How to Choose an Affiliate Program
Choosing what study abroad program to go on can be so overwhelming since there are so many options. The number of third-party providers that are out there make this task so daunting. In order to make this choice a little easier, here are some of the biggest things to consider.
When it comes to location, the biggest thing to consider is the culture. Experiencing a new culture comes with its hardships but researching cultural norms and values can make you feel more prepared. Since you will be living abroad for a substantial chunk of time, it is important that you ensure that the host culture you will be living in is one that you can function in. Start by picking an area and researching the daily life of people in that area. I suggest looking at mealtimes, transportation, fashion, values, etc. Here is a resource that may be helpful in this part of the process: http://guide.culturecrossing.net/basics_business_student.php?id=71
Additionally, the location may impact how expensive the program is. The cost of living varies across location, so this may be another thing to think about when figuring out where you would like to study.
The next big thing to consider is the courses that you will be taking. It was important to me that I did not offset my graduation date and that I could take classes that were interesting to me. If you are able to, I suggest not entirely focusing on programs specifically for your major. Other classes allow you to broaden your education and learn new things. When I went abroad, I took 3 classes that fulfilled requirements for my major and 2 general education classes.
The program pages on affiliate websites often include the course catalogue that they offer. Browse through them and ensure that they offer between 8 to 10 classes that fit your needs.
Overall program cost can vary greatly. Like previously mentioned, this may be because of location, type of housing, and the things included in the program price. The biggest aspect of a program that drives up the cost is the excursions that the program includes. These built-in trips may allot for more expensive hotels or tours, so if you want to cut down on cost, choose a program that does not offer many excursions. This allows you to plan your own weekend trips and activities on your own budget and cater to your own wants and needs.
When you have never traveled much or been outside of the country, going on a semester long program is no easy task. Deciding how long you would like to be gone is a very big factor in choosing a program. Shorter programs are great if you want to study something specific or if you are just warming up to the idea of traveling abroad. Longer programs do require more planning and more independence but are great if you want to really experience a culture or do some extra traveling. It is important to mention that affiliate programs can vary in length though. When deciding how long you would like to be gone, consider how you handle being away from friends and family, how the expenses may differ, what trips or excursions you would have time for.
Home stays, dorms, apartments, and independent housing are all common types of housing that affiliate programs offer. Homestays are a great way to see the host culture in depth, practice language skills, and meet locals. Most of the time, homestays include a few meals a day as well! Dorm style living is on campus with other students in your program. The style of dorm may be different- some are more like apartments and others may be a typical dorm. Apartments are typically located around the host city and have neighbors that are local to that location. You will most likely have roommates that are other students in your program. Lastly, independent housing involves you finding your own residence for the duration of your time abroad. Usually, affiliate programs can help you find a place, but this option requires a lot more independence and can more costly depending on if you have roommates or not.
Deciding which type of housing works best for you involves knowing how you are with a roommate, determining how far of a walk to campus you would like, and how immersed you would like to be in the host culture.