Think about your academic goals. Are you seeking to quickly build your fluency in a foreign language? Consider a program with a language pledge. Are you an experiential learner? Seek out a program that gets you doing things—from interviewing locals to learning about art through classes that take you to galleries and museums. Are you looking to test out your academic skills in the job market? Look for an internship program.
Identify other reasons you wish to study abroad. Are you hoping to reconnect with your family’s heritage? Look for a program that focuses on the region’s history. Want to seek out new perspectives? Find a program in which you live and learn with locals.
Visit your study abroad office to understand your options. You may find that your school only approves certain programs. There may be a list of programs with courses that count toward your major. If your school doesn’t have any options that meet your study abroad goals, see if there is a petition process for other programs.
Investigate the profiles of your top-choice programs. How much support does the program provide in preparing for and adjusting to your new home? Are there excursions and program activities? Is housing included? Will you get to know locals, or will you mostly spend your time with other study abroad students?
Get advice from students who have studied on your top-choice programs. Most programs will include a way to contact recent alumni. Listen as former students describe their experience to find out if the program they attended would be a good fit for you. How much did their language skills grow? How rigorous were the classes? How much money did they spend? Was there a balance between time devoted to academics and time for exploring the host country? Be sure to filter their advice—a program that did not work out well for another student may actually be the program you are looking for.