Choosing A Study Abroad Program

Study abroad is not a one-size-fits-all process. Choosing the right study abroad program for you will depend on your goals from your study abroad experience. You might have a particular country you have always dreamed about living in; you might want to immerse yourself in the foreign language you are studying; you might want to take courses in your major that aren't available at Salem; or you might be happy to travel to any country where you can develop your self-confidence and independent while gaining new perspectives.

Below are some questions to ask yourself as you explore your study abroad options. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a place to get you started:

What are my goals; what do I want to gain during my study abroad experience?

  • Are my goals professional and academic, to gain specific skills such as language fluency, to take courses toward my major in a different educational system?
  • Are my goals personal development, to travel to as many new countries as possible, to immerse myself in a new culture?
  • Do I have other goals, unique to me? 

What do I want to study and experience?

  • Am I looking for a particular internship, research experience, or service opportunity?
  • Will the courses I take be for your major, Salem Signature requirements, or completely new courses I couldn't take elsewhere?
  • How many courses will I take, and what language will the instructor use?
  • Will my classes be large lecture, small seminars, or one-on-one with a professor?
  • Will I live in a dormitory, in an apartment, or with a local host family? (The Studying Abroad Step by Step website provides some of the pros and cons of the different arrangements). 

Where do I want to travel?

  • What country do I want to be my new home base?
  • Do I want to reside in a large city, small city, town or village?
  • What opportunities for independent travel do I want?
  • What language do I want to speak, and be taught in?
  • Do I have special circumstances that put me at risk in certain countries or cultures?
  • Do I have specific needs that must be met where I will be traveling?
  • What is the local cost of living at this destination?

When do I want to travel?

  • When can I take time away from Salem?
  • What do I need to accomplish before I depart?
  • What will the climate be like when I am there?
  • Do I want to visit a country for a few weeks, or immerse myself for months or a year?
  • How will I feel separated from my family and my friends at Salem?

More Ways to Explore

An additional resource with some additional questions is "Things to Consider when Choosing a Study Abroad Program" provided by

Another great way to start thinking about what you want from study abroad is to hear about the personal experiences of students who have already traveled; listening to their stories you will hear things that excite you, and things that you know aren't for you. Online you'll find a multitude of blogs kept by students during their time abroad; you can get started at the blog list.