So, you’ve decided to study abroad. Now, you just need to pick a program. You may be leaning toward a highly structured summer program, or one where you are surrounded by your peers from home. But if neither of these choices seems like the best fit for you, an exchange program is another option. Here are five reasons to consider doing an exchange program abroad.
- You can choose your own classes. From Art History to Zoology, if the host institution offers it, you can study it there. An exchange program gives you freedom to choose the classes you take abroad. Yes, you’ll have to arrange for transfer credit, but it’s worth it to be able to tailor your academic program to your interests and your schedule. You may even have more freedom in course selection than your degree-seeking peers abroad.
- You’ll be immersed in the culture. No planned meals or transportation, no dorm or classroom full of American students—you will begin to immerse yourself in the culture of your host country from day one. You’ll meet people from backgrounds unlike your own, improve your language skills (or just learn a new accent!), and explore the local hangouts. At first you’ll do this out of necessity, but later you’ll do it for fun!
- You’ll be independent. There is no substitute for planning to traverse an unfamiliar country over spring break using only public transportation, learning to haggle for clothing at the market, opening a bank account when the paperwork is in a foreign language, or finding your way around a city without a map. These were all memorable experiences for me, and through them I became more confident in my ability to make my own way in the world. The independence given and earned on an exchange program is irreplaceable.
- Your tuition stays the same. Students on an exchange program pay their home institution’s tuition and fees. This means you could study at a really selective (sometimes read: expensive) school abroad, while keeping your tuition rates the same. It’s still a good idea to compare costs with other programs, though.
- You’ll find a home abroad. The independence, immersion, and relatively long duration that characterize exchange programs mean that by the time your program ends, you will feel at home in your host country. Your program may last six months or a year, but the friendships and memories made can last a lifetime.
Photo courtesy of Amanda Bouldin.
Kelsey Dillon is senior at the University of Kentucky studying Anthropology and French. Kelsey participated in the ISEP Exchange-Aix-Marseille Universite program in Spring 2015.