Tips on Finding What Type of Study Abroad Program is Right for You

Types of Study Abroad Programs

Tips on finding what type of Study Abroad Program is right for you.

For American college students the term “study abroad” is a general term that has multiple meanings, the most common being an academic program with ties to the student’s college or university. Study abroad allows a student to live in a foreign country in an apartment, homestay or even on the campus of a foreign university. There are also study abroad programs for high school students and college graduates, some offer resume building work or volunteer experience. Before you make any commitments, you’ll want to understand the definitions of study abroad and consider costs versus benefits of each option.

Study abroad viewed by many incoming Freshman is an essential component to a full college experience. Study abroad seems simple enough: just pick a place to go, find a program to take you there, apply, send your money and you’re all set. When you get into the details it is a lot more complex, because for most students study abroad is not part of the standard curriculum at a college, it is an option. If you take a program through an outside entity, the rules state that credit hours earned outside the student’s home university aren’t treated the same as normal credit hours, so those credits need to be transferred to your academic record. The process is filled with technicalities that will seem a little daunting at first but it is completely worthwhile. When you read the study abroad reviews https://www.studyabroad101.com/programs and hear about all the amazing discoveries and experiences, you’ll understand why so many students say study abroad was the “greatest four months of my life.”  Later in life, many students will tell you that their education abroad experience had the greatest impact on them during their entire time at college.

Education Abroad during Semester Breaks

Some degree programs sequence their courses tightly making a semester away very difficult. For those students universities and program providers continue to introduce creative ways to work education abroad into the college experience. One way is to study abroad when students are normally on a break where the student doesn’t have to disrupt their progress toward their degree and can graduate on time. These off-season programs include:

  • January Sessions or J-Term are 3 or 4 week mini-semesters at the start of the year designed to squeeze a single course into the end of your Christmas break
  • May or Maymester is a single course over a 3 or 4 week mini-semester that follows Spring finals and finished before the usual summer sessions
  • Summer Sessions – 4 to 10 week programs that can offer one to three academic courses, sometimes broken into two sessions (Summer 1 and Summer 2)
  • International Summer Schools https://www.studyabroad101.com/countries/international-summer-schools – Programs at foreign universities, in English for students from all over the world

Semester Exchange Programs versus Education Abroad Providers

If you can study abroad during a normal academic term, many college/universities have recommended alternatives that are exchange partnerships or ties with study abroad provider companies. An endorsed exchange program provides pre-selected courses at a foreign university designed to provide academic credit hours at the student’s home university through transfer credit. Exchange programs allow to stay on your current funding plan, pay to your home university and you pay only for airfare and expenses. Scholarships may be available to help cover these added costs, or they can be packaged into that semester’s financial aid. Check with your study abroad advisor or Financial Aid Office for details.

The education abroad field has a number of third-party study abroad providers who run study abroad programs as their business. They understand what is involved in a successful study away experience and provide overseas staff, amenities and support. Some programs have the classroom component at pre-selected foreign universities where exchange students and provider students may sit side by side. Those provider companies offer a host of extra services and support services and can really help students navigate the complexities of an education abroad experience. For students willing the take the challenge, exchange programs may provide a more affordable option. In Exchange Programs, the study abroad student will be treated like an international student and will likely find themselves in a mix of students from other countries as well as those from the host country. Here is a list of foreign universities that host American students.  Click to view and you’ll see a tab for direct enroll and exchange next to a tab for provider programs. Click and read the reviews to learn more about the pros and cons of each option.

Boost your GPA, Stay on Track with Faculty-Led Programs

Transfer credits are pass/fail. If you want to impact your GPA or earn credit for required courses, you might want to explore programs run by your university. Often these are called faculty-led programs because as the title suggests, faculty-led programs are led by a professor from the home university who is an expert in the course topic and the program immerses students into a deep, hand-on study of the subject. Faculty-led programs are generally groups of students from the home university and the programs often include organized travel, multiple destinations and tours often overseen by the same third-party providers who run semester programs. Faculty-led programs will offer home university credit and are often offered off-season on semester breaks.

Study Abroad Doesn’t Have to be Expensive:

“The cost varies depending on the type and location of the program, the length of the stay, and whether the program is administered through a university or an outside organization. A program can be significantly less expensive, more, or about the same. Study abroad can be affordable. Many colleges and universities are committed to maintaining cost parity; a semester abroad should cost exactly the same as one on the home campus, at least as far as tuition and board.” From – https://www.huffpost.com/entry/busting-the-top-10-study-abroad_b_4175861

Get Approval Before You Go

Before you (the student) commit to any study abroad program, we suggest you speak with your academic advisor, the education abroad office and your Financial Aid office on campus. Know before you go and get all the necessary pre-approvals and forms filed. Study Abroad is filled with red-tape, forms to complete and permissions to get. Consider your transfer credit options, financial aid and degree progression considerations. Ask lots of questions so that you fully understand your options. There’s a program for everyone, once you understand what type of program interests you and how that affect you, we suggest you use the read the reviews to better compare and understand the possibilities.

 

 

 

5 Must-Haves for Exchange Students

Meta: These are some of the most useful things to have when studying abroad.

There are challenges in becoming an exchange student, but these shouldn’t hinder you
from having a great experience. Featured below are five of the best things to bring when
studying abroad. These are a mix of tangible and intangible items, excluding tips and
advice.

Fanny Pack

Don’t worry, fanny packs are no longer viewed as unfashionable accessories. They are
back and some wear them in unusually fashionable ways. These small bags, also known
as bumbags, can be a great pouch for important things including your smartphone, IDs,
passport, little notebooks, and pens. They can even be a more secure place for your
wallet.

If you prefer wearing your backpack most of the time, of course you no longer have to
bring a fanny pack. It’s just a convenient option to have when you don’t have a lot of
things to carry around.

Translation App

Sure, you may have studied a new language as part of your preparations in going to
another country to become an exchange student. However, the little time you spent
studying a foreign language may not be enough. You could use some assistance from an
online translator.

Make sure that the translation app you choose is notable for its accuracy and
optimization. You don’t want to have an app on your phone that rarely provides the
correct and appropriate translations, and hogs your smartphone’s memory and computing resources. It has to be a reputable and well-optimized app, preferably one that comes with the option to contact a human translator. You may encounter instances when you need human translation service for indubitable accuracy like when you have to sign a contract, understand a literary work in a foreign language, or submit a paper that should be in the local language of the school you are attending.

Essential electronics

Of course, if you were to use an app, you need to bring a smartphone or computer with
you. Just make sure your phone is compatible with the cellular network in the new
location you will be staying in. Your CDMA phone may not work in the new place that
only supports 2G and 4G. Also take note of your device’s charger plug and voltage. You
may need an adapter or a mini transformer/inverter to be able to use your devices.

You may no longer need to take your camera with you as your smartphone likely has a
decent camera with it. Also, don’t bother taking your bulky external hard drive with you.
Invest in a good 128GB (or bigger) SD card if your smartphone and laptop supports it.
Consider bringing a high capacity power bank, though, or a hand crank or solar power
charger. It would be great if your power bank comes with its own flashlight, but if it does
not have one, you can buy a small USB LED light that attaches to your power bank.

First aid kit

It’s advisable to have a first aid kit to deal with non-critical problems such as wounds,
insect bites, and allergic reactions. However, don’t include non-prescription medicines in
it unless the host school asks you to bring some such as antihistamines and pain relievers. Most schools have clinics that can competently attend to your health needs. Self-medicating with non-prescription medicines can result in complications.

Body care products

Always be presentable and hygienic as you can be perceived as a representation of the
people in your country. That’s why you shouldn’t forget your deodorant, feminine care
products (for the ladies of course), oral care essentials, and toiletries. If you have a
dandruff problem, make sure you have your trusted effective dander-control shampoo
with you. You may also need a good moisturizing lotion if your skin is not accustomed to
cold weather, which can induce skin drying and flaking.

Make the most of your experience in being an exchange student with the help of the items listed above. Also, don’t forget to make friends as they are your best bet if you encounter problems, especially in situations your gadgets and kits cannot suitably address.

Author Bio:
Sean Hopwood certainly knows a lot about meeting new people and experiencing new
cultures. He is the multilingual CEO of DayInterpreting, a company that provides real
time multilingual interpreting services. Sean wants to share his passion for progress,
understanding, and positivity through his articles.

Prevent The Risk of Identity Theft While Studying Abroad

Gone are the days when thieves stole purses and wallets and settled for the coins and notes in there. In 2016, more than 791 million identities were reported stolen from American students living abroad. In fact, Americans are most likely to fall victims to identity theft than any other nationality. Today, your credit card, passport, identity card and bank ATM’s are all targets. People traveling abroad for studies are at a higher risk of identity theft. Thieves tend to target students from western countries as they are assumed to be wealthier than any other. Once the fraudsters get their hands on your personal and financial documents, phone, and wallet; chances are that your identity will be stolen and render you a victim of fraud. However, there are measures that you can take to minimize your risks.

Carry Less Valuables

It is highly advisable that you do not carry unnecessary documents when traveling. This includes your credit cards, photo identification, or paperwork bearing vital details. If possible, leave your wallet at home or hide it well within your luggage. Do not put it where it can easily be snatched or stolen.

Keep Copies of Important Documents

You can never be too safe with your documents when in transit. Making copies of all your; VISA, Passport, Student Identity Card, Insurance card, as a precautionary measure is necessary. Email these copies to yourself and leave original documents with a trusted family member or friend whom you can contact from overseas. This way, you can easily organize for the replacement of the documents in case any of them is stolen.

Create a New Email Account For Travel

Creating a new email account is free of charge and only takes a few minutes. As a precautionary measure, creating one to use while studying abroad is a necessary measure. By doing this, you deny them the power to cause havoc. By hacking your private account, they stand a higher chance of accessing your school and financial data.

Take Advantage of Travel Cash Rewards

Anyone can prevent identity fraud when studying abroad. Identity protection service providers advise that students consider using travel cards. These can be loaded with foreign currency prior to travel. This option comes with other benefits besides preventing identity theft. You can avoid bank conversion fees by locking in the current exchange rate. These cash cards can also be used as an ordinary Visa credit card. It is best that you register for this card online so that you can easily deactivate it and also retrieve the stolen money. This denies fraudsters access to your identity or the bank accounts linked to that card. Students overseas are susceptible to theft as they are oblivious and focused on having a good time. For safety purposes, it is best that you avoid public WiFi networks, opt for fingerprint security for your phone, and report immediately in case your documents get stolen. Luckily for students, they can purchase a travel insurance prior to the trip. It covers lost travel documents cash and credit cards. Others additionally cover missed trips, delayed flights, food expenses, emergency/unplanned accommodation in case a student is held up due to lost documents.

Win a trip to Germany – enter DAAD’s Photo Contest!

Abroad101.com is happy to pass along this Photo Contest with DAAD! Who wouldn’t want to win a trip to Germany!!!

DAAD North America launched its annual contest for students from US and Canadian campuses. First-prize is a round-trip fare to Germany!

Do you have a review published with Abroad101? Post your Germany photos as part of the review and enter them in the contest. Share your favorite places with the world. If you like to write a review you can do that here.

This year, we want to see photos of Germany that reveal #YourHiddenGermany and go beyond Oktoberfest, Neuschwanstein and the Brandenburg Gate (as much as we love them). 

To participate in the 2018 Annual DAAD Contest, students can submit up to 3 photos of #YourHiddenGermany. The best #YourHiddenGermany photos will be featured on the DAAD USA and DAAD Canada websites and in their respective Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Use #YourHiddenGermany to share your entries with, friends, family, and DAAD USA’s and DAAD Canada’s followers.

Contest Prizes:

First-prize:           Round-trip airfare to Germany.

Second-prize:      GoPro Hero Camera.

Third-prize:          $50 gift card for www.GermanDeli.com.

How to Enter –

To participate in the 2018 Annual DAAD Contest, please submit up to 3 photos of #YourHiddenGermany. Include a description of what the image shows and why it is special to you. The best #YourHiddenGermany photos will be featured on the DAAD USA and DAAD Canada websites and in our respective Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Use #YourHiddenGermany to share your entries with, friends, family, and DAAD USA’s and DAAD Canada’s followers.

Here are the Contest Guidelines:

  1. To participate, you must be 18 years or older and enrolled as a full-time student in a university degree program in the U.S. or Canada.
  2. All submissions must include a photo and description (max. 255 characters).
  3. Maximum file size for photo uploads is 8 MB.
  4. Photos can be uploaded as JPG-files or directly from Instagram.
  5. Horizontal, vertical and square photos are ok, but please no panorama images.
  6. Do not upload photos that have been edited (no filters) or that feature inappropriate content.

All entries must be received by April 29th , 5:00pm EDT. For more information: https://www.daad.org/en/2018/04/06/daad-photo-contest/

Abroad101 April 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 France, Jordan, Ireland and New Zealand.

Alayne Chipman, our 120th Abroad101 Student of the Week winner is currently sophomore at the University of Idaho. With an outstanding 4.0 GPA, several honors, awards and distinctions while pursuing a double major, Alayne is now also hoping to study abroad at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

Alayne has always wanted to study in a foreign country, and to being immersed in a new and unknown culture. As an architecture and interior design major, Alayne’s long term goal is to join a preservation society and to renovate and restore old homes. She would also like to work with the building industry and make buildings more eco-friendly.  She is looking forward to getting out of her comfort zone and exploring new things while continuing to follow her passion in the design fields.

We wish Alayne all the best in New Zealand and hope that she will have a life changing experience there!

Learn more about Alayne’s mission here.


Congratulations goes to our 121st Abroad101 Student of the Week winner, Christopher Janiszewskicurrently a sophomore at UNC Charlotte studying Computer Science.

One of Christopher’s goals in life is to photograph the world through his travels while making a living with his Computer Science Degree. Luckily for him, he has had a chance to travel to various places in Europe as well as the United States. Therefore now his ultimate dream is to one day being able to combine his passion for photography with his career in Computer Science.  He also hopes to have the opportunity to work and live overseas once he graduates from UNC Charlotte.

Chris was recently accepted to a Study Abroad program in Galway, Ireland with a program called International Studies Abroad.  Through this program, Christopher will be taking courses that focus on Irish history and culture as well as math classes. In addition the landscape of Ireland is quite fascinating and he’s looking forward to take photos to add to his portfolio. It is through this unique experience, gaining not only independence and confidence, but also a new perspective on culture and diversity, that Christopher hopes will expand his opportunities.

This study abroad program cost is expensive and even though Chris has been working at Fitzgerald’s Irish Pub in Uptown Charlotte, NC and he has applied for financial aid and scholarships, it still not enough to cover the total program cost and airfare to Ireland. He will use all the money that he raises to help him cover the program cost.

We wish Christopher all the best in Ireland!

To check out Christopher’s Mission and donate to his cause, click here!


 

Wade Farr, is our 122nd Abroad101 Student of the Week winner!

He is currently a junior attending Brigham Young University, majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic. Wade’s family is from an Arabic speaking country which influenced his desire to learn this language. He fell in love with the language and culture of his fathers country and decided helping refugees was what he wanted to do. Working as an intern at a school district that had thousands of refugees, Wade was able to meet with the refugees, give them his support and listen to their stories. While not sure yet what career he wants to pursue, he knows that his goal is to help refugees get a better life. To help refugees, he is aware of the fact that he needs to learn the Arabic language and understand the Middle East culture, issues, and laws.

That is why he is very excited because he got the amazing opportunity to go Study Abroad in Amman, Jordan, for the fall semester of this year! He will be attending Al-Qasid Institute, which is a prestigious language school near the University of Amman. The program will include 2 hours of Arabic speaking with natives, studying Arabic under natives who teach Modern Standard Arabic and the Jordanian dialect, and experiencing the culture of Amman. In addition to this, he will also travel to Palestine/Israel for his last 3 weeks there to analyze the Israeli conflict and further his knowledge of the region.

Wade will use the money that he raises in this fundraiser to help cover his tuition fees and residence while attending the Al-Quasid Institute program.

We wish Wade all the best in his fundraising for Jordan and hope that he will have a life changing experience there!

To check out Wade’s Mission and donate to his cause, click here!


Congratulations to our 123rd Abroad 101 Student of the week Shelbie Koenitzer! Shelbie is currently a senior undergrad student at Michigan Technological University and has a goal of achieving a B.S. in Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship as well as an International French minor. That is a lot of studying! This trip will help her reach her goal of becoming truly fluent in French, which Shelbie hopes in turn becomes a useful tool in finding a job and working in an increasingly global business environment.

This opportunity is also a requirement for Shelbie’s minor, and with her strong passion for the French language as well as her desire to travel the world, she will defiantly make the most of the trip.  The program will be include two courses throughout her time abroad; one intensive French course and one business course relevant to her major.

The funds she raises through GoEnnounce will be put towards the program fee itself. The total program fee is $6,250 but she has covered $5000 already with help from her dad and scholarships, leaving her with $1,250 left to raise. We wish Shelbie all the best in France and hope that she will have a life changing experience there!

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

Studying Abroad Online vs Classroom Education

 

Plenty of wise men throughout the years have stated that true education is a never-ending process. Whether you aim to maximize your income prospects or if you simply want to know more about the world we live in, there can be no doubt that furthering your education is one of the best roads you can take in life.  Combining travel and studies has been show to provide a powerful combination of experiences and give students not only a memorable experience, it is often referred to as life changing. Not too many college alumni will say a campus-based Chemistry class was life-changing, but if that course was taken while the student was overseas, then wow!

Whereas once upon a time the only way to earn college credit was by physically attending a place of learning, nowadays the online revolution has swept up the educational system as well. In fact, in this day and age you can even study abroad online, as many top schools throughout the world allow students of all nationalities to earn prestigious degrees without ever setting foot in a classroom.  If you have the discipline to balance both study and travel, then you might want to create your own personal hybrid program and take online courses while you trek.

 

Cost

In most parts of the world, getting a good education isn’t cheap. With skyrocketing tuition costs and relatively meager employment prospects for recent grads, it’s fair to wonder if higher education is actually worth the investment. Additionally, going the traditional route will also lead to incurring substantial fees for room and board, plus all the extra costs related to moving to another country. Opting for an online education tends to be comparatively cheaper overall, especially when it comes to schools that focus solely on long distance learning and have lower overhead costs as a result.

Accessibility

A significant part of the traditional college experience is related to the idea of going away to another part of the country or the world, where new people and experiences await. While this kind of thing can undoubtedly seem exciting when you’re young, for people who already have to balance familial obligations and maybe even a full-time job with their educational goals, it often is a bridge too far. Online education comes with the possibility of handling coursework right from the comforts of your home, which doesn’t require any commute time at all. But some online education providers also offer the possibility of traveling to their respective learning facilities on short-term internships, thus giving prospective students the chance to broaden their cultural horizons as well.

Experience

The feeling of being in a classroom surrounded by your peers is something that’s treasured by many, and it’s a big part of why traditional education is still the norm all over the world. But online education has also come a long way from its humble beginnings, with schools now boasting cutting edge online platforms replete with videoconferencing options and personalized mentors. Of course, not actually being in a classroom means you can self-regulate study pace, thus allowing you to complete a course on your own schedule, with dedicated teachers just a click away to provide support whenever you need it.

Course accreditation

By receiving accreditation conferred to it by a respected external body, an institute of learning receives an official seal of approval that certifies its tional programs. In most countries, this kind of quality assurance is provided by a government organization, and can be of great importance when looking for employment later on. In this regard online schools have traditionally lagged behind their competition, but nowadays a simple online search is all you need to find out if the program you’re thinking about applying for is accredited or not.

Directional City Signs

Overall effectiveness

Probably the most important thing about earning a diploma is its inherent value in finding a great job. To that end, it can be useful to check the track record of all your prospective schools and see what their post-graduate employment levels look like. If you’re looking for immediate employment, you’ll often find that online institutions tend to focus more on teaching you job-ready skills in growing industries such as Accounting or Workplace Health and Safety than traditional learning facilities. Additionally, reputable institutions will also have a dedicated network of alumni, whom you can contact to learn more about how they benefited from attending their respective schools.

 

It’s clear to see that studying abroad online offers all the benefits typically associated with traditional classroom education, while also being considerably cheaper and more accessible. It may not be for everyone, as some people will likely miss the feeling of being in a real classroom, but for those who enjoy its myriad perks, online education can be a real game-changer.

 

Confirm the Quality

Before you make your final choice it is important to confirm you plans with an advisor to make sure your plans are in synch with your educational goals.  For those earned academic credits to help you in your career, you do want to make sure they are credible, recognized and applicable.

Abroad101 Providers Derby Results – Winter 2016

Providers Derby 2016

Leading Study Abroad Providers

IES Abroad widened it’s lead plus IFSA-Butler, SOL Education Abroad and CET have moved up in the latest round of the “Abroad101 Providers Derby”, the index of published review volume on Abroad101.  Study Abroad providers are one of the most trusted hosts for American students who want to study abroad and the reviews of these experiences can help reassure you, your parents or academic advisors that a given program is right for you.

At Abroad101 we collect program evaluation/reviews from students and publish them on our study abroad review website.  We also compile the ratings that students give the providers which you can use as an indicator of quality and you’ll see those results in our Study Abroad Rankings.

Organizations that encourage or even require their students to complete reviews understand the value of listening to their customers (students) and using that those testimonials to better inform future students as to what to expect in their programs.  Students use the reviews as a place to not only critique the program, but to describe their discoveries and their growth while abroad so we encourage you to look around for the kind of program than fits your dream.  Click Study Abroad Program Search or any of the provider links below.

IES ABROAD

International Studies Abroad / ISA

CIEE

CEA

Arcadia

IFSA/Butler

SIT Study Abroad

DIS Study Abroad

USAC

API / Academic Programs International

AIFS

The Education Abroad Network / TEAN

Sol Education Abroad

Boston University

CAPA The Global Education Network

CET Academic Programs

ISEP Exchange

CISabroad / Center for International Studies

The School for Field Studies / SFS

AMIDEAST

Why Imperfection in a Study Abroad Evaluation is Ideal

Abroad101 has many many reviews from students. The study abroad reviews are meant for study abroad students, their schools and future students to analyze the program they went on but also to help the student reflect and understand what they learned from their time abroad. Future students and parents find reviews very helpful when trying to decide which program to pick for an upcoming study abroad trip. With this in mind the quality and variety of the review comments and ratings becomes very important.

Our guest blogger, Missy Gluckmann wrote an article about this concept. It is reposted for you here.

Education Abroad Evaluations: Why Imperfection is Ideal

Truman students jumping high in the gold coast australiaThe culture of higher education is to want to measure.  We want to know not only how people have been changed by education abroad experiences, but how they FEEL about them too.  Assessment has grown exponentially in our field and we sometimes get stuck on the metrics over the human experience – at least that is my opinion. But this post is about evaluations, so let’s talk about them.

I recently had a conversation with Mark Shay, CEO of Abroad101.com, about evaluations and what they really mean in our field these days.  Let me back up though and share some history; Mark and I have worked in international education since the 1990s. While we did not work “directly” together on a specific project back then, I clearly remember the early days of his educational entrepreneur ventures at studyabroad.com.  Back in the day (wait, am I really old enough to say that – yup, apparently I am!), this was “the tool” for finding education abroad program information. Today, he is leading Abroad101.com which is described as follows:

“ With more than 20,000 reviews of 3,800 programs, Abroad101 is the leading student review site for study abroad programs. It provides a free service for universities and students to rate, review and rank student experiences in study abroad programs.”

It is a timely business idea, as education abroad offices are tasked with creating evaluations, measuring “success” and increasingly looking to student satisfaction in this game of extreme competition that has evolved in higher education and sadly, has trickled down to the education abroad world.  Ironically, small education offices often don’t have much time to think about evaluations, and those that do often don’t have much time to make meaning of the data or simply use it to pull “sounds bites” for marketing.

The “bigger players” tend to evaluate, sometimes not allowing students to receive their credits until a mandatory evaluation is completed.  I find this to be a challenge, as I believe that time to properly reflect on an experience abroad is more important than keeping to a timetable. Withholding grades, in my opinion, borders on unethical.

Mark and I had a chat about the direction of his company’s website now that he is “officially” on board as CEO.  We got into an important and sticky topic – why do so many programs come up so very high on ratings?  Why are there so many “perfect” ratings in education abroad reviews?

We know that education abroad experiences, like many things in life, cannot reach perfection or close to it. The lack of funding to train faculty to encourage participants to do what Dr. Anthony Ogden describes as “getting students off the veranda” in this piece, is evidenced by the countless “island” experiences that we witness on faculty led academic courses abroad. We see comments by students about “how transformed” they are, yet how does a perfect five star rating illustrate how a program’s design has positively impacted that young mind and the abroad experience? This is where the rating (“five out of five stars”) of a program can diverge from the actual review of the details of a program – and the “devil is in the details”!

What is “perfection” in education abroad?  Can we truly be “perfect” at anything in life?  Does a “perfect” score mean we are doing all that we can to create an optimal learning experience for young minds? Or does it mean we are not setting a high enough bar or that students don’t have high expectations – or even enough life experience to have realistic expectations across cultures? Does a lack of maturity prevent students from providing deep and thoughtful critical analysis?

More precarious is that there may be pressure from program providers and administrators to keep the scores ‘high’ – as some education abroad departments are embracing the competitive nature of higher education admissions’ philosophy, transferring the demand to perform to those going through re-entry by offering an incentive to them to complete a positive evaluation for a prize of some sort (bookstore bucks, access to academic records, etc).

Another challenge is that students haven’t been given much guidance in HOW to actually review a program so that information can be gleaned that will actually help improve the program design. I recentlywrote a guest blog post for abroad101.com about this subject.

During our chat, Mark and I quickly agreed that giving (or coaching your students to give) a “perfect” score on a program is not useful to those who are researching future participation in an experience abroad.  Giving someone a score of five on a site like abroad101.com is not Abroad101_logo_minus_com_2like jumping on a site like yelp.com and letting someone know that you thought a particular meal in a new restaurant was “spot on” and to your liking on a given day.  Education abroad is so much more complex than one random stop for brunch.  It requires that we are critical and thoughtful in our feedback and that we specifically disclose the imperfections to provide accountability and necessary education for others who are considering these programs.

Let’s consider an example: A student in Rome completed an evaluation and ranked it “five stars” (perfect score), yet she indicated that she would not return abroad with the same program.  When reading her evaluation further, she illustrated concerns about program administration, yet still rated the program with a perfect score.

Confused? So am I.

My guess is that someone in her study abroad office failed to take her to task on the incongruous feedback. It would have been so much more helpful is she had actually taken her comments on the program administration and carefully weighed them against the scale, providing a more realistic overall rating score, perhaps a three out of five.  This would then prompt future readers to consider the program weaknesses, which really are opportunities to address issues and improve processes and outcomes.  These types of scores are the ones that create REAL dialogue about program design and delivery of service to an academic sojourner.  They also open up the door for discussion about partnership between universities and third party providers (who I prefer to call third party partners – as that is what the relationship should be based on – partnership…but I digress).

I have seen a similar example for a third party provider in Tanzania. The student rates the program a five yet consistently ranks it lower in all subcategories, including a “one star” on the academic experience with this commentary:

The academics were overall pretty terrible, whenever the professors did actually show up they usually did not even teach material that was relevant.” Regarding housing, she says “The dorms are pretty terrible and my roommate didn’t even live here so I was by myself. The safety on campus is not great and you can’t walk alone after dark. It’s about a 15 minute walk to class and a 30 minute bus ride to nightlife. There is also no access to kitchens….and that was a big problem.”

It begs us to ask how THAT evaluation was overlooked by the home university and permitted to land on the site in such condition.

A score of five indicates to others that a program is stellar. Perfect. Wouldn’t change a thing. Except that in some cases, there IS much that needs to change.  Sadly, we miss the opportunity to get to the fine detail about what those components in need of work are when we see imperfection as failure.

Had the students rated the programs with more accuracy (e.g. “not perfect”), it would encourage not only administrators but prospective students to more carefully consider the actual “review.” A score in the “high fours” is much more revealing to someone seeking information on a program.  It offers a positive endorsement of the overall program yet provides specific details of what to expect, what could change to improve the experience and what to consider when making the important decision of who to go abroad with. Its value is priceless when compared to the ubiquitous “five”, as it actually provides insight into the little nuances that are so important (e.g. what to pack that was not mentioned in pre-departure materials/orientation) and the bigger ticket items (e.g. feedback on where budget improvements can be adjusted by a provider to allow students to more consistently engage in activities throughout a period abroad, vs. blowing all of their money during the first two weeks).

I realize that someone who rates a five may be someone who feels they had a positive, “life changing” overall experience abroad and wants to communicate that to the masses, but as Katy Rosenbaum from the Melibee team stated so eloquently, “I think it’s safe to say that a great time does not necessarily equal a great program.”  Frankly, we all know of less than immersive education abroad programs that are highly rated.

Perhaps this quote by Iain Thomas sums it up best when it comes to education abroad evals:

“But life isn’t something that should be edited. Life shouldn’t be cut. The only way you’ll ever discover what it truly means to be alive and human is by sharing the full experience of what it means to be human and each blemish and freckle that comes with it.”

Give me imperfection over a perfect score any day.  It is those blemishes and freckles that will inform and make the evolving world of free evaluation services in education abroad a truly meaningful tool for all of us.

 

Missyheadshot2.jpegAbout the Author: Missy Gluckmann is the founder of Melibee Global. You can learn more about why she built Melibee Global and her background here.  

 

 

 

Top 5 Reasons to Study Abroad with CAPA International Education


This guest post is written by Jessica, a college student, blogger, and recent CAPA International Education Alumnus.  Jessica spent six weeks studying International Marketing in London, England with CAPA during the summer session, and it was one of the most fulfilling experiences of her life.  Read on to see her Top 5 reasons to study abroad with Capa International Education.

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Get Ahead of the Pack: The Career Benefits of International Internships in China

China-shanghai-Alliance_350_Photo__cd26For college students today, study abroad programs are becoming more available and encouraged. In 2013-2014 about 290,000 students were part of international education programs, and that number is projected to continue to grow through focused initiatives to increase international education in the US. However, as study abroad begins to feel more commonplace, many students have turned to international internships as a way to differentiate themselves from the pack.

More than just a standard cultural immersion program, international internships allow you to learn about how other cultures do business, gain practical skills in an international setting, and make professional connections all over the world. We see specifically that more and more students are flocking to China to get a competitive edge.

So, why China?

China is Relevant. China has become a hotspot for professional experience due to the country’s booming economy and desire for an English speaking workforce. In addition to the contributions of successful Chinese corporations, China’s economy gets a boost from multinational companies–giants like Coca-Cola and KPMG– relocating their Asia headquarters to China. As traditional Chinese business ventures continue to succeed, new sectors such as green technology and engineering are also developing as international and local Chinese companies flock to China to innovate. Chinese business culture has become a part of many multinational companies, making this culture an important one to understand. Interning in China allows students an opportunity to experience first-hand Chinese business culture and the country’s influence on businesses all over the world.

You get a multicultural experience. The flux of international companies establishing themselves in China has been a huge draw for people all over the world and has made the country a desirable international hub. In a recent survey, an estimated 7,000 international expatriates recently ranked China as the best overall destination for work and 85% of expats in China are working for international companies in sectors such as business (sales and marketing), banking and financial services, and engineering. Popular expat destinations include Shanghai and Beijing, with Hong Kong an attractive choice for the financial services sector.

You will learn a language spoken by more than 1 billion people. Mandarin, the main language for business in China, is spoken by around 1.4 billion people as a first or second language. This makes Mandarin the #2 most spoken language in the world, followed next by Spanish. Being exposed first hand to this language is extremely valuable. Some internship programs to China also offer Mandarin lessons to enhance your experience in China. Students taking advantage of an opportunity to learn Mandarin firsthand in China immediately give their resumes a boost with a hard language skill.

Professional experience in China has helped many students achieve success. CRCC Asia, a company specializing in international internship opportunities in China, has sent over 5,000 interns to China and 89% have found employment in a graduate level job after returning to their home country. More universities are recognizing the significance of internship experience in China, and China internship programs are regularly being added to international programs.

If you are looking for a study abroad experience that will help you gain a competitive edge in the job market, perhaps an international internship in China is the right fit for you.

Begin your search for internship programs in China:

CRCC Asia’s China Internship Program

ISA Internships in Shanghai

CAPA Part-time Internships in Shanghai

-Check with your university’s Study Abroad Office for internship program offerings!

For information on funding your internship abroad:

100,000 Strong

Gilman/Freeman Scholarships

-GoEnnounce

-Check with your university’s Study Abroad Office for other possible scholarship resources!

 

Guest Blogger:

 

Thao Le

Travel enthusiast and international education advocate, Thao works as University Partnerships Manager at CRCC Asia in San Francisco, where she helps connect universities and individual students with international opportunities in China.