While there may be grains of truth in some of these stories, below are some common misconceptions about study abroad.
Misconception #1: Studying abroad is very expensive.
Truth: In most cases, it is actually cheaper to study abroad. Let’s say the tuition at your school is $5,000 per semester and room and board is another $4,000. Now add in the additional fees you have such as health insurance, books, and laundry. You are now well over $10,000 for the semester. Well, all but one of our programs in Spain is under $10,000 per semester and that includes everything except your airfare and spending money.
Misconception #2: I can’t use my financial aid to study abroad.
Truth: In almost all cases, your federal aid (Stafford loans, Pell grants, etc.) can be used to study abroad and in some states, you can use your state aid as well. It is also not uncommon for your federal aid to increase when you study abroad since some of your school scholarships may not transfer.
Misconception #3: Host families are all poor and just do it for the money.
Truth: The last thing any study abroad company wants to do is have an unhappy student on their program. The goal is for the students to be happy so that they will tell their friends what a great time they had. If we were putting students in bad families, in dangerous neighborhoods, then no one would ever recommend us to their friends. Since the number of universities that endorse our program doubled over the last year, it’s a pretty sure bet that students are happy with our choice of families.
Misconception #4: I’ll be so busy with schoolwork that I won’t get time to see the country I’m in.
Truth: This one is hysterically funny since your average study abroad student comes home with about 400+ photos from a long list of countries. Students have plenty of opportunities to travel and we even take our students on trips to give them a better feel for the country they are in.
Misconception #5: I might not graduate on time if I go abroad.
Truth: If you have already used up all of your elective or general education courses, then it’s true that you might need to bulk up on courses before or after you go abroad. If you plan ahead, however, and leave some electives open to you, then you should be fine. The clear majority of students who study abroad still graduate in four years, despite being away from their home campus for a semester or two.
Misconception #6: Most of the world hates Americans, so I won’t be safe.
Truth: There’s no doubt that there are a lot of people who don’t like the American government, but that has nothing to do with the American people. If you compare the violent crime rate in the United States to that of European, Australian, or Asian countries, you will see that the United States is actually far more dangerous. There are some areas of South America and Africa that are not especially safe, but there are also many countries on those continents that are incredibly safe. Go to the U.S. State Department website and check out the crime statistics on the country you are interested in to see how safe it is.
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that every college student should take advantage of. Before dismissing it due to the bad experience of one friend or rumors you have had heard, speak with your study abroad advisor and get the facts. I guarantee that once you look at all that studying abroad can offer you, you’ll be hopping the first flight abroad.
About the author:
Lee Frankel is Director of Academic Studies Abroad, a study abroad provider with programs in five different countries. He has traveled to over 25 countries and travels across the U.S. speaking with college students interested in studying abroad. Do you have questions about study abroad programs? Visit www.academicstudies.com
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