You, my friend, have spent hours and hours scouring the interwebs, doing a massive study abroad program search, and reading countless reviews to finally find the one-and-only study abroad program for you. Keep happy dancing around your room like nobody’s watching (Yup, we see you and we support you—you definitely deserve it!). All that how-did-I-end-up-here Google searching paid off and it was well worth the effort. So, the question is: Now what? You’ve finished your study abroad program search, but how do I study abroad in college—but, like, actually do it? 

Your OMG I Just Found the Perfect Program Abroad 10-Step Action Plan

Now,you can embark on your study abroad journey and actually go abroad, because we’ve got you covered with our “OMG I JUST FOUND THE PERFECT STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM” 10 step action plan, designed to help you figure out how to study abroad in college. Our goal? Get you on track before you’re on your way to the airport.

10 steps to make it happen

Once the grueling study abroad program search is over, here’s what to do:

Step 1: Don’t Freak Out

Simultaneously the easiest and most difficult step in your how to study abroad in college action plan. No, it ISN’T too good to be true! (Okay, okay: You can totally freak out!) Before you start telling your closest friends and family—and frankly, anyone close in proximity to you—in a shrill-high-pitched voice that you’re going abroad, read through all the program details (including if you can afford it!). Check and double check—and check again for good measure. 

This is the step where you absorb every single thing you can find about your perfect program abroad. You read all of the reviews. Find out the best insider info from people who have actually studied abroad with that program. You’ll try to connect with program alumni to get an even better look inside your dream program, university, and location. You pick their brain and get all the down-and-dirty deets. Then, you happy dance some more. 

Boy clicking his heels in the middle of a brick road
Do the D-A-N-C-E 1,2,3,4, 5! You just found your perfect program abroad!

Step 2: Get Approval From Your Study Abroad Office

Set up a sesh with your campus study abroad advisor to see if you can score more than just elective credit for it. That would be ideal, right? That way, you’d be able to stay on track with your undergraduate curriculum. Studying abroad shouldn’t veer you from your path to graduation; in fact, it can help you out. The key is aligning your international program’s classes with those that would normally count at your home university. The person holding that key is your campus study abroad advisor. Knock on their door (or set up an appointment online) to figure out all the fun details to align your four-year plan with your program abroad. 

Your study abroad office will likely have pre-approved lists of program that have worked for previous students—and whether an affiliate program or a direct enrollment program is doable. This is the fateful step where you check that list twice and finalize your program selection. Fingers crossed, everything will work out and you can set your sights on scoring university credits through your study abroad program.

Calendar open on an iPad
Now it starts feeling a little real, you’re making appointments, you’re meeting your study abroad advisor, it’s all in motion.

Step 3(a): If it’s Approved, JUMP FOR JOY!

Yes, you are allowed to scream and shout and let all that excitement out. You’ve just won the study abroad lottery and you can already see yourself sipping wine in Tuscany or climbing mountains in Peru. Keep that daydream in mind while checking off these steps to study abroad. You are that much closer.

Step 3(b): If it isn’t, Fear Not

There are other awesome international programs out there that’ll fit the bill. Return to the research phase and don’t lose heart. Or you can just say SHOVE IT and do it anyway. Either way, it’s crucial to meet with your study abroad advisor and find out what’s possible and what’s closer-to-impossible-but-totally-doable, requiring more legwork from you to find and approve a new program abroad. Don’t worry, though—we’ve got you covered with a step-by-step guide for getting a new program approved, of course!

notebook and laptop open editing resume
Get your cover letter and resume in order. Right. Now.

Step 4: Pop By Your Academic Advisor’s Office

You’ll want to inform your academic advisor all about your international travel and study plans. They might even have a few tips for studying abroad that they’ve offered to fellow undergrads in your position.  They’ll also be knowledgeable about what other students in your major did before you, like what classes they took, and what locations were best for your major— all the fun stuff!

Step 5: Gear Up for the Application Process

Make a short list of steps that you can check off (can you tell we like making lists and step-by-step guides?). All these checklists valen la pena because you’ve got a goal in mind and you will go abroad. You go. You apply for that program abroad! Don’t forget to consider any and all possible language exams, essays, and reference letters that may be necessary—and need some extra prep time—before the application deadline.

Girl jumping for joy in Bolivia
DANCE SOME MORE! You’re well on your way to participating in your perfect program abroad!

Step 6: Rock That Cover Letter

Your application should be in tip top shape before you hit submit. Brush up on your resume (and muse how great it’s going to look post-program!). Both your academic advisor and study abroad office will likely have staff on hand to help coach you through this process, but don’t expect them to write your application for you!

Step 7: Scholarships – Because Who Doesn’t Love Free Money?

Whether you’re on the hunt for fully-funded, program-specific, or government-sponsored scholarships, there are literally tons of study abroad scholarships— you’ve just got to look! There are need-based scholarships, too. If you’ve got Federal Pell Grant funding, you could qualify for the Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship. Filter through by country or subject in your scholarship search on GoAbroad and start saving before you even step foot out of the country.

Step 8: Submit Your App & Pray for Goodwill from the International Programs Gods

This is the nervous, but exciting waiting game that’s all part of the process. You’ll soon forget what it was like to refresh your email 37 times a day and make weird, worried faces to all who asked if you were studying abroad. You’re that much closer to your dream program abroad. We told you this action plan would help you figure out how to study abroad in college!

Open palm holding a compass
Make a sacrifice to the travel gods. Just kidding… kind of.

Step 9: Save, Save, Save!

Fundraise like a boss! Crowdfund like it’s your job on FundMyTravel. Juggle two on campus jobs, your sig-o, student orgs, and your classes without blinking an eye. Bust your butt saving up because your future self kickin’ it abroad will sincerely thank you. Think another weekend trip or camping adventure type of thank you. That’s the kind of thank you we all would love to receive. Save up and you will make that a reality. Make a practical budget for your program abroad before leaving, and, again, you’ll thank yourself later— at least, your bank account will!

Step 10: Pack Your Bags & GOOOOO

This is it: the moment you can finally and truly be excited that everything has worked out and you are going to study abroad. Here’s to yet another happy dance. Get all those good, international vibes out there while simultaneously prepping and packing.

Bump some music, whip out the good ol’ suitcase, and…roam aimlessly around your room picking things up and placing them in your bag…for hours. The packing process can be scatterbrained and daunting without an action plan. Check out these packing tips for studying abroad to get you going and let out a deep breath of gratitude for successfully making it through all 10 steps. Now, get that bag packed and get out there!

Now that’s how to study abroad in college

Your study abroad program search wasn’t that bad, right? Right! You’ve done it! Happy dances, wide smiles, and successful study abroad applications. From finding that perfect program to following this how to study abroad in college 10-step action plan, you’ve made it to the final step before embarking on your perfect program abroad. In the inspirational, travel-lovin’ words of Mark Twain, “Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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