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In 2001-02, there were a record 154,168 U.S. college students receiving credit for studying abroad. This number has increased by 55% over the last five years. The Institute of International Education (IIE) reports that “young Americans clearly recognize the crucial role they will play in leading our nation into a world even more connected than it is today.” Students have become more intensely engaged and are seeking out more opportunities for firsthand interaction with other cultures and countries. As the world shrinks, international awareness and experience becomes ever more important.

There are many excellent reasons for students to consider studying abroad; the difficulty comes in choosing the program. Here are a few things to consider.

When should I begin planning?
Start planning as soon as the study-abroad thought pops into your head but at least a year before you intend to go.

How long are the programs, and where are they located?
Study-abroad options are available by the year, semester, summer, or intersession (the month-long break between semesters) almost anywhere in the world.

What types of programs are there?
Study abroad programs can be:

* sponsored by your school, or operated by your school in its own facility abroad, available only to its students

* sponsored either by your school or by a member of your school’s study-abroad consortium of schools, available only to students in that consortium

* ssponsored either by your school or another school, open to all students

* sponsored and operated by the host school

* sponsored and/or operated by an independent study-abroad organization.

* self-designed and created

Programs can be single-country or multicountry. There are also international internships and international volunteer programs.

Where do I start looking?
The place to begin is at your college’s Study Abroad Office. They have brochures, detailed information, expected costs, and experienced people glad to share their knowledge. There are several excellent books and directories. Another good place to begin research is the IIE Web site, http://www.iiepassport.org, which lists both schools and independent organizations by country, language, subject, and other criteria.

What are the differences between the programs?
If you go on a program run by your own university, you will continue to pay tuition and earn credits as if you were at the school. If you go on a program run by another school or consortia of schools, you will probably pay tuition to the sponsoring institution and earn credit by transfer. If you go on a program through an independent organization, you are either enrolled in the host university, or the company may provide its own program opportunities in a curriculum designed especially for you and the other American students in the program. If you create your own study-abroad experience, you will apply and enroll directly in the institution, transferring the equivalent credits.

Will I receive credit for my courses?
Yes, but be sure that there is a clear understanding, in writing, among you, your home school and the international program you’ve chosen about the credit expectations before you go, especially if you are self-enrolling. You also need to decide if you are looking for general courses to fill the degree requirement or if you are specifically looking for courses in your major or minor.

Can I still get financial aid?
Yes, but apply as soon as possible. In addition, there are special scholarships created just for study abroad by the federal government, the study-abroad organization sponsoring your program, and other organizations. Your study-abroad adviser and financial-aid adviser are good resources for learning about the availability of these options.

CHECKLIST
Use the checklist below to help you figure out your best study-abroad option.

* Begin researching study-abroad programs at least one year in advance of when you want to go.

* Decide on the length of program you want.

* Determine your first consideration in studying abroad. Are you looking for a specific school, country or field of study?

* Visit your Study Abroad Office and gather information on the different programs that meet your criteria.

* Decide whether you want to use a program sponsored by your school, another school, an independent organization, or if you want to self-enroll directly in the school.

* Research the various programs that meet your criteria.

* Decide what courses you want to take

* Find out how your credits will transfer.

* Check with your financial adviser about continuing your financial aid abroad.

* Research what additional study-abroad scholarships are available.

Information provided by Petersons.com

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