How to Choose an Appropriate Study Abroad Program

It is important that students choose an appropriate study abroad program to get the most out of an international experience. Because there are a variety of program types, structures, locations, and requirements… it is worth the time and effort it takes to find a study program that meets your individual academic and personal needs.

Study Abroad Programs have distinctive characteristics, like students, and thus it is important to find the right “match” between the student and the program. Your friend, or sister, or teacher may have participated in a program that was “absolutely great” for them, but may not be a good fit for you. Thus, a glowing recommendation from someone who went on a program is not necessarily the most appropriate approach to choosing a program.

o Understand your needs and characteristics before choosing a study abroad program

o Explore several options and compare program characteristics

o Choose a study abroad program that fits your needs and characteristics

Your Needs and Characteristics

Ask yourself these questions, and get a friend or family member to confer with you on these topics.

1. What type of courses do you need to take (major requirements, major electives, general education requirements or lower-division courses, electives)?

2. What academic topics do you need (and want) to study (only your major, or a mix of academic disciplines)?

3. Does your home institution approve experiential courses (ie, internships, field study, independent study, independent research, service-learning, touring)?

4. Can you take courses in another language / are you sufficiently fluent?

5. Do you have beginning or intermediate foreign language skills?

6. Does your home institution have requirements about the number of weeks and/or contact hours the courses must fulfill to transfer credit?

7. Would you feel comfortable living in a fast-paced, urban city where it is difficult to make friends and interact with locals living in a city?

8. Do you feel comfortable using public transportation (buses, taxis, trains)?

9. Would you prefer to live in a community where you can easily navigate your way, and meet local people?

10. Does the weather bother you? Have you experienced the type of climate common to the host country you are considering?

11. Are you a self-starter, outgoing, and self-motivated, experienced in exploring new/different situations?

12. Do you prefer functioning in a group with leaders and/or guides making decisions for you and being surrounded by others much like yourself?

13. Do you have any dietary, medical or mental health needs?

14. Do you want to become a “specialist” in one location (language and culture and history and current events) or do you want a comparative perspective of several different places and perspectives?

15. Have your friends or family ever called you “high maintenance”? Do you have a high level of attention to conveniences, personal appearance, the newest fads or specific activities?

16. Do you enjoy camping, hiking, backpacking, “roughing it”?

17. Do you have a good sense of how (and if) you will use alcohol in a mature setting? …

Newspaper Reading for Language Students

A Khmer student wrote to me on YouTube and asked me to produce videos about how to read English language newspapers.

“I’d like to ask you to make videos how to read newspaper and translate it from English to Khmer. I Khmer and I having a problem to understand English phrases.” Wrote the student.

Language learners often write telling me about some area of learning or area of their lives where they are experiencing difficulties of comprehension and ask me for a trick or a guide to help them learn.

As I have said in numerous other language learning articles, there are no tricks and no hints. The more hours you invest, the better you will get. And if your goal is to read at a native speaker level, then you need to read things a native speaker reads. If you are a 22 year-old university graduate, then you need to be reading at that level in the foreign language. And you won’t get there by reading textbooks ABOUT the language. You will get there by reading books, articles, and textbooks IN rather than ABOUT the language.

If we analyze this latest email, the student says he has trouble reading, and he specifically singled out newspapers.

Obviously, reading is reading. On some level, reading a newspaper is no different than reading a novel or reading a short story.

If you are reading novels and short stories, you should be able to read newspapers. If I asked this student, however, he is probably is not reading one novel per month in English. If he were, newspaper reading would just come.

Therefore, the problem is not the reading or the newspapers, per se. The problem is the lack of practice.

I never took a course called “Newspaper Reading” in English. I just started reading newspapers. And at first, I had to learn to deal with the language, structure and organization of newspaper writing, but no one taught me, or you. It just came to us. The same was true for German or Spanish newspapers which I can read almost as well as English. No one taught me, or taught Gunther or Pablo, it just came through practice.

A point, that I have made many times in articles, is that when you begin learning a foreign language, you are not an idiot. You are not starting with an empty brain. One reason it takes babies three years to learn their native tongue is because they are also learning what a language is and how language works. You know all of that, and much more. Babies don’t know that there is such a thing as grammar. Every single piece of vocabulary has to be learned. A seven year old may not know the words “population, economy, government, referendum, currency” in his native tongue. So, reading a foreign newspaper would be difficult for him, because reading a newspaper in his mother tongue is difficult for him.

If you are an adult, coming from a developed …