What is Study Abroad? Everything You Need to Know!

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College Study Abroad

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Every student hears about it, but what does “study abroad” mean, anyway? How does studying abroad work and how can YOU study overseas? Living and learning in a foreign country can feel overwhelming at first, but the process is so much easier than you may think. If you're wondering how to study internationally, you've come to the right place.

Let’s dig into the basics of what you need to know about study abroad and how to prepare you for a successful study abroad experience! 

What is Studying Abroad? 

Strictly defined, study abroad is when a student pursues their academic goals in a foreign country. But it’s so much more than that. Studying overseas opens the door to an entirely new world and new points of view that foster cross-cultural learning. It’s a fully immersive experience that has the power to transform a person’s global perspective, cultural understanding, and even way of life.    

Just how transformative is study abroad? Here are a handful of benefits you’ll take away from your program that you’ll carry with you throughout your life: 

  • You’ll connect with new cultures and languages 
  • You’ll meet locals who help you feel at home away from home 
  • You’ll see the world and gain a new perspective 
  • You’ll go on unique cultural excursions to bring your studies to life 
  • You’ll boost your resume with real-world international work experience 
  • You’ll form new friendships that’ll last a lifetime 
  • You’ll enjoy best-in-class academics 

For a deeper understanding of the perks of studying abroad, check out our article on the top 7 benefits of studying abroad! 

study abroad costa rica at ciee monteverde library

Studying vs. Interning Abroad 

Studying abroad in college is the most common way for students to experience a new country while working toward their degree. Interning abroad, on the other hand, is gaining increasing popularity and gives students the unique opportunity to gain real-world work experience in a foreign country.  

Students interested in becoming CIEE Global Interns can choose between full-time internships for full-time international work experience or part-time internships designed to balance credit-earning classes alongside part-time work experience.  

From public policy to the arts, business administration to marketing – and so much more – CIEE students can intern abroad for up to 12 weeks (depending on their chosen program), providing them an invaluable path to building their resumes and networking with employers around the world, while simultaneously earning college credits.  

Interning abroad is an incredible step toward developing the skills needed to succeed in today’s increasingly globally diverse world. And, practically speaking, global internships will help your resume stand out in any industry’s competitive global job market. Cross-cultural skills have never been more in-demand by employers than they are right now. 

Search for your dream study abroad program and explore more about interning abroad to see which program type is right for you! 

How to Choose a Study Abroad Program for Your Major 

CIEE offers many different study abroad programs based on a student’s area of study. Depending on your major, you may be required to enroll in certain classes, while other classes would be considered optional. These details are determined by your home institution, but CIEE can work with you and your school to find the best program for your area of study.  

From STEM majors studying conservation in Costa Rica to journalism majors studying communications in Spain, we identify what study abroad or global internship program best aligns with your academic and professional goals. For a deeper dive into the best programs for your major, explore our areas of study page. 

How to Find the Right Time to Study Abroad 

There’s a study abroad season designed to fit every student’s busy schedule at CIEE. Whether your school follows a semester calendar or you’re part of the quarter school system, we offer programs every spring, summer, fall, and January to give you the flexibility to find a study abroad program during the time of year that’s best for you.  

Based on your academic goals, course interests, lifestyle, and even graduation plans, we can work together to determine the best season for you to study overseas. Each term abroad offers something different, like: 

  • FALL ABROAD: Begin your semester or quarter term abroad in an exciting place of your choosing. Experience Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, see the first snowfall of the year in Amsterdam, or enjoy Germany’s Christmas markets! 
  • JANUARY ABROAD: Spend winter break earning credits without missing a beat during the rest of your academic year at home. During this three-and-a-half week program, you’ll get to experience study abroad without compromising your school, work, sports, or other extracurricular commitments. 
  • SPRING ABROAD: End your academic year by studying or interning abroad before summer break. From appreciating Japan’s stunning cherry blossoms to walking through a sea of green in Ireland’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, you can’t go wrong with spring study abroad! 
  • SUMMER ABROAD: Spend your summer during one of the best seasons of the year without interrupting your regular semester or quarter term schedules. From four-week summer sessions in 13 epic locations around the world to six-week summer blocks in 16 incredible global cities to eight-week intensive programs for optimal cultural immersion, there are plenty of ways you can spend your summer living and learning abroad. 
  • OPEN CAMPUS BLOCKS: For students who can’t narrow their choice down to just one location, the flexible and mobile Open Campus Block program is a great option! This program, offered exclusively at CIEE, gives students the freedom to fully customize their study abroad experience. Choose the length of the program (one, two, or three blocks), the courses, and the destination(s) (up to three locations!). It’s the ideal program for time-pressed students or those who crave extra flexibility. 
sydney opera house cultural excursion during study abroad

Exploring Where You’ll Live and Learn 

When you study abroad with CIEE, you’ll have seemingly limitless choices when it comes to traveling around the world. With more than 30 incredible global cities to choose from, you can go just about  anywhere you want!  

Some students long to go study in Barcelona to advance their Spanish language skills. Others call Tokyo their home away from home and immerse themselves in Japanese engineering studies. No matter your location of interest, language skills, or lifestyle preferences, CIEE is located in a city you’re bound to fall in love with on your epic adventure abroad.  

Explore CIEE’s locations around the world to get inspired by where you can take your studies! 

Applying for Scholarships & Grants 

At CIEE, we believe study abroad should be an option for every student. Fortunately, many universities and colleges offer students scholarships and grants to make study abroad possible. Typically, students can learn more about financial aid and funding options on their university website.  

Additionally, CIEE also offers scholarships and grants to help students like YOU make your study abroad dreams come true! To learn more about how to apply for need-based grants and/or merit scholarships, track important deadlines, and follow our application requirements, visit our scholarship page. 

Get Started 

Now that you know how studying abroad works, you're ready to take the next step! Start your application today to make studying abroad a reality. Don’t worry; you can always start your application now, save your progress, and come back to it later when you’re ready to complete it and submit for review.