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International Exchange

Where should I study abroad?

20 August 2019
Malibu Pier with text Choosing where to study abroad
Malibu Pier - Choosing where to study abroad
Malibu Pier with text Choosing where to study abroad
Malibu Pier – Choosing where to study abroad

So you know you want to study abroad, but what destination should you choose?

Much like when choosing your UK university there are many factors that come into choosing where you wish to spend your time studying abroad. After all, you’re going to be spending either one or two semesters wherever you choose, so you want to make sure you choose the place that is the best fit for you.

Personally, when choosing where to study abroad I had no hesitation. When taking my A-Levels and applying to UCAS I was simultaneously taking my American SATs (which happen to be very different exams to the SATs you take in Year 6 in the UK!) and applying to American colleges through the Common Application system (this being the US equivalent to UCAS, although it’s functionality differs a lot). Due to health reasons that I shan’t go into I never made it to an American college then but decided that whatever university I chose to attend in the UK must have the opportunity to study abroad in America for a period of time.

Almost as soon as I got to Cardiff in my first year I started researching ENCAPs partner universities in the States to see where I would be most interested in studying and living. I knew for certain I wanted to be in a city, being from just outside London I find it difficult being in places where there isn’t something constantly going on. This narrowed down my options to just two universities to choose from: one based in San Francisco and one based in Los Angeles. I was lucky in the fact I had been to both these cities the Easter before my first year so I had already experienced what they had to offer. Whilst I knew I liked San Francisco (and had spent a longer period of time there at this point), I also knew I had fallen in love with LA.

I’m also the kind of person who wants to know they’ve made the right decision and so during a family holiday to LA in my first year I took the chance to have a little look at Loyola Marymount University’s (the university I chose as my study abroad host) campus. Although we only took a short drive around the campus to gather a general feel, I really loved how green and open the university felt and knew that I could see myself there (especially as I love taking advantage of the rare good weather in Cardiff during exam season to revise in Bute Park!).

So now you know how I chose my study abroad host and country let’s go through some things I think are important to think about when deciding where you want to study abroad:

1) Finance:
Admittedly most of us don’t want this to be an issue when it comes to thinking about where we want to study abroad but some countries are just far more expensive than others. International exchange to America, Australia, and similar destinations are far more expensive than their ERASMUS counterparts. So do your research into just how much each destination will cost you before apply because you don’t want to miss out on the chance to study abroad simply for choosing somewhere over your budget.

2) Destination:
When it comes to the destination there are lots of things to think of. How far away is it from home? What is the weather like? Is it a city or is it more rural? Is it a country that speaks another language? Most importantly is it somewhere that you think will make you feel safe and at home?

If you have the opportunity to, I think it’s a great idea to visit the country you’re thinking of applying for before you do so as this is the only real way you can get a feel of whether it’s the right place for you or not before you go. But if you don’t have the opportunity make sure you research really well! I’d advise searching for YouTube videos of both the city and the university you’re looking at!

3) Academics:
Make sure to look at the modules on offer at the university! Just like uni in the UK you’re not going to enjoy your experience anywhere near as much if you can only do modules you hate! Double-check that there are options that genuinely interest you!

I hope that learning about how I chose my study abroad destination and what I think you should factor into your decision helps you in your decision! If you have any questions please feel free to comment and I’ll be sure to reply!