The Adventurer’s Guide to Studying a Language Abroad
Adventure. Intrigue. Romance (maybe).
No, we’re not talking about the latest big screen hit.
We’re talking about studying a language abroad.
But with so many options for studying languages abroad, how do you choose the best language courses for you?
Here are some tips and resources to help you find the right study abroad program for you.
- Why Study a Language Abroad?
- What to Consider When Selecting a Study Abroad Language Program
- 10 Exciting Resources for Language Study Abroad Options
Why Study a Language Abroad?
First, studying a language abroad provides language immersion, which is a terrific way to learn quickly and thoroughly. If you study in a country that speaks your target language, you’ll be forced to do it every day. Whether you’re watching TV, ordering coffee or making new friends, you’ll use the language in and out of the classroom. Since you’re using the language more, you’ll also learn it better and faster than you otherwise would.
Additionally, studying abroad adds to your cultural understanding. Culture and language go hand in hand. Studying your target language in a location where it’s widely spoken will help you understand the local culture more, thereby making you a more well-rounded learner.
When you study abroad, you’re also making yourself more employable. There are lots of cool jobs for people who know a foreign language. While just knowing a language is useful, having studied abroad can really set you apart from other candidates. After all, if you were hiring someone to help negotiate deals in China, who would you choose—a candidate who had studied Chinese in the U.S. or a candidate who had studied Chinese in China?
Finally, studying abroad is fun. Learning a new language is exciting, and traveling is inherently fun, so it should come as no surprise that studying abroad can be intensely enjoyable.
What to Consider When Selecting a Study Abroad Language Program
Obviously, what country you’re going to makes a difference since this will affect language, culture, safety and more. However, there are other key factors.
For instance, how big is the city you’ll be staying in? If you can’t resist some hustle and bustle, you might seek out a major metropolitan area. This will also provide more people to interact with (and therefore possibly more opportunities to practice your language skills).
However, if you find big cities intimidating, a smaller community may be up your alley. Since smaller communities often host fewer language students, you might also find that the locals are more interested in interacting with you.
Another factor to consider is climate. Things like festivals and street markets can be a great way to experience culture and meet people, but if you’re averse to cold climates and studying abroad during winter, you might miss out.
Your Level of Language
Different programs are offered with different levels of study in mind, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a program that suits your level of familiarity with the target language.
To get the most out of your stay abroad, it’s also a good idea to make sure you brush up on your language as the date of your program approaches. Reinforcing your language level before you head abroad will give you a leg up once you get there.
Choosing a program that teaches through immersion is also a great way to get ready for coming into contact with the real language “in the wild.” FluentU is one such program. It’s an app (and website) that uses authentic videos like movie clips and music videos to teach languages. The authentic clips are made accessible by combining them with interactive subtitles, customizable flashcard decks and personalized quizzes.
Whenever you travel abroad, it’s important to take safety into consideration. Always review the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories and learn as much as you can about your destination. Nothing interrupts language learning like fearing for your safety!
Lifestyle encapsulates a lot. It includes food, recreation, culture and so much more. Selecting a program where you’ll feel comfortable with the local lifestyle will help you focus more on your language study.
Plus, if you can get out and enjoy life the way the locals do, you’re more likely to make connections and practice your language skills!
Each program has different housing, and this can influence your overall experience and learning.
For instance, some programs house participants in dorms or apartments.
If you room with other participants, you may connect with people with shared interests.
If you room with locals, you’re more likely to get serious language practice.
Other programs offer home stays. This will give you great language practice and insight into local culture, but it may also be intimidating for some students.
What the Program Includes
Each program includes different things, so pay attention to what you get for your money.
For instance, some programs may include study tours, which are a great way to see more of the country and learn more about the culture.
Others might include individual lessons, which can help you resolve any issues you’re having with the language that group classes haven’t addressed.
Some programs might even offer full instruction in the target language, allowing you to study specialized topics like education, medicine, engineering and more while getting valuable language practice.
Program lengths vary. Some are just a few weeks long, while others can last a year.
Shorter programs can often be less intimidating, especially if you haven’t spent a lot of time abroad. Since these programs are short term, they also often pack more instruction time into each day.
Longer programs, on the other hand, immerse you in the culture more fully, allowing you to start to feel like a local.
Once you start looking at study abroad programs, you’ll notice prices vary a lot.
If you’re on a budget, try not to stretch it too far. Selecting a program at the top of your budget will reduce your spending money, giving you less opportunity to get out and interact with locals, visit sites and experience culture.
Languages vary regionally, and when you select a study abroad program, it’s important to keep that in mind.
For instance, if you hope to use your Spanish skills in the future to conduct business in South America, your best bet is to study in South America rather than Spain.
Credits can be complicated.
If you’re studying abroad through your own university, the study abroad office should be able to give you detailed information about how many credits you’ll receive and what requirements these credits will count towards.
However, if you want to study abroad using a different program provider, you may need to give information on the program to representatives at your college or university to see what credits will count. Depending on your university, you may need to check with the study abroad office, the registrar or a transfer advisor from the admissions office.
Regardless, checking on what credits you’ll receive ahead of time is an important way to ensure that your study abroad keeps you on track towards graduation. You don’t want to find out your credits counted for nothing after you’ve put the time, effort and money into studying abroad!
10 Exciting Resources for Language Study Abroad Options
Do you want to find an intensive language program? Maybe you prefer a volunteer opportunity. Or do you want to hit your career path running with an internship abroad?
Any of these opportunities could provide you with great language practice, but how do you find a program that offers what you’re looking for?
StudyAbroad.com is a listing of study abroad opportunities from a variety of providers.
Since the listings are grouped by type of opportunity, it’s easy to peruse specific categories, like “intern abroad.”
The listings themselves give you a quick snapshot of key program details, like the location, the duration and information on credits. With this information, StudyAbroad.com can help you find programs you may be interested in investigating further.
Not finding the study abroad options you’re looking for? Go Overseas lists thousands of different opportunities, so you’re bound to find something that’s right up your alley.
Go Overseas includes listings for language schools, high school study abroad, internships abroad, gap year options and so much more.
There are language schools listed for almost 20 different languages; however, many of the other programs will provide you with language practice, if not intensive instruction, so it’s important to consider all your options.
Not only does Go Overseas provide you with appropriate program listings based on your interests, it also provides additional information on costs, the country/region and course types. Plus, users can submit reviews of programs, so you can read about which programs other students enjoyed.
You’re never lacking for choice with GoAbroad, a service that allows you to search countless study abroad programs. Plus, if there are too many choices for you to sift through, GoAbroad can still help you!
GoAbroad allows you to search programs by country, term and subject. The subjects include popular languages, like Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, so it’s easy to find a language program to fit your needs.
You can also browse by program type, including language schools, degrees abroad and even jobs abroad.
Most program listings provide a helpful, easy-to-read list to give you all the details you need, like what the program includes, what experience is required and how you can apply. Plus, users can submit reviews, so you can read about what other participants have experienced.
If all the study abroad options are too overwhelming for you, you can also fill out a form with your interests and an online advisor will get back to you with some programs you might like.
KEI Abroad is a study abroad provider that offers programs in nearly 20 countries, including popular options, like China, France, Japan and Spain.
Many programs offer a broad variety of coursework, including both language instruction and instruction in other specific fields.
Languages offered include Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi/Urdu, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.
Each program description gives a basic overview of the program, which often includes a list of required and elective courses (along with course descriptions and credit information), information on housing and student life, details on any included field trips and information on prices and dates.
If you’re looking for a program in a less common location, ISA might have an option for you.
ISA is a program provider offering programs in nearly 30 countries. In many of these countries, there are even programs in multiple cities. With over 200 programs, there’s no shortage of options.
You can search programs by subject, location, term and language to help pinpoint the ideal program. If cost is an issue, you can also browse by affordable programs. Want a program that relates to your field of study? You can also look at programs related to your major.
ISA programs are available for a wide array of languages, including popular options like Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. However, you can also find programs that cover languages that are not as readily offered in study abroad programs, such as Czech, Irish Gaelic and Ancient Greek.
If you need a little financial help to make your study abroad dreams a reality, CIEE might be the study abroad provider you’re looking for.
CIEE is a nonprofit study abroad provider that offers a number of scholarships based on need and merit.
And CIEE’s program offerings aren’t anything to sneeze at. CIEE offers over 200 programs in dozens of cities around the world.
Plus, CIEE allows you to study many languages, including common options, like Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. However, with CIEE, your language education doesn’t need to stop there. You can also study Czech, Dutch, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Kiswahili, Polish, Swedish and more.
Whether you’re looking to study a language or study other topics using exclusively your target language, API has programs for you.
If you want to study another topic using your target language, you can use API’s program finder to narrow your search. This way, you can find programs in medical sciences, communication, engineering and more that are taught in your target language.
There are programs to teach you many common languages, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
API also offers diverse program locations, including standard options, like China, France, Germany and Spain. However, API also offers options you rarely see, like Bhutan and Qatar.
In addition to offering programs in countries that are rarely visited by study abroad programs, API offers programs in cities that aren’t as well-known on the study abroad scene. They have programs in several smaller cities, so if you find international capitals intimidating, you’ll still have plenty of options. For instance, in Spain, you might choose to study in the well-known cities of Madrid or Barcelona, but you might also choose overlooked gems like Bilbao or Salamanca.
Critical Language Scholarship
If you’re studying a language identified as critical to “national security and economic prosperity” or want to give one a try, you may be in luck! The U.S. Department of State offers an immersion program for U.S. undergraduate and graduate students. Excitingly enough, if you’re accepted, nearly all costs are covered.
Students can apply to programs for Azerbaijani, Bangla, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Punjabi, Swahili, Turkish and Urdu without previous experience with these languages.
With at least one year of prior study, students can apply for Arabic and Persian.
Students with two or more years of prior study can apply for Chinese, Japanese and Russian.
If you’re admitted, it’s likely to be one of the cheapest and most immersive study abroad options you could hope for.
Your college or university
Many universities offer their own study abroad programs, so it’s worth checking out your university’s website or study abroad office for more information.
The benefits of studying abroad through your university are obvious—before your trip, you can talk to a representative about what to expect, you can connect with other students who will be travelling with you and you might even get a ride to the airport. Plus, once you’re back, you’ll have people to reminisce with.
A school in your state or local area
In the U.S., state schools often have different pricing for in-state and out-of-state students, even when it comes to studying abroad. Because of this, you might want to look up study abroad opportunities for state schools where you live.
By virtue of living in the state, you might be able to find an affordable rate for a great study abroad opportunity. Plus, since other students on the trip are also likely to live in your state, at least some of your new friends won’t be too far away.
Now you’re ready to star in your own adventure.
Which study abroad language program will you choose?