Exploring Your Options

Choosing a study abroad program is an exciting and important process. Read through these considerations before and during your program search. Be honest with yourself and think about what's right for you, including:

  • your long-term academic and professional goals,
  • your degree requirements, and
  • whether a short-term program, a semester, or an academic year program will help you achieve them.

There are many different program types available through the Education Abroad Office: Faculty-Led, Exchange and Direct Enroll, Co-Sponsored, U.S. University, and Provider programs. Learn more about the program types to decide which one appeals to you.

Identify Goals

  • Why do you want to study abroad? What do you want to achieve and experience?
  • What aspects of study abroad are most important to you--courses, locale, cultural experiences, learning a language, opportunity to participate in an internship or service learning?
  • How will study abroad fit into your career goals?
  • Keep your goals in mind as you begin your program search. The “best” program is the program that is right for you.

Other Factors to Consider

Location

Location is one of the most important factors to consider when considering studying abroad. Not only do you want to consider the physical location itself, but also how the location will affect your time abroad, and allow you make the most of your time there.

Which country or region best fits with your personal, academic and career interests?
For instance, if you're interested in tropical ecology, consider studying in a locale where the topic will be easily accessible for hands-on application, for instance Costa Rica. If you're interested in developing economies and agriculture, look for programs that take place in Africa. There is a program to suit every major and interest—you just have to do your research!

Does the University you're studying at have a strong academic program or faculty in your field?
Studying abroad is an investment. As you plan to study at another institution, make sure to take full advantage of the opportunity and gain all you can from the experience. Do your research, and explore university websites to see what faculty members are focusing in at the institution you will be attending.

Do you want to be in a big city, modern or historical, or in a rural, developing area?
Depending on what size of city you want to live in safety may be a concern. Do you prefer to live in a small community where you can get to know everyone in town, or prefer to blend in to the masses in a large city? Some places may have great cultural variation throughout the country itself, so make sure to do your research to find the ideal location for you. Another factor to consider would be whether or not you have any medical concerns and distance to quality medical treatment.

Do you have a preference regarding climate?
Are you used to long Nebraska winters but want to spend time in a warm or tropical climate? Consider the fact that locales in the southern hemisphere will have opposite seasons than here in Nebraska, and may also have different start and end term dates than you are used to.

Please check the U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings before you choose a program. Countries with Travel Warnings will not be approved for University of Nebraska students. For more information, read more about the University of Nebraska's Travel Warning policy.

Language

Do you speak a foreign language? If so, how well? Would you feel comfortable in a place where very few people speak English? Could you take a course in a foreign language? Do you need credit for a foreign language requirement?

When choosing the language of instruction for your program, there are different options to consider:

  • Study entirely in English.
  • Take language courses to improve your beginning, intermediate, or advanced language skills while taking content courses in English.
  • If you're an advanced speaker, immerse yourself in the language and take all of your courses in the host language.

Consider the dialect of the language you will learn on the program. Dialects vary by region, country, and city. Research the local language and make sure it fits with your academic and career goals. For example, Barcelona is a wonderful city to visit, but if you're not interested in learning Catalan, you may not want to spend three or four months there.

Be creative. If you speak French, you aren't limited to studying in France; consider places like Quebec, Canada or West Africa. If you don't speak a foreign language well you might consider destinations like Scotland, Ireland, India, Australia, and South Africa where English is an official language or places like Egypt, The Netherlands, Italy or China where you can take classes in English while being exposed to other languages outside of school.

Many scholarship programs favor students who plan to study 'critical languages' (Arabic, Chinese, Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Punjabi, Japanese, Russian, Bengali, and Farsi) or who plan to study in less traditional locations (Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia).

Program Costs

Have you considered the short- and long-term financial implications of studying abroad? Will you need financial assistance? Will you use federal financial aid to fund your study abroad experience? Do you hope to use scholarships?

Please visit the Financial section of the website for resources on budgeting, financial aid, and scholarships.

Staff & Peer Support

What level of independence do you feel most comfortable with? The questions below will help you determine what type of program may be the best fit for you based on the level of support provided.

Would you prefer to study with other UNL students, other Americans, students of the host country, or with a combination of both?
Different programs types offer different classroom opportunities. Faculty-led programs allow you to study with all or mostly UNL students. Exchange programs and direct enroll options typically allow you to study with students of the host country. Some co-sponsored programs and some program providers offer the option to study with other Americans or international students, with students of the host country, or a combination of both.

Do you want a study abroad program to arrange your housing, meals, curriculum and travel or would you prefer to make these arrangements yourself? Each type of program offers a different amount of pre-arrangement planning. Faculty-led and program providers typically pre-arrange your housing, curriculum and travel. Exchange programs provide you the opportunity to select your housing, arrange your meals, choose from a wide range of classes and choose whether or not to travel.

Program Length & Timing

How long do you want to be abroad (a few weeks, summer, semester, or one year)?
Programs range in length from ten days through an entire academic year and everything in between. Try to spend as much time abroad as you can! If you've never left the country before, you may prefer to start with a short program to "test the waters." Short-term programs during the May pre-session, spring break, or winter break have the lowest total cost and are easiest to fit into any schedule.

However, at the end of a short-term program, you may feel that you were just beginning to understand how things 'work' in the host country, but then you must return home. A longer program will likely have a larger impact on your personal and linguistic development, and will look more impressive to future employers and graduate schools. Long-term programs are generally more cost effective if you calculate your costs per week. If language learning is your top priority, plan to stay abroad for at least four weeks.

What is the best time in your college career for you to go abroad?
If you go abroad early in your college career, you'll have time to go abroad again! You don't have to wait until your junior year. Most UNL faculty-led programs are open to students of any class standing (undergraduate and graduate). Generally, program providers accept students that have completed their first two semesters of college.

Studying abroad right before graduation can present logistical challenges, as it takes time to transfer credits from a foreign institution back to UNL. Your college at UNL may have residency requirements regarding how many of your credits should be completed at UNL. Be sure to discuss timing with your academic advisors.

What is the best time of year for you to go?
Think about the plan of study for your major, your job opportunities, your family obligations, and other personal events. If your major has a very specific plan of study each fall and spring semester, the summer may be the best time for you to get away. Students who plan in advance with their academic advisors are often able to make any term work.

Eligibility & Prerequisites

Are you allowed to study abroad on this program?
Eligibility requirements vary by program so make sure you meet all of the requirements. Typical requirements include your status as an undergraduate or graduate student, your status as a sophomore, junior, or senior, whether you have to be a UNL student, and whether you meet the minimum GPA requirement.

Will your past behavior impact your ability to study abroad?
Your past behavior could impact or limit your ability to study abroad. Many programs require you to provide academic or disciplinary probation information and may even disqualify you. Some countries and programs will require you to obtain a visa. However, some visa applications require you to provide a background check which will be denied for certain crimes.

If you are concerned about requirements and background checks, don't give up without trying! Discuss your situation with an Education Abroad advisor and your program provider. Some programs will waive requirements for students with good essays and strong faculty recommendations.

Academics

Do you want to earn credit toward your major/minor, ACE, electives? When do you plan to graduate? Can you study abroad and still stay on track? What does your academic or faculty advisor think of your plans?

Please visit the Academics section of the website to learn more about this important piece of the puzzle!

Housing

What type of accommodations do you feel most comfortable staying in?
There are different factors to consider including the type of housing options available and the difference in the standard of living that you are used to in the U.S. in comparison to the host country or city.

Do you prefer to live independently or in a residence hall, apartment or with a host family?
Many programs offer you a choice of housing, while others have just one option:

  • Residence halls are similar to the residence halls you are used to at UNL. Benefits of this type of housing include your increased ability to get to know local and international students, increased access to campus resources and opportunities to get involved on campus and possibly more freedom.
  • Many students decide to live with a host family. Benefits of living with a host family include a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture, learn about local customs, and constantly practice the host language (if applicable). There are tradeoffs to living with a host family including cross-cultural challenges and enjoying less freedom than the other housing options.
  • Some programs offer apartments as a housing option. You may enjoy this option because you will likely have more privacy, as well as freedom to invite guests over and cook your own food. However, you will need to make a conscious effort to meet people, become involved, and practice the host language (if applicable) because it is easier to isolate yourself.
  • Another housing option includes staying in a hotel (or hostel, B&B, or temple). This type of accommodation is typically used for shorter, multi-city programs including some UNL faculty-led programs. Students typically do not have other housing options for these programs. In most cases, you will share a room with at least one other student.

Are you comfortable with minimal accommodations in a developing country?
As you are deciding which country to study in you should consider the standard of living. Are you going to be more comfortable in an Americanized setting or would you like to try living in a less developed region? You will have a complete range of options and have the opportunity to be comfortable or step outside your comfort zone to try something new.