The world is a big place. Like, real big. Not as big as a randomly generated world in Minecraft, but still… pretty darn big. Unlike the Minecraft world, ours is actually inhabited – by nearly eight billion people! The UN recognizes 193 different countries across the globe, but there are thousands upon thousands of different cultures within those countries and so many more that have existed in the past. It would be a complete fool’s errand to try to understand and learn about every single culture on the planet, or even every country for that matter; so, when we decide to travel or live somewhere new, how on Earth (no pun intended) are we supposed to choose where we go? The amount of options is simply overwhelming.
Fortunately, as Northeastern students, we don’t exactly have the opportunity to go anywhere in the world, which helps us to narrow down our choice a teensy bit. In total, there are 173 different study abroad programs offered by Northeastern in 54 different countries, on all continents except Antarctica. Now, that may sound like a lot, but it’s a much easier pool to pick from than what we started with. By the end of this article, I hope to narrow down your choices to just a few different programs that suit not only your needs, but your wants as well. Without further adieu, let’s begin.
The first thing that you should consider is pretty obvious – what are you studying? If you’re in a relatively common program like computer science or business, you’re going to have options all over the world. However, if you’re in a smaller program like me, you may find that your scope is much more limited. This can be a bummer if you really wanted to go somewhere that doesn’t accommodate your program, but if you truly have no idea where you want to go, I would say this is a huge benefit. Fortunately, for most programs, you won’t have to comb through hundreds of different schools’ course lists manually, as the GEO’s search engine has a filter you can use!
Once you’ve figured out where you can go, it’s time to start thinking about where you would like to go. There are so many different variables you can factor into this decision, but the easiest way is to start with the most important things and work your way down. Of course, these will be different for every person; maybe you don’t really care about a city’s nightlife, but it has to be somewhere with good hiking, or vice versa. Whatever these things are for you, do a bit of research on each program that you’re considering to figure out which ones will be the best fit. Personally, I had three big factors that I knew would be absolutely necessary: good weather, an English-speaking population, and a relatively clean city environment. With all of that in mind, my decision to come to Sydney seems pretty obvious. However, those were not the only things I considered.
After you’ve narrowed down your pool even further by taking the majorly important things into account, you should think of some minor things that could potentially make a difference in your stay. For me, these were things like the cost of living, the quality of the nightlife, ethnic diversity, and the number of clubs/societies present at the host university, among many more. These are the things that might not seem so important when you’re doing your initial research, but you’ll definitely notice their impact by the time you’ve settled into your new home. If instead of Sydney, I had decided to go to a place like Geneva, Switzerland or London, England, I would probably be seriously struggling to pay rent. That’s not to say that Sydney is a cheap place to live, but it’s much more manageable than either of those places, and it was definitely something that I factored in while I was choosing my study abroad program, even if it wasn’t the most important thing on my list. Again, these things will be different for everyone, so it’s very important to know what they are for you personally.
At this point, you should have a list of no more than five or six potential programs – maybe you’ve even figured out exactly where you want to go already. If you haven’t chosen yet, this is where you should start seriously researching each place on your list. Two places might seem alike at first glance, but if you dig a little deeper, you just may find something that totally separates them. You may only get to study abroad once, so in my opinion, you should do as much research as possible to truly figure out which program or which country is the best for you. Try to imagine yourself living there, imagine what a typical day could be like and whether it truly seems like something you want to pursue. Of course, the odds are you’ll have a great time no matter where you go, but studying abroad is a special and exciting thing, and it should feel special.
Wherever you end up going, remember why you went there. Remember to have fun and learn. Make sure you get your work done but try not to drown in it so that you still have time to explore and understand a new culture. Ultimately, your experience is what you make it, and if you go into your study abroad with a positive attitude and an unquenchable thirst for adventure, you’re bound to have a fantastic time. If you’re really lost and you don’t know where to go, talk to some students who have had global experiences before! Odds are they had an amazing experience, no matter where they ended up.