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Scholarship and Internship

How To Study Abroad as a Freshman

If you want to study abroad and you haven’t started college yet, it’s understandable that you may be wondering if study abroad programs for college freshmen are even a thing. The short answer to this question is YES!

However, there are a few things to consider and be aware of before you jump right in. Each college and study abroad provider has different policies for when you can study abroad, so you’ll want to contact your university’s study abroad office from the get-go if you’re interested in studying abroad freshman year. That way, you can find out how to do it and whether there are any restrictions.

There are lots of different options available to you, from short-term, freshmen-specific courses, to traditional study abroad experiences, ranging from a few weeks to an academic year.

Even if your college doesn’t allow you to study abroad in your first year, don’t let that stop you! You can still study abroad during your last year in high school, during the summer before university, take a gap year instead, or just wait until later in your college career.

Why it’s a good idea to study abroad freshman year

1. You’ll gain an expanded perspective to apply to the rest of your studies

By participating in a freshman study abroad experience, you’ll not only learn to be more independent, but you’ll also get to experience the real world away from home. Even though university is a step closer to the real world, you want to be prepared for what is truly to come.

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When you study abroad, you’ll encounter many more challenging situations and obstacles than by staying at your home university, allowing you to grow and become more resilient, better preparing you for the rest of your college career. 

You will see what the real world is truly like, gain new perspectives, and be able to solve problems in a new way.

2. You can take your gen ed and lower level courses in another country

There are some classes that you have to take in university, no matter what you end up studying. Why not take those courses abroad, where you can incorporate a little local flair and excitement into it?

Even if you don’t know exactly what you want to major in right away, by getting your general education credits while on freshman year study abroad programs, you might be able to narrow down or discover new interests abroad.

3. You’ll have opportunities to study abroad more than once in college!

Why limit yourself to studying abroad only once? If you study abroad as a freshman, you’ll get a headstart on everyone else and be able to give into the travel bug again later on in your studies. 

You’ll not only know how to work with your study abroad office, but you’ll learn all about getting scholarships and funding, so you’ll be ready to take advantage of other great experiences!

4. You’ll be a pro at adapting to new and challenging situations

They say that college is a new and challenging experience for incoming freshmen, but study abroad is even more so! After going abroad as a freshman, settling in at university will be a piece of cake. Instead of struggling to buy groceries in another language, everything will be straightforward and laid out nicely for you to take advantage of. 

In addition, you’ll also be a pro at making friends with people different from you! The challenging situations that freshmen usually have will be so much less intimidating for a globetrotter.

Potential disadvantages of freshman study abroad

1. You won’t have the traditional freshman college experience

One of the exciting things about going to university is the chance to move out on your own, live in the dorms, make new friends, and truly experience the quintessential college lifestyle. Depending on what study abroad experience you participate in as a freshman, you might not be able to have this traditional experience.

Maybe you want to follow a different path or maybe it doesn’t matter to you, which is why it’s important to prioritize the things you want out of your college career. If you want the traditional experience, you don’t have to give it up if you want to study abroad. You just have to find the right program that allows for both.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that for every experience you lose, you can have a different great experience you didn’t even expect. Don’t be afraid to try something unconventional!

2. You might not make the same close connections and friendships as your peers when you come back

This point also depends on what kind of study abroad experience you decide to go on as a freshman. If you do a group excursion, you might become part of the tightly-knit community of students also on that trip. But, if you go off on your own, although you’ll make close friends abroad, you’ll have to find your place when you come back.

Freshman year is a unique experience where you figure out college life, social circles, and where you establish your place at the university. Coming in a semester or a year later means that everything is already established, and you’ll have to work harder to find your place. But, after spending time abroad, this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge!

3. You might be more mature than the rest of your classmates when you return

Spending time abroad gives you an opportunity like no other for persona development. You learn how to deal with challenges and difficult situations, and become more mature and independent than you were before. 

Because of all the changes you experience during a freshman study abroad, you might return to college with a greater sense of maturity than the rest of your peers. Although this is something that we all deal with differently, it’s something to take into consideration when you are readjusting to life back home.

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