Everything Parents Need to Know About First Year Abroad

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First Year Abroad

If you’re a recent high school grad asking, “How to convince my parents to let me study abroad,” or if you’re a parent of a recent high school grad who’s curious about studying abroad and you don’t know where to start, this blog post is for both of you. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about first year abroad.  

What Is First Year Abroad?  

A first year abroad program is a way for high school grads to start their college careers abroad. Essentially, a freshman study abroad program.  

Instead of starting their first semester on a U.S. campus, first year abroad students will travel to a country of their choice and take intro-level college courses and earn college credits all while experiencing the world and gaining a deeper global perspective.  

If you’re a parent of a student or a recent high school grad contemplating taking a gap year after high school to get an authentic global experience, we get it. Becoming a global citizen is important to you. While CIEE Gap Year programs aren’t credit-bearing, they offer more flexibility, with a true emphasis on self-discovery and language-learning. You’ll come back to the States refreshed and better prepared to start your next phase in life.  

With CIEE’s First Year Abroad programs, you can get that international experience you’re yearning for while starting your college career – not delaying it. Unlike gap year, first year abroad is credit-bearing and a bit more structured, with a full course load. You are, after all, starting your college career abroad. We describe it as the perfect pair of traveling post-high school and prioritizing your education.

How Does First Year Abroad Work?  

Although it might seem complicated, first year abroad programs are relatively simple. Read on for more details.  

Application Process

When you apply to CIEE’s First Year Abroad program, you’ll be enrolled as a student at our academic partner and school of record, Dean College, in its A.A. General Studies Program. Dean College is a well-respected, private liberal arts college in Massachusetts. On top of incredible academic programs and values, you can enjoy their stunning campus when you get back to the States.  

When You Land  

Your CIEE First Year Abroad destination options are incredible:

Once you arrive in one of these fascinating cities, your first few days as a freshman will include a two-day orientation to learn more about the local culture and customs, advice on adjusting to living in a new environment, and general academic expectations.

Once you’re there, you’ll live in fully screened housing with our CIEE center staff on-site nearby. This highly trained and experienced team can assist with cultural adjustment issues, overseas communications, general assistance, and in case of emergencies.  

And, to ease your mind even more, for more than 75 years, CIEE has helped high school and college students explore new cultures, learn new skills, and achieve their academic goals within a diverse portfolio of high-quality programs.  

Our Center Directors, located worldwide, are seasoned international education professionals. CIEE’s Health, Safety, and Security team is an industry leader in risk assessment, mitigation, and staff training.  

First Year Abroad Academics  

While you go on incredible cultural excursions throughout places like Kyoto, Sydney, or Rome, you’ll still learn in the classroom, too. Experiential learning is a balance of gaining knowledge and skills inside the classroom and out.  

Choose from a variety of college courses, each worth 3-4 credits, totaling up to 13 credits per semester:  

  • Languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish
  • Arts: Intro to Studio Art, Music Appreciation, and Art History  
  • Social Sciences: World History, Cultural Geography, and Intro to Psychology
  • Business: Principles of Management, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics  
  • Math: Intro to Statistics, College Algebra, and Calculus
  • Science: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Environmental Science
  • Others: English Composition, Computer Science, Digital Photography, and many more!  

And your first year of college is an adjustment, whether you’re in the U.S. or abroad. That’s why our robust academic support system is in place. Our academic advising team will support students with resources and guidance on academic norms, study habits, and success strategies. Tutors are also available to assist with core course concepts like study strategies, academic writing, research, and time management.  

Students choose a 12-week semester in one location or 6-week blocks in two locations; you can choose a semester or a fall and spring combination: we break down the class format into Block Courses and Semester Courses.

Block Courses

Take two courses per six-week block, and then do it again for a second block. You can even take one block in one location and do your second block in select locations! Block courses are 3 or 4 credits, contain requisite contact hours and content, and count for the same credit as if they were spread out over a traditional semester. This allows for more intense study of fewer subjects at once. Completing two blocks will give you 12-13 semester credits to keep you on track to graduate within four years.    

Semester Courses  

The 12-week semester allows immersion in up to four courses at once, including those with labs or language classes. At this pace, you have ample time to dive deeply into course content while still experiencing your new home culture. It also allows you to study multiple subjects at once. Most colleges offer 12–15-week semesters, setting you up for a familiar course structure back home.  

After the First Year Abroad  

You get to decide what you want to do after an incredible first year abroad experience! A major benefit of a first year abroad program is how it sets you up for college success. You’ll have great options:  

Continue Your Studies at Dean College  

Students in good standing with Dean College are invited to continue their degree on-campus at Dean College. Complete the A.A. in General Studies degree or transfer to one of Dean College’s bachelor’s degree programs.  

Transfer to a CIEE First Year Abroad College Partner

CIEE is pleased to partner with globally-minded colleges and universities across the country to empower students to study abroad and experience the world before continuing their academic studies on-campus. College Partners have agreed to articulate the courses you took abroad to their course catalog to help you have a smoother transfer process.  

Transfer to Any College or University  

Courses offered on the First Year Abroad program are designed to fulfill general education or common core requirements at many U.S.-based colleges and universities.  

Tips for Parents of Students Studying Abroad  

Although a first year abroad program might be the ideal match for you or your student, it can still be overwhelming to have your recent high schooler off in the big wide world, whether it’s in the U.S. or beyond. Note our quick tips for parents of students studying abroad:

  • Help them with all the stuff in the beginning: financial documents, applications…the paperwork can feel like a doozy at first. Here’s where parents, unfortunately far too familiar with paperwork, can make a big difference in alleviating some pre-travel stress.  
  • Be supportive: Your student will thrive abroad knowing they have a strong foundation rooting them on.
  • Check in periodically: There’s no denying that your student will have some struggles their freshman year, and they’ll work through them. Step in when you need to but let them handle as much as they can on their own. They’ll be stronger for it.  
  • Be proud of your brave student: Exploring the world is no easy feat, and raising someone who wants to get out there and discover it is an accomplishment all on its own.  

A first year abroad program promises the experience of a lifetime. No matter if you’re a parent or a student. Learn more today!  

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