Oklahoma City University
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Oklahoma City, OK 73106-1493
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mbenner@okcu.edu
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How to Choose a Study Abroad Program

Choosing the right study abroad program, like choosing the right university in the U.S., requires research and personal insight. Programs have distinctive characteristics, and finding the right match takes time. If your friend, sister, or teacher raves about their study abroad experience, ask for details. What made their program “the one”? If they respond that their rural campus in the Alps enabled them to hike every weekend, and that they loved the homemade cheeses served with every meal and you’re a vegan who likes to go to the cinema every weekend, their program might not be for you. Understand your needs and characteristics before choosing a program


Your Needs and Characteristics

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What type of courses do you need to take (major requirements, major electives, general education requirements, or minor requirements)?
  2. Do you want to complete an internship or conduct field study or independent research while abroad?
  3. Do you want to do service learning or volunteer work?
  4. What part of the world is most likely to be relevant to your academic or professional goals?
  5. Are you sufficiently fluent in a second language to take courses in that language? Would you like to do a language immersion program while abroad but also complete other courses in English?
  6. Is it important to you to be able to worship in a religious tradition similar to or the same as the tradition you follow at home?
  7. How uncomfortable do you think you are or would be with being a recognized minority?
  8. Do you want to live in a large, fast-paced city where there is always something to do but where it may be more difficult to make friends and interact with locals? Or would you rather live in a smaller city or town where the local culture may be more dominant?
  9. Do you feel comfortable using public transportation (buses, taxis, trains)?
  10. Do specific types of weather bother you? Have you experienced the type of climate common to the host country you are considering?
  11. Are you a self-starter, outgoing, and self-motivated, experienced in exploring new/different situations?
  12. Do you prefer functioning in a group with leaders and/or guides making decisions for you and being surrounded by others much like yourself or would you rather travel alone or with just one or two friends?
  13. Do you want to live in student housing or in a homestay with a family from your host country? Do you mind commuting 30 to 45 minutes to get to campus?
  14. Do you want to become a “specialist” in one location (language and culture and history and current events)?
  15. Do you consider yourself “high maintenance”? Are modern conveniences, personal appearance, the newest fads or specific activities important to you? What can you live without for a month? A semester? An academic year?
  16. Do you enjoy camping, hiking, backpacking, “roughing it”?
  17. Do you have a good sense of how (and if) you will use alcohol in a mature setting? Have you ever been disruptive of others or put your well-being at risk with alcohol?
  18. Have you ever traveled before? Outside the U.S.? If yes, how long and where?
  19. How long have you ever been away from “home” before, away from family and friends?
  20. What type of leisure activities do you enjoy? What do you do with your “free-time”?
  21. Do you have any physical or learning disabilities? Do you have physical or psychological conditions that might require attention while you are abroad? Do you have food allergies that could be difficult to manage in certain cultures?
  22. Are you tolerant of social, cultural, religious, and political perspectives that vary widely from your own?


These are just a sampling of the questions you should consider. Try to determine your top five to ten criteria and use those to compare different programs and geographic areas. Your study abroad advisor can help you to narrow your list of possible programs as well with the aid of your top priorities.


Oklahoma City University Study Abroad Programs