Planning to study Abroad
The key to a successful study abroad experience lies in the planning. Indeed, it is never too early to start; and some of the most successful reported study abroad experiences were by students who started planning during their first semester at the University of Scranton. So, where do you begin? A good starting point is to ask yourself a series of questions.
The first questions you need to ask yourself will help you define what you expect or want the study abroad experience to be. Knowing what you expect and want out of a study program will help you pick the study abroad option or options that best suit your needs. As you move forward in the process, you might want to consider the following questions:
- Why am I doing this to begin with?
- What do I want to get out of this experience?
- What is the best way of getting what I want?
After you have answered this series of questions, you will need to ask yourself the following question: In order for this endeavor be successful from both an academic and personal perspective, what needs to be in place?
This question can guide you in the development of a set of criteria by which to compare the study abroad options available to you. As you develop this set, there are a variety of items you might want to include such as: cost, academic needs, size of city, size of university, living arrangements etc. The more complete your set is, the easier it will be for you to decide upon the study abroad option that best suits your needs. Questions that you may want to consider include, but are not limited to the following:
Academics and Langauge
- Do I want to take classes with students from the host country or classes with fellow American students?
- Do I want to complete major course requirements?
- Do I want to take courses taught only in English?
- Do I want to take some courses taught in English and others in the host country's language?
- Do I want to take courses that I could never take at the University of Scranton?
- Do I want to follow an academic calendar/schedule similar to the University of Scranton?
- Do I want to take classes on the history and culture of the host country?
- Do I want large or small lecture classes?
- Do I want to learn a new language?
- Do I want to achieve fluency in a language?
- Do I have special needs which may require support services while abroad?
- Do I want to live and study in a campus environment or within an urban setting?
- Do I want to live with other American students, with students from the host country, with a family or by myself?
- Do I want to live on campus or am I willing to commute?
- Do I want to have access to facilities that are important to me (gym, computer labs etc.)?
- What will it cost to get to my destination?
- What will the cost of living be like?
- What will it cost for local transportation (bus, train, taxi, streetcar, subway)
- What will it cost to travel to other cities or countries?
- Do I want to enroll directly in a foreign university?
- Do I want to enroll in a study program designed specifically for American students?
- Do I want to enroll in a study program that allows me to study with American students as well as students from the host country?
Once you have completed this exercise, you will have a pretty good idea of where you want to study abroad and what you want to accomplish while abroad. Your next task is to create an academic plan to ensure you will graduate on time.
The Academic Plan
You will want to meet with your advisor and create an academic plan that you will follow during the rest of your career at the University of Scranton. An academic plan is essentially a map that you will follow to complete your degree at the University of Scranton. You will need to plan which classes you will take in Scranton and when you take them. You will do the same for the courses you wish to take abroad.
Course planning in preparation to study abroad is absolutely critical. You want to be sure that you are able to take classes abroad that allow you to make satisfactory progress with your University of Scranton academic requirements so that you will graduate on time. Further, it is imperative to plan the courses you will take at the University of Scranton prior to studying abroad as well as subsequent to your study abroad experience. You want to be sure that you are able to schedule required courses at the University of Scranton in order to graduate on time.
The first thing to consider is which courses are the easiest to find abroad. The quick answer to this question is: elective courses. The reason that elective courses are the easiest to find abroad is that you are trying to find a kind of class rather than a specific class. With elective credits you are able to take courses you simply won't find at the University of Scranton. So, as you start developing your academic plan, you want to ideally reserve all your elective classes for possible study abroad courses. If you need to take required courses abroad. the course abroad must closely match the required course you are trying to fill.
In most instances, courses taken abroad have at least the same credit weight as courses offered at the University of Scranton. In some instances, courses may have a greater or lesser credit weighting than here (which is not a problem). In most cases, students studying abroad are taking courses to fill elective areas. As a result, the total credits of the course(s) are applied to the elective area. A good way to think of elective credits is in terms of total credits needed in the area as opposed to the number of (3) credit classes needed. If a student’s credits earned exceed the credits need to fill an elective area (for example the student has (3) credits of elective available and earns (4) abroad), the credits are then applied to their free area. In the case of a student with (3) elective credits remaining who earns, for example, (1) credit for the class, she or he will have (2) credits remaining to fulfill the elective requirement.
The next step in developing an academic plan is to determine when you need to take required courses at the University of Scranton; you will need to plan most of those courses around your study abroad experience. One way to approach the planning is to construct an Academic Planning Grid such as the one below. Each cell represents an academic term you have access to during your career at the University of Scranton. Each row represents an academic year; the first row your freshman year, the second your sophomore year, etc. Use the following steps to complete your planning:
- Take a copy of your CAPP report and cross out all the courses you have already taken and the ones currently in progress (use pencil so you can erase).
- The unmarked courses you have left are the courses you need to complete in order to graduate from the University of Scranton. Treat the courses as puzzle pieces and the grid as the puzzle; where do the pieces fit?
- You can start by identifying courses you wish to take abroad and enter them into the appropriate cell(s). Remember that you ideally wish to take elective courses during your sojourn abroad, however, you may find that you have to take required classes.
- Identify which courses you need to take at the University of Scranton and put the courses in the cell that corresponds to when you would take it. As you enter courses into the grid, remember to cross them out on your CAPP sheet so you can keep track of them. Consult your course catalog/program guide for course scheduling.
- After you have developed an academic plan, meet with your advisor for her/his suggestions and recommendations.
- When you have arrived at a schedule that meets with your advisors approval, you can begin working on identifying where to study abroad. After all, you will need to find a place to study that meets your academic needs.
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Identifying a Study Abroad Program
After you have identified which courses you wish/need to take abroad, you will want to meet with the International Programs and Services staff to identify a program abroad that meets your academic needs.