Deciding Which Program Is Best for You

There are over 3000 study abroad programs around the world. Before you start to consider specific programs you will want to consider what you want to accomplish and experience through studying in another country. Here are a few guidelines that will help you to narrow your focus and to determine what sort of program might be best for you.


  • Where do you want to study?
  • Do you have a particular country or region in mind?
  • Are you looking for a program in the developing world?
  • Do you want to be in a big city?
  • Are you concerned about the climate of your study abroad country?


  • Are you prepared academically for the study abroad experience?
  • At UIS you need to be in good standing, 2.0 GPA, but many programs/universities have a higher GPA requirement.

Have you discussed studying abroad with your academic advisor and department chair?

  • If you are planning to use study abroad courses for your major you will need the approval of your department to do so. You will also want to talk with them about your graduation requirements.
  • If you are considering a non-English speaking country what are your language skills in the appropriate language?
  • Are you looking for an English only curriculum or a mixed curriculum in English and the native language?

Program Structure

  • Are you looking for a program designed for Americans or other foreign students or do you want to take classes with students from the host culture?
  • How independent are you?
  • Some programs have resident directors who can help with many of the issues that arise. Other programs do not and you will be handling problems on your own. Similarly, some programs are very structured with regard to excursions while others give you free time to explore on your own.


  • What sort of living arrangements are you interested in?
  • You may have a variety of options including university residence halls, apartments in town, or home stays. You may also have the option to live with other Americans or other foreign students or with local students.

Program Costs

  • Do you have a budget?
  • How much can you afford to pay for your study abroad experience?
  • Do you need to apply for financial assistance?

Next Steps

Now you are ready to start looking for specific programs. There are several ways to do this:

  1. You can access several excellent catalogues through the web. The Institute for International Education (IIE) maintains the most comprehensive listing of study abroad programs. You will find others if you do a search for ‘study abroad programs’.
  2. Friends and faculty. Many members of the UIS faculty have had experience studying abroad as have a number of students. Most would be eager to talk about their experiences with you.
  3. Study Away Programs. You will want to talk about your study abroad plans with the Director.

And Then?

Then you will want to collect as much information as you can about the study abroad programs that interest you, keeping in mind the guidelines you have worked through and the goals you have set. You will find that the program descriptions available in print and on the web are often cursory. Before you make your final decision you will want to request more information such as catalogues, course syllabi, housing pamphlets, etc. This will help you to make your decisions and will be very beneficial to anyone working with you.


You will put together your application package. This is a two step process: you will be preparing applications for the programs you are interested in; and you will be preparing an application for the Global Experience Committee. You will submit both to the Office of International Programs. If you are approved by UIS your application will be sent to your program with a letter of endorsement from the Global Experience Committee.