad.   We can’t help but think this transparent process positively impacts participation at these institutions and with Abroad101, you can do this for free.  What brings so many reviews online, is the full-feature software that Abroad101 provides to universities.

Take a look at a few of our Best Practice Leaders:

Institutions like these trust Abroad101 as their program evaluation partner.  Abroad101 is a time-tested, integral part of the study aboard experience at our partner schools.  The Abroad101 team provides training and support for any issues that may arise in the process and we’d welcome being a more integral part of the education abroad experience at your institution.

Make a Review a Re-entry Exercise

Even if your school has an existing evaluation system in place for returning study abroad students, we hope you’ll still consider the student’s point of view and incorporate a study abroad review as part of a student-focused re-entry exercise.  The rationale goes as follows: if a student can coherently state what happened to them in writing, they will be much more prepared to discuss their experiences with friends, family and in future encounters as the student moves toward their next steps in life.  Showing they can express their emotions, in a published format is a big step forward and a reason to complete a review.  With a great sample of their writing and an expression of their new world view., you will help your students better prepare for their future by making a review part of the study abroad process.

Why Abroad101?

The Abroad101 review is 38 questions in length and is designed to walk students through a reflection of who they were before they left, who they are now and what they hope for their future.  As part of this process, they will rate 9 different aspects of their program and provide some insight and tips for future students.  Taking 20-30 minutes to complete, the review can help students put their feelings into words and start the process of communicating their experiences in concise and coherent ways.   They can add photos and turn their review into a point of pride, a capstone to their education abroad experience.

It’s for Faculty-led and Exchange Programs Too:

Abroad101 is happy to list your faculty-led programs in our system.  For your exchange partners, we have a catch-all “Direct Enrollment & Exchange” listing for every university abroad.  You are welcome to use Abroad101 for each of these types of programs in addition to the students on third-party programs and foreign schools.

Let us show you how.

We’re happy to provide you with a tour of the Abroad101 software, its features, advantages and benefits.  Please contact us for a 20-30 introductory walk through of the site and the system that manages is.  As we’ve been saying for 10 years – Its fast, free, easy!

Abroad101 remains free program evaluation software due to the support of our advertisers.  Many study abroad providers and foreign universities and schools pay for advertising in our directories of programs and that keeps us in business.  We thank them, and you for the opportunity to help enhance the field of international education.

Best wishes,

Mark Shay,

CEO / Abroad101

+1-212-321-0928

mark@abroad101.com

http://www.StudyAbroad101.com

Abroad101’s Advisor Newsletter Fall 2017

We know you’re heading into a busy time of year, so we thank you for taking a few minutes to think about broader issues like using reviews to advance study abroad on your campus.  As we celebrate 10 years of serving American college study abroad, Abroad101 and our study abroad reviews are as popular as ever.  The best news is that Abroad101 is still free for schools and going strong.

Have You Seen Your Students’ Study Abroad Reviews Lately?

Each day Abroad101 receives dozens of program evaluations from students that have been invited by either their home university, their provider or their host institution.  We publish each review as a complete web page and tally them in listings by program, provider, host institution and also in portals for each home school.  As of today, 31,963 student reviews are on Abroad101 making it the largest source of study abroad stories.  Visit the site, enter your school name in the search box in the top menu bar and see what your students have to say!

Moms & Dads Use Abroad101

The target audience for Abroad101 is American college students looking for a semester, summer or short-term abroad.  We list third-party, exchanges and faculty-led programs.  Parents of prospective study abroad students are a big portion of our traffic.  Based on Google Analytics data, we estimate that 20-25% of the visitors to Abroad101 are parents, searching on the keyword “reviews” and trying to learn more about the options their children are considering. 

As an advisor, you will find that your recommendations are validated when prospective students and parents read reviews.  Providers will often use reviews in their discussion with students and parents as they find a well-informed student makes for a more successful student.  Reading reviews will help parents become more comfortable with study abroad and to help them set expectations on what lies ahead.  We hope you’ll mention Abroad101 Reviews in your parent communication and put a link to Abroad101 on your website to better prepare all.

How to Get Students to Write Reviews?

So often we hear that it is hard to get students to do anything, let alone spend 20-30 minutes on a review.  This is especially true when students feel that the activity has no benefit for them.  However, they are inclined to share their stories if the exercise gives them a chance to tell their story, and that is exactly what they do on social media for hours a day! Think of a review as social media for study abroad and a place for students to showcase their story and talk about themselves.  Our time-test review questions will do the rest.

If the student believes the review is good for them, they will generally participate.  That takes some groundwork before they go abroad and as they prepare to return.  One idea to get more engagement is to incorporate a review in your re-entry programming and use the review process as a step toward preparing the students to share their experience with others.  Just like career counselors who tell students to prepare a good resume for a job search, we hope that study abroad advisors will help their students prepare for their return home by guiding them to submitting a thorough and candid review.

Using Abroad101 as Free Program Review Software:

A number of schools use Abroad101 as their official program evaluation software because it is designed to draw an insightful student account of their time abroad.  These evaluations are also great for future advising and orientations.  The service is offered free to American colleges and universities, supported by advertising from program providers and foreign universities. The software offers:

  • Capability to approve/disapprove reviews
  • Invite Tool to improve participation
  • Graphs and Reports to tally student responses
  • Manage an approved programs list
  • Option to list faculty-led programs or in-house programs of your choosing
  • Compare your results against others
  • Add custom questions to the standard review

The Abroad101 team is happy to answer any of your questions by email or phone.  We also welcome the opportunity to walk you, and members of your staff though the system with an online demo of the back-end features of Abroad101 to see if our free program evaluation tool is right for you.  The demo will show how you can see reports, compare your results with other institutions, set pre-approved/recommended programs and add custom questions to the standard Abroad101 review.  Abroad101 also has promotional material for you to share with your students, so please let us know how we can help you.

Check-out the other “TripAdvisor for Study Abroad”

We recently came across a cool app for students to use while abroad.  It compiles the favorite restaurants, things to do, towns, and more from US study abroad students.  Read more about the Rayka App

Happy Fall!

 

Abroad101 March 2017 Students of the Month

 

Abroad101 donates to study abroad fundraisers that are set up by hopeful students who hope to study abroad. Working together with GoEnnounce we choose a student mission to be highlighted and then award a donation to start off the fundraising efforts. March 2017 students winners tell us about their coming study abroad trips to England, Costa Rica, Panama, Spain and South Korea.

Sydney Lundquist, our 115th Abroad101 Student of the Week winner is currently a senior at Washington and Lee University. She is an excellent student who is majoring in Biology and has received numerous awards and distinctions such as the W&L Biology Departmental Award and the Scholar Athlete Academic Honor Roll. Along with this, Sydney is also very involved in volunteer work, clubs, societies and extracurricular activities, and is dedicated to environmental sustainability, basketball and her faith.

Sydney’s goal is to eventually earn a Ph. D in conservation ecology. For now the plan is to Study Abroad in England and attend the University of Cambridge in October 2017. She will be working in Biological Sciences for Zoology research examining freshwater mussel conservation. This unique opportunity and experience will provide the chance to explore and understand new ecosystems, work with conservation ecology professionals, grow as a leader and ecologist and provide her with the unparalleled opportunity to explore the world.

We wish Sydney all the best at Cambridge and hope that she will have a life changing experience there!

Learn more about Sydney’s mission here.


Congratulations goes to our 116th Abroad101 Student of the Week winner, Kendall ShanksOne of Kendall’s passion is to learn languages, she is learning French and plans on studying Spanish, Mandarin as well as conversational Italian in college. During high school while working on an article about the struggling English-language learner program in her school district, Kendall’s eyes were opened  about the struggles the non english speaking students encountered. This one article shaped her plans for the future. She decided to work to protect members of the community that are silenced and disenfranchised.

Kendall’s future plan is to earn a degree in Global Studies and a minor in International Relations. She has been accepted to attend the Global program at Long Island University, in New York. The program will start in the fall of 2017, and she will spend one year in Costa Rica, living with a host family.  For Kendall, being able to study abroad will give her the unique opportunity to understand the issues refugees and immigrants face in their native countries.

Kendall started her fundraising Mission and will use the funds to pay for the tuition abroad.

To check out Kendall’s Mission and donate to her cause, click here!


Cecilia Mercier, is our 117th Abroad101 Student of the Week winner!

Cecilia is currently a junior at Southeastern Louisiana University, in Hammond, where she is majoring in International Management with a minor in Marketing. Her biggest passion is to travel and to discover new places and to constantly learn more about diversity, ethics, and cultures. She speaks fluent French, Spanish and English. To be able to speak several languages has helped her a lot when traveling, and it has also made her more open-minded and aware of different cultures. Through traveling Cecilia has not only become a better person but has also learned how to adapt to any kind of environment and situation and to communicate with people from different backgrounds, countries and cultures.

In order to graduate and obtain her bachelor’s degree in International Management, Cecilia is required to go Study Abroad this upcoming Summer 2017.  She will be attending the “Business, Economics & Marketing in Panama” program and will spend 10 days in Panama. Cecilia has always been fascinated about the country of Panama, and is really excited to go there.  There, she will be talking to local business owners and people that have experience working internationally, so this will be a once in a life time learning experience for Cecilia and she is confident that it will help her for her future career.

We wish Cecilia all the best in Panama and hope that she will have a life changing experience there!

To check out Cecilia’s Mission and donate to her cause, click here!


Our 118th Abroad101 Student of the Week winner is Marissa Small-Towns who is a student-athlete at The College of Charleston pursuing a major in International business and a minor in spanish.

When not competing in track and field meets around the southeast, Marissa finds herself in the library, volunteering on behalf of her team and finding ways to enhance her Spanish speaking skills outside of the classroom.

Marissa is fundraising for a Maymester program in Seville, Spain. This program is through Spanish Studies Abroad. The program will provide 3 credits which are necessary to complete a Spanish minor, and it will also assist in completing the study abroad requirement for the International Business Major. In addition Marissa hopes to immerse herself into another culture, which will help her prepare for a career in International Business and Spanish. She believes that it is very important to practice speaking Spanish in another country and out of the classroom, because speaking with native speakers is an enriching experience and offers opportunities to learn about the culture, local customs and words and speech that you might not necessarily learn in the classroom.

To check out Marissa’s Mission and donate to her cause, click here!

 


Sashalee Rashford, our 119th Abroad101 Student of the Week winner, will be going to South Korea for the summer with ISA (International Studies Abroad)! As a music business major Sashalee feels that it is important to learn about the industries around the world and how they work in those specific areas. During the Fall semester her senior project involved researching the history of the music industry in Korea and over this past summer Sashalee began to teach herself the basics of the Korean language. As you can tell, Sashalee is taking this opportunity very seriously!

The funds that are raised for this summer program will go towards class tuition and excursions. Sashalee has been saving for this trip and working hard to obtain scholarships for the trip as well. It’s a worthy cause and we hope Sashalee is able to learn many things about the music business and South Korea this summer.

We wish her all the best in South Korea and hope that she will have a life changing experience there!

Learn more about Sashalee’s mission here.


The Abroad 101 Student of the Week initiative awards a student who created a Mission for a study abroad program on GoEnnounce with a donation to their fundraiser. Learn more about this partnership from Abroad101 CEO Mark Shay and GoEnnounce founder Melissa Davis here.

Stay tuned for our next Abroad101 Students of the Week!

Abroad101 News for Advisors – January 2017

As Abroad101 begins its 10th Year, we’d like to say Happy New Year and thanks.  Thanks to the many advisors who use reviews to assist students in finding programs and setting expectations.  Thanks to the many administrators who require their students to submit reviews as their official program evaluation; and thanks to program providers and foreign host institutions who buy the ads that keep the service free.  Here’s to the next 10 years!

It is 2017: When did you Last Update your Evaluation Process?

Programs will often have a process where they engage the students in a final day evaluation exercise.  Taking it one step further, and pushing the student to publish their evaluation as part of the re-entry process is something that helps everyone.  Using the review as the student’s official personal statement can turn the bland evaluation into a dynamic point of pride.  It’s a productive re-entry exercise when the student can put their feelings into words and describe their discoveries, growth, maturity and overall gains made while abroad.  Abroad101’s 38-question review is an effective means to do this.  Asking the students to bring their laptop, tablet or smart-phone to class is one way to assure high or full participation in the process.  We have others.

Paper Evaluations into Online Reviews

We recognize that even with today’s tech savvy youth and Wi-Fi enabled campuses, capturing evaluations/reviews online has its challenges.

  • It’s OK to collect your data via paper
  • It’s NOT OK to store your data on paper
  • It’s JUST WRONG to share your data on paper

If you have paper evaluations, we suggest you allow us to turn them into Abroad101 reviews.  For a modest account management fee and a very reasonable per evaluation fee, we will scan your reviews and allow you to take a big step to modernize your evaluation process.

Using Abroad101’s Dashboard Tools for Benchmarking:

Having summary date is good, using it to measure progress is even better.  Millsaps College has long used Abroad101 as the evaluation tool for its faculty-led programs and recently their SIO provided a copy of the report he used in their regional (SACS) accreditation.  In it, he described how he used Abroad101 and our “Graphs” report.  Here are a couple of excerpts:

“Prior to using Abroad101, the OIE used its own personal evaluation system. This was, for one, a very time-consuming and labor-intensive process for the already strapped staff. But more importantly: in order to more accurately compare statistics with overall study abroad experiences, to compare provider programs with Millsaps faculty­leds, and to more easily collect and interpret data, the OIE has decided to use Abroad101 as its evaluation source.”

“Perhaps most importantly, partnering with Abroad101 allows us to send comprehensive assessment/evaluations to our returned study abroad student, while minimizing the work for our extremely small office by streamlining the evaluation process for us. They also provide easy-to-use tools to assess the data from the completed evaluations.”

Each advisor account on Abroad101 has a graphs report.  You’ll find it on the left side of your account dashboard, toward the bottom of the tool list.  Click to generate a graph of one of the following ratings categories: Overall, Academics, Program Administration, Housing, Food, Social integration, Health Care, Safety. Cost of Living.  You’ll also see how your students rate against the 30,000 reviews across Abroad101.

Connecting Reviews to your Enrollment or CRM System

We have been working to get Abroad101’s process of program evaluation and our set of questions as a standard part of everyone’s study abroad.  The students give us a lot of data that a number of institutions are using in their analysis and management of education abroad.   Abroad101 is set up to pass that data to you in several ways:

  • The “Graphs” tool mentioned above also compares in more depth for program operators/providers.
  • “Export to Excel” function that creates a spreadsheet with all of the data collected in each review, including any custom fields that you have added.
  • “API” is a computer system linkage that allows your system to dynamically pull the review in using a unique API key and the review serial numbers.

The Power of the Review Serial Number

The Export and API functions are even more powerful when this data can get tied to the student’s account in your enrollment system.  Key to this linking is the Abroad101 review serial number.  Each Abroad101 review gets a unique serial number and if you enter that serial number after “/reviews/” it will redirect to the full program link.  As an example, serial # 29619 can be viewed here http://www.studyabroad101.com/reviews/29619

If the advisor or the student enters the serial number into your student information system, you can forever refer to the review.  We recently posted an article with one creative way the serial number can be utilized in Terra Dotta Software and similar systems.

Review them ALL – Faculty-led, Exchange and Third-Party!

Abroad101 allows you to manage program evaluations for each type of study abroad program, or them all.  For example, Abroad101 has more than 1,900 foreign universities listed on the site, each with a listing for direct enroll & exchange.  Through Abroad101 your students can review any of the 4,000 third-party programs or if you’d like, we can add your own to the 4,200 faculty-led/university-run programs in the directory.  University-run programs listed on Abroad101 even have the option to be listed as home-students-only which means they will be listed as closed to outside students.  You will still get all the advantages of Abroad101’s reporting, data collection and the publishing tool for students to generate insightful, powerful and career-boosting testimonials of their experience abroad.

It all Starts with an Invitation

To get any of these projects going, you do need reviews and the best way to get reviews is to invite, or require your students to submit one.  It has been our experience that students won’t take the time to review a program unless told to do so.  You can encourage them, offer them incentive, insist a published testimonial will be a good jump start to their careers, or tell them it’s required, but tell them something to make these tools work for you.  Direct or link them to the program page on Abroad101 where they will find a “Write a Review” icon or have them start here: http://www.studyabroad101.com/reviews/new

In the End, Reviews are Good for the Students

Student reviews will be published on the Abroad101 website and each will become its own webpage.  This creates a great place to feature experiences and use those experiences to open doors to a future career.  Employers are looking for people with an international background and a review on Abroad101 is a perfect place to jump-start career searches.  We suggest that you encourage students to think of a review as a writing sample, a chance to showcase who they really are.  A well written review can show future employers and other recruiters that the student can be constructive in their criticism, take responsibility for outcomes, be reflective and be forward thinking.  Students should state their new worldview and use the review as a place to shine.  If there are a couple pictures of community involvement or doing good deeds, this helps to really separate them from the pack.

Thanks for taking the time to explore Abroad101 a little further.  We’d welcome a chance to further demonstrate the system through a web demo.  If you are interested, please contact us to schedule a session or with any questions you have about your account.

Abroad101, THE Study Abroad Review Website.  Since 2007, Abroad101 is Fast. Free. Easy.

 

Abroad101 Advisors Update – Fall 2016

Abroad101-reviews-logo-web

Have You Seen Your Study Abroad Review Portal Lately?

Each day Abroad101 receives dozens of program evaluations from students that have been invited by either their home university, their provider or their host institution.  We publish each review as a complete web page and tally them in listings by program, provider and host institution, plus in portals for each home school.  As of today, 29,442 student reviews are on Abroad101 making it the largest source of study abroad stories.  Visit the site to see your student reviews!

  1. Start at the university page:
  2. Enter your institution’s name in the search box and click to see your portal.
  3. If you want the ability to manage this portal and use the free software, simply reply with your contact info and we’ll get you a login.

Moms & Dads Use Abroad101

The target audience for Abroad101 is American college students looking for a semester, summer or short-term abroad.  Provider managed, exchange and faculty-led programs are all listed.  Parents and Advisors that support students end up being a big portion of our traffic.  Based on Google Analytics data, we estimate that 20-25% of the visitors to Abroad101 are parents, searching on the keywords like “study abroad reviews” and trying to learn more about the options their children are considering. 

As an advisor, you will find that your recommendations are validated when prospective students and parents read reviews.  Providers will often use reviews in their discussion with students and parents as they find a well-informed student makes for a more successful student.  Reading reviews will help parents become more comfortable with study abroad and to help them set expectations for what lies ahead.  We hope you’ll mention Abroad101 Reviews in your parent communication and put a link to http://www.StudyAbroad101.com on your website to better prepare all.

How to Get Students to Write Reviews?

If you are one of the many institutions that has a legacy process for program evaluations or cannot require students to complete reviews, it will take some work to get reviews part of the study abroad conversation.  So often we hear that it is hard to get students to do anything, let alone spend 20-30 minutes on a review.  This is especially true when students feel that the activity has no benefit for them.  However, they are inclined to share their stories if the exercise gives them a chance to tell their story, and that is exactly what they do on social media for hours a day!

If the student believes the review is good for them, they will generally participate.  That takes some groundwork before they go abroad and as they prepare to return.  One idea to get more engagement is to incorporate a review in your re-entry programming and use the review process as a step toward preparing the students to share their experience with others.  Just like career counselors who tell students to prepare a good resume for a job search, we hope that study abroad advisors will help their students prepare for their return home by guiding them to submitting a thorough and candid review.

We’ve published some articles with messages that should resonate with students, including:

Why Should I Write a Study Abroad Review?

Top 5 Reasons to Write an Education Abroad Review

Getting More from Abroad101

Abroad101 is a tool to help you advance study abroad on your campus and is used by some of the most successful institutions in the field.  Our goal is to see more students going abroad and getting the most from their experience.  We also want those that go to be better informed beforehand and we want to help them turn that experience into a career building stepping stone when they return.  The Abroad101 team is happy to answer any of your questions by email or phone.  We also welcome the opportunity to walk you, and members of your staff though the system with an online demo of the back-end features of Abroad101 to see if our free program evaluation tool is right for you.  The demo will show how you can see reports, compare your results with other institutions, set pre-approved/recommended programs and add custom questions to the standard Abroad101 review.  Abroad101 also has promotional material for you to share with your students, so please let us know how we can help you.

As we approach our 10th anniversary, we’d like to say THANKS for all your support.

You can also see the best of the review stream through social media:

Facebook | Twitter |  Pinterest | Instagram | Linkedin

Leave your Kids (Abroad) Alone

two gifts quote

The year: 1986. The place: My childhood home in NY. The scene: The kitchen where a tan, old school phone with an unruly curly cord hangs on the wall. The language: Portuguese.

On one end of the phone was Sergio, my exchange student “brother” from São Paulo, Brasil. On the other end, what felt like a million miles away, were his parents.   Receiving a call from them was a BIG deal back then. With that phone call Sergio morphed from my English speaking, high school attending “brother” into a young boy from São Paulo who spoke a foreign language. To me, it felt like a completely different person was standing in the kitchen speaking loudly into the phone. The connections weren’t great back then and the call surely was expensive. Magically, with the click of the receiver, American Sergio returned to our family’s view.

Today, Sergio’s son, Gabriel, is living in my home as a year long high school exchange student. As I write this, he is at varsity (American) football practice. He is as adventurous as his brave dad was back in 1986, playing a sport he had only watched tirelessly on TV and the internet.

As a result, I have a bird’s eye view of what it means to be a parent and to miss your child when s/he is abroad. I see Gabi adapting to his new home city, processing and speaking in English 24/7, eager to engage in the world around him. And through Facebook chat and video, I hear his parents’ bellowing in pain from missing their beloved son. As a parent myself to a 20 month old, I can only begin to appreciate what another 14 years of time with my child will translate to when he eventually heads abroad for an extended period one day.

Yet, I cannot help but reflect back on that very vivid scene of Sergio talking with his parents on the phone. So what does any good interculturalist do upon reflection? She asks questions! I logged into Facebook and called Sergio in Brasil to ask him about how he is coping with his son’s absence AND to discuss his family’s plans to come to the US to spend time with us over the holidays. Yes, despite the title of this piece, Sergio and his family WILL come visit us this winter.

Sergio and family

My “brother” Sergio and son, Gabriel approximately 13 years ago. His wife (left) and I (right) hold their twin daughters. Photo taken in Brasil on New Year’s Eve (2002)?

I reflected with Sergio about the scenario above. He thought about it briefly and stated that it is much easier to talk to his son than it was for his parents, yet he has to restrain himself from doing so every day. He wants to talk about the latest Jason Bourne movie that he saw after he heard that Gabi and my husband, Tony, went to the premiere together last week – something they would have done together if Gabi were home in Brasil. He wanted to hear all about his first day of American football practice. He wants to know what he thinks of our city, our home, and what it is like to have a 20 month old brother after having sisters. It is natural to want to stay connected to your child, but Sergio knows how important it is that he allow him space during this tender period of being a new exchange student.   He remembers well how he immersed so seamlessly into our family and community in New York…and how he wants that joy for his own son. He and his wife have told me many times – no matter how much they miss him, they are more happy for him than anything.

I called another friend whose two daughters are both abroad – one is in Europe for 3 weeks while the other is on a study abroad program for a semester. I asked her about how she is adapting to the absence of her girls. Her response was that she misses them but has been very careful not to over communicate in that fragile first week or two, as that is when the bonding needs to happen. They don’t schedule times to talk and she has only “facetimed” once with her daughter in Europe.   She finds it strange that they have had the occasion to text their daughter in South America for random things (e.g. what is the Netflix password!) but otherwise they’re intentionally keeping some distance. When I asked if they planned to visit their elder daughter at the end of her study abroad program they said they’re thinking about it. When I pushed further, she indicated that they felt it would be okay to visit at the end of her semester program as it would give her a chance to show confidence in the language and experience without interrupting her studies. They would not visit if the program were shorter than a semester and wouldn’t do so in the middle of the program – and they may not even do so.

Sergio said the same – if Gabi were coming to the US for a few months only, he’d not plan to visit. But he is adamant that a visiting over the holidays for two weeks when his son will be here for an entire 12 months is acceptable because they won’t interrupt his studies, sports, or friends’ gatherings.

Why should a loving parent not visit a son or daughter on study abroad? After all, you miss each other, so what is the harm in doing so?

There are my two reasons NOT to visit your child on study abroad:

  • You may interrupt their flow: Study abroad requires immersion, space to make mistakes, learn a new language, gain confidence, engage in a new way of being in this world. When you visit your child while on a shorter term study abroad program, you unintentionally are stepping into his/her ability to find and maintain flow in their new surroundings. It is analogous to having to hit pause in your daily life to trot your parents to see everything that you’re experiencing in record time, doing none of it justice. It also doesn’t allow for your child to reflect deeply on the experiences, places and people that are just beginning to capture their attention. If you “leave them be” they will simply have more time to participate in their new culture and to let the new connections in their brains form solid pathways without having to revert back to what they know, their default way of being. So, don’t interrupt their flow, no matter how much they tell you that you HAVE to come to try the gelato in their favorite shop in Venice.
  • Your child will become more independent and learn more life skills: If you stay away from that airport you will likely observe, upon his/her return, that you gifted your child with a better chance of kicking independence into high gear. I see it with Gabi – he is speaking in English only, asking questions of others to gain information that helps him navigate his surroundings, engaging in new friendships even though it is scary to approach people you don’t know, washing his own laundry, unloading the dishwasher, making his own lunch, talking with his football coaches directly, and so much more. If you want an independent kid, don’t get on a plane and ask your child to hit pause on growth in their new home country in exchange for the ability to educate you and reinforce their learning for you. They will tell you ALL about it when they’re home while showing you their confidence and how empowered they have become. Additionally, if you’re willing to wait that long, you may find that you are truly the only person on the planet willing to sit through all 7,000 photos and hear all of the stories – an opportunity to bond with each other in a reflective learning space – and they’ll certainly appreciate that.

As difficult as it is to not get on the plane, staying home also offers YOU an opportunity for growth. What can you do with your time instead of checking in on your child? Here are 3 ideas:

  • Engage in new activities: Sergio started going to the gym each day, as he has found a lot more free time since his son is away for the year. Perhaps you can surprise your child by studying the language class of his/her study abroad country at home. With less face to face time with your beloved child, you have a chance to find your inner child! Sign up for an art class, join a book club, or pull out that list of places locally you have been meaning to visit. Take your child’s adventurous spirit and apply it at home.
  • Reconsider your adult relationship: Your child will eventually return home with a heightened maturity. Think about how you can relate to your “baby” as an adult – someone who has not only ventured away for college, but to an entirely new country and language. Make a list of items to discuss with him/her upon return such as “What has changed for you and how can we incorporate that into our home?” and “What do I need to be aware of to be supportive during your transition home?”
  • Talk to YOUR parents: Reflect on your own transitions in life and how your own relationship with your parents ebbed and flowed over the years. What stands out for you? When did you most need them to let you cut the apron strings? How did they deal with you taking the leap and trusting the net would appear? Journal some of these memories to rely on when your own child needs space and freedom from the family unit.

With that said, Sergio and I are planning for his family’s visit over the winter holidays. We decided that a year IS a really long time not to see your child and that we want to support a wonderful gathering, not only for his own family but for Sergio to visit his New York “hometown” for a reunion of host parents, friends, teachers, and families. I look forward to such a reflective experience, not only with him, but with his son too.

What are your thoughts about letting a son or daughter navigate the education abroad experience without a visit from a parent? I invite you to comment below!

 

missy gluckman

 

Missy Gluckmann is a traveler, educator, interculturalist, trainer, speaker and career coach specializing in international education and careers across cultures. Originally from New York, she has lived abroad three times, most recently in Cuenca, Ecuador, and is currently enjoying the gorgeous mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. She founded Melibee Global and Better Abroad as a way to inject creative tools into international education, with an emphasis on study abroad. You can connect with on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Abroad101 Advisors Newsletter – Summer 2016

Abroad101-reviews-logo-web

Now more than ever, we need the first-hand accounts of what goes on in study abroad.  Parents and families worry about health and safety in study abroad so we suggest (to use the old sports analogy) “the best defense is a good offense.”  Translated, this means we should flood the market with good news, and by news, we are referring to student reviews.  Each review tells a student’s story and becomes yet another testimonial as to the impact that an international education experience has on a young life.  If you are an existing user of Abroad101, this is your reminder to login and send review invitations out.  Below you’ll find some additional suggestions and recommendations from Abroad101, THE study abroad review website.

Lack of Reviews is Bad Practice

The word “transparency” is used more and more when it comes to education.  Despite some well-intended efforts, the field of education abroad has not conformed to the spirit of transparency and that is likely turning people away from participating.  We hear arguments that education is different, but consumer research is pretty clear, lack of reviews turns customers away.  Bad reviews draw more interest than good reviews AND random bad reviews don’t deter buyers.  A pattern of bad reviews does indicate trouble and would impact participation as it should.  A search for the negative is often what compels people to come to a review website and in an odd way, the negative provides reassurance to people skeptical of the rhetoric of other outlets.  We suggest you read the influence of reviews.

Your Best Option: Replace you Evaluation Process with a Review Process

We encourage you to take the leap as a number of universities have done, and become fully transparent by turning your private study abroad program evaluation process into a public review process.  When every student is required to complete a review in order to received credit, you get more candor, usable data and testimonials of the impact of study abroad.   We can’t help but think this transparent process positively impacts participation at these institutions. 

Take a look at our Best Practice Leaders:

Brandeis University

Middlebury College

Trinity University

Wellesley College

Another Option: Make a review a Re-entry Exercise

If your hands are tied by legacy systems and processes, perhaps you can approach the problem from the student’s point of view and incorporate a study abroad review as part of a re-entry exercise.  If a student can coherently state what happened to them in writing, they will be much more prepared to discuss their experiences with friends, family and as the student moves beyond college.  Showing they can express their emotions, in a published format is a big step forward and a reason to complete a review.  Having this review published demonstrates the student can express themselves in coherent ways and is a great writing sample and an expression of their new world view.  You will help your students better prepare for their future by making a review part of the study abroad process.

WhyAbroad101?  It is Re-Entry in a Box

The Abroad101 review is 38 questions in length and is designed to walk students through a reflection of who they were before they left, who they are now and what they hope for their future.  As part of this process, they will rate 9 different aspects of their program and provide some insight and tips for future students.  Taking 20-30 minutes to complete, the review can help students put their feelings into words and start the process of communicating their experiences.   They can add photos and turn their review into a point of pride, a capstone to their education abroad experience.  As a university, you get to control this process using Abroad101.

Other Uses of Reviews

In addition to giving you better data and providing marketing material to bring you future students, perhaps the most innovative use of reviews is to help set expectations.  Reviews and their insight can help students and parents have a better idea of what to expect making reviews ideal content for orientation.  We’ve heard of overseas staff who welcome students to a program by directing them to their program listing on Abroad101 and using this to start a conversation about the program.  A few create a Facebook group for the new students and the first posting is to review the reviews.  It’s a real fresh approach to orientation and harnesses the power of social media.  Please read: 10 reasons to use Abroad101 

It’s for Faculty-led and Exchange Programs Too

Abroad101 is happy to list your faculty-led programs in our system.  For your exchange partnerships we have a catch-all “Direct Enrollment & Exchange” listing for every foreign university.  You are welcome to use Abroad101 for each or all of types of education abroad and study away programs.  Remember, you can use Abroad101 to boost your home university enrollments.  There is a feature to turn off the inquiry option for programs not open to outside students.

Managed Services, Abroad201 and Other Ways We Can Help

Every university is provided with an account on Abroad101 and free access to manage your portal on Abroad101.  The software that operates our system is a fully functional program evaluation tool along with a host of utilities, provided free of charge.  Abroad101 has a support team here to help you understand and make the most of the tools.  We are quick to answer questions (support@abroad101.com or +1-212-321-0928) and in some cases we can help you with simple tasks like your approved programs list, sending out invitations, creating faculty-led program listings.

If you need more, we’re able to help.  With our Managed Services, we can tie Abroad101 to your enrollment management system.  We can extract lists of participating students from your enrollment system, oversee review collection, then tie reporting back or produce external reports.  We know data, and for a modest fee, we’d be happy help you get better data, manage it and generate effective reporting.

Our Abroad201 service offers a host of customization with options as to what to survey, who to survey plus what and where you might publish the data.  It is an industry-specific version of survey software, so if you are using SurveyMonkey or Qualtrics, think about using Abroad201.

We thank you for taking the time to explore abroad 101 and for your continued support.

Happy Summer!

 Mark Shay / Abroad101

Considering the Influence of Online Study Abroad Reviews:

Considering the Influence of Online Study Abroad Reviews:

A Reflection On “How Online Product Reviews Affect Retail Sales: A Meta-Analysis”

4 starsWhether we like it or not, the roles of traditional marketing and word-of-mouth promotion now share a large seat at the table with online product reviews. Many industries are already defined by the way their customers use online opportunities to “harangue, lecture, pontificate, and otherwise broadcast personal opinions” (Notess 2000), and for most of us it is increasingly rare to book a hotel, buy a camera, or select a movie without first consulting the opinion of hundreds of strangers. But the actual influence of online reviews on sales remains the center of an academic discussion that is still diverse in focus, method, and results. Professors Floyd, Freling, Alhoqail, Cho, and Freling (College of Business Administration, University of Texas at Arlington) set out to bring some uniformity to the topic with their meta-analysis of 26 studies that included 443 sales elasticities. Their conclusions pose interesting questions for a product that they do not include, namely study abroad programs, where publicly available participant reviews are still in initial stages of popularity but seem likely to follow the course of most other products and services, for reasons that will be seen.

An important note is that the authors of this paper found little variation in their findings despite differences in geography (US or non-US), prestige (elite journals verses lesser known) or method (simple verses sophisticated analysis), which “suggests that the conclusions we draw about online product reviews are relatively generalizable across a variety of contexts” (227). Still, there is likely to be some healthy skepticism towards applying these findings to study abroad. Clearly, more than any product included in the meta-analysis, study abroad programs vary widely in price, length, intent, and conditions, but most importantly in the motivation of participants. While some students might prioritize travel or social opportunities, others seek unique academic or linguistic boost to their education, and a negative review about lax academics might actually incentivize a prospective participant who reads it, for example. There is the divergence of interpretation between the parent who is often the (paying) customer and the student who is the (participating) consumer. Moreover, since most students accept the programs offered by their academic institution anyway, is there any need to look to reviews for a “competitive” advantage? Is it better for the provider to limit reviews to private evaluations to determine that the program meets the organization’s goals? All these are valid, and this reflection intends to do no more or less than consider the state of research on online reviews as presented in the meta-analysis by Floyd et al., to suggest the impact these findings could have on study abroad programs, and finally to highlight the need for further research into these and many other questions specific to study abroad.

The studies included in Floyd et al.’s analysis consider the impact of online reviews on the sale of hotel rooms, books, movies, digital cameras, craft beer, video games, music albums, audio and video players, DVDs, TV shows, and video game consoles (219). The key finding was that online reviews do have an influence on sales across the board. The impact was significantly greater than shelf space elasticity, personal selling elasticity, and both long-term and short-term sales elasticities. In fact, the only factor they measured that had a greater influence on sales was price (219). While not surprising it is meaningful to find such consistency across a wide range of studies and products. What is surprising is the indication that electronic word of mouth has actually overtaken more traditional sources of information. The authors reference a study made over five countries that asked shoppers to indicate the most important sources of information they use to make a purchase decision. Online ratings and reviews were number one (52%), above advice from family and friends (49%), and far beyond advice from store employees (12%) (Cisco 2013). This indicates a major shift in the way people make purchasing decisions, with increasing trust in people they’ve never met exceeding close personal relations.

Advice from friends and family has already been an imperfect solution for those considering study abroad. Because study abroad is experienced by around 10% of undergraduate student, and even less for the generation of their adult family members or friends (IIE, Open Doors Data, 2015), there is often little opportunity for a decision maker, whether student or parent, to find pertinent advice from a familiar source. This is even truer when seeking information about a specific program. The best option before the days of the internet was often to speak with someone who studied abroad, perhaps on an entirely different sort of program, and be told to either “go for it” or not. Thus, in the context of study abroad, online reviews seem likely to not simply overtake advice from friends and family, and rather to fill a void that was never adequately met by traditional word of mouth. This perspective is all the stronger when considering the importance of “product involvement” (discussed below) and the age group of study abroad participants being more reliant on online information (age of consumer was not a factor considered in the meta-analysis).

Beyond personal relationships, the obvious place to get information about specific study abroad programs is the study abroad office. Despite clear differences this is comparable to “advice from store employees,” which was a distant third with only 12% of shoppers mentioning it as a decision-making factor. Of course study abroad professionals are seen as being more knowledgeable and trustworthy than a commission-driven store employee, but these findings speak to the overall societal wariness of marketing or perceived ulterior motives, and encouragement to participate from a study abroad professional is not processed the same way as feedback from a former participant.

Similarly, looking at various types of online hosts for reviews, Floyd et al. found that “reviews appearing on a third-party website have significantly higher sales elasticities than those appearing on seller websites” (226). Especially when considering the products in question, this rings true, since few of us would give equal weight to praise splashed across a brand’s website compared to non-filtered reviews. Further research needs to be done to determine if this plays out differently when prospective participants visit the homepage of a study abroad office and interpret quotes from previous participants. Doubtless there is more trust between the university office and the “insider” student than between a traditional seller and buyer, but if a third-party source of reviews were found to be consistent with the information published by the study abroad office then trust would be bolstered.

Providing multiple sources for reviews and information is especially advisable in light of the final conclusion of the meta-analysis concerning “product involvement.” Product involvement is defined as “a consumer’s enduring perceptions of a product category’s importance,” especially regarding monetary investment but including factors such as time, importance, and risk (224). The authors found that “consumers engage in extensive (limited) online search for products that are more (less) involving, which they associate with higher (lower) perceived risk” (228). The authors use the example of the purchase of a digital camera as a high-involvement decision, but by their definition few “products” could be more involving then a study abroad program. Because of the unique nature of study abroad as a purchasing decision, more research is needed to confirm that consumer habits follow the same logic in this industry. The reliance on reviews might be specific to more price-sensitive decision-makers, or to those who are the first in their family to go abroad, etc. If it is shown that potential study abroad participants follow these general consumer trends then we can expect them to spend more time reading more reviews and to be more influenced by their content than for almost any other purchasing decision.

As consumers increasingly look to the internet for decision-making information and become more selective about where they place their trust, greater research needs to be done about the influence on the industry of study abroad. Do decision makers approach study abroad in a similar way as other purchasing decisions? Are certain demographics more likely to seek out online reviews, and how do they interpret what they read? Are reviews more impactful depending on program cost or length (greater “involvement”)? As college applicants increasingly look to online university ratings and even professor ratings, is there any sign that students are evaluating study abroad programs as part of their choice of university?

The temptation is to see study abroad as a less competitive environment and thus less impacted by reviews, but another perspective is to see competition between students participating in study abroad or not. With the goal of using as many tools as possible to increase lead conversion, there is much merit in considering how electronic word of mouth could tip the scales.

– Caleb House

About the Author:

Caleb House is Abroad101’s Social Media Editor.  Caleb 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.  

 

 

Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (2013), Catch and Keep Digital Shoppers, http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/retail/Catch-and-

Keep-the-Digital-Shopper PoV.pdf

Floyd, Kristopher; Freling, Ryan; Alhoqail, Saad; Cho, Hyun Young; Freling, Traci; How Online Product Reviews Affect Retail Sales: A Meta-analysis, Journal of Retailing 90 (2, 2014) 217–232

Notess, Greg R. (2000), Consumers’ Revenge: Online Product Reviews and Ratings, Web Wanderings. http://notess.com/write/archive/200004ww.html

IIE (2015), Open Doors Data Highlights, http://www.iie.org/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/Infographics#.VyFOGDArLIU

 

 

 

Abroad101 Advisors Newsletter – Spring 2016

Abroad101-reviews-logo-webWe appreciate you taking a few minutes from your busy day to catch up on the happenings at Abroad101, the first and largest study abroad review website.  As we wrap up another semester, we start by reminding you to send review invites to returning students through your account on Abroad101.  You can also guide your students to start their reviews here: http://www.StudyAbroad101.com/reviews/new

The Latest Study Abroad Rankings:

For the fifth year, Abroad101 has tallied student reviews and produced “The 2015 Study Abroad Rankings.”  The rankings recognize the study abroad programs and locations rated highest by American students who have studied abroad in the last year. The rankings also reflect the dynamic nature of study abroad and identify up-and-coming destinations and program types in addition to top programs and providers.  From this year’s data we found that big cities are in, programs are touring, and more American students are studying abroad on programs coordinated by their home universities.

You can read the press release or view the latest rankings

As advisors, you can help improve the study abroad rankings by encouraging your students to tell their story and submit a review.  Each review counts toward the rankings and contributes insight about the whole of study abroad: from academics to food and from cost to the friendliness of the destination.  Please remember, rankings are an indicator of quality, not a measure of quality, and it is in the spirit of transparency that we publish the rankings. 

Review and Parents: Helping Set Expectations:

About 25% of the visitors to Abroad101 are parents searching for more insight into their children’s options. It is no secret that parents are increasingly involved in their children’s college education, and study abroad is no exception.  Reviews are a good way to redirect parents’ inquiries about programs and also as tool to help set expectations about a particular host university, host country, or provider.  Each Abroad101 review has 38 questions including star ratings on 9 different program aspects.  Put a review in front of a family and you’ll see the eyes of the student got to the social (or food) ratings, the mother to the safety ratings and a father to cost ratings.  This is more than just a stereotype; it demonstrates that reviews serve multiple audiences and deliver multiple perspectives.  Abroad101’s reviews are designed to foster conversation around the options and build a better sense of awareness before making the final choice.  As the old adage goes “An educated consumer is the best customer.”  For mom and dad, they think of study abroad as a product and themselves as a consumer.  Considering everything else that is rated and ranked it is only natural for parents and students to consider study abroad reviews.

Reviews and Re-entry:

Often we hear that it is hard to get students to do anything, let alone spend 20-30 minutes on a review.  This is especially true when students feel that the activity has no benefit for them.  However, they are inclined to share their stories if the exercise gives them a chance to tell their story, and that is exactly what they do on social media for hours a day! 

If the student believes the review is good for them, they will generally participate.  That takes some groundwork before they go abroad and as they prepare to return.  One idea to get more engagement is to incorporate a review in your re-entry programming and use the review process as a step toward preparing the students to share their experience with others.  Just like career counselors who tell students to prepare a good resume for a job search, we hope that study abroad advisors will help their students prepare for their return home by guiding them to submitting a thorough and candid review.

If you have a formal re-entry process, you can tie that to your Abroad101 results in a number of ways.  Within your account dashboard you can export the reviews of your students.  Those reviews have an email address and a serial number.  You can enter that serial number in your enrollment or student information systems to fulfill a requirement, or you can create a process for the student to do so.  If you are using Terra Dotta for example, we encourage you to tie the returnee phase to a questionnaire with that serial number.  Read more about linking Abroad101 and Terra Dotta Software.

What can be Better than Abroad101’s Free Software?

Since 2007, Abroad101 has been suggesting that program evaluations and online reviews can be the same thing.  A number of colleges and universities have already adopted Abroad101 as their program evaluation platform.  Today Abroad101 is the largest publisher of these powerful study abroad testimonials, yet some institutions feel that the system isn’t right for their needs.

To serve the market better we created Abroad201, a combination of software and services that provides a full range of customization and publishing options for your program evaluations.  With Abroad201 you can take those paper-based forms and turn them into meaningful data.  You can manage the publication of some or all of the reviews to wherever you want them displayed and whomever you want them shared with.  You can take the results and turn them into reports, benchmark them as you choose, and greatly enhance your reporting capabilities.

Abroad201 is a cloud-based software program and service with fees that vary depending on the level of service.  Abroad101 is free software that will remain standard in function and purpose.  Pick whichever tools meet your budget and your goals.  If you’re interested in learning more about Abroad201, please visit the new product website and sign up for a presentation call or an online demo.

Talk to us:

For those of you attending NAFSA, please stop by and say hello.  We’ll be at Booth #1133.

Every university has an account on Abroad101.  If you’d like more details on accessing yours with the option of a private online web demo, please contact support@abroad101.com

 

Happy Spring!

Mark Shay

Abroad101  /  +1-610-357-4648  /  mark@abroad101.com

www.StudyAbroad101.com

WHO SHOULD STUDY ABROAD

India-Manipal-Manipal Univ

WHO SHOULD STUDY ABROAD

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.

KNOW THYSELF

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.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL

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!

READY FOR A BIGGER CHALLENGE?

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!

SUMMING UP

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.