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Study Abroad 101: Everything You Need to Know

by Rosetta Stone
Study Abroad Survival Guide

Studying abroad is attractive to many students, but the benefits go far beyond having some stamps in your passport and bragging rights on your grad school resume. Today’s study abroad programs aim to provide immersive experiences that will help students become more culturally savvy global citizens.

Here are just a few of the benefits of studying abroad.


Naturally, studying abroad allows students to travel not only to the country in which their program resides but also to neighboring areas. Students who study in Europe may spend school breaks hopping the Eurorail across various countries, or those in Asia may find time for excursions to nearby islands.

Cultural Education

Living in another country and experiencing their educational system is a fantastic way to have an immersive international experience. While students may initially feel hesitant at the unfamiliarity of their surroundings, every day is an opportunity to dive a little deeper into the culture and the people that call that country home.

Learn the Language

There’s no denying that being steeped in the language is a way to learn to speak or sink. While students may have learned the basics of the language before committing to a study abroad experience, being surrounded by native speakers will solidify those conversational skills and accelerate language proficiency.

Professional and Personal Advancement

Participating in a study abroad program can give both your grad school and resume a boost. Not only does it mean that you speak another language, which is attractive to employers, but it shows off your “soft skills” such as perseverance and a commitment to diversity. As the world economy increasingly relies on globalization, those who are culturally fluent will find themselves more successful and better positioned to thrive.

Studying abroad can also be an incredibly rewarding personal experience that allows you to build friendships that go the distance and connect to new interests and hobbies. Studies have also shown that those who study abroad tend to have better grades and better graduation rates, perhaps because of the resilience and flexibility such experiences build.

Will studying abroad be an authentic experience?

Every study abroad experience is different, so look for programs that embrace a broader agenda instead of just insulating students on campus. While you can certainly get out into the city to experience the cuisine and traverse the nooks and crannies not explored by tourists, an immersive experience requires more than Insta-worthy pics. Authentic study abroad experiences should provide the opportunity to do internships, get out into the community, and allow students to interact with locals frequently.

While it used to be structured as a semester abroad, most study abroad experiences now offer shorter, less expensive excursions for a few weeks. Studies have found even brief interludes of global travel and cultural exposure can have tremendous benefits, especially for low-income students. Participation in study abroad programs is rising, and many colleges now offer options for those who don’t speak the language of their study abroad destination. While these opportunities can still be of benefit, they’ll provide less authentic experiences than programs that require students to speak the language daily. 

What kinds of programs will give me the best study abroad experience?

Tailored experiences and customized programs are going to provide the best study abroad experience. Look for colleges whose study abroad programs span across a wide variety of geographic locations, but also cater to specific interests or needs. While you don’t have to invest in something as intense as Goucher College—who requires all students to study abroad to graduate—there are still many quality international experiences.

Here are a few criteria you should use to determine the best study abroad programs:

Variety and diversity

The breadth of the programs and range of locations for study abroad experiences is a good indication of how seriously the college or university takes their commitment to international studies. It’s also worthwhile to look for robust foreign exchange programs on campus and a diverse study body.

Structure of the program

Get into the nitty-gritty of the program, including language requirements, community outreach opportunities, available internships, and financial aid support. How the college chooses to structure and support their study abroad programs will play a significant role in how they’ll benefit you.

Length of the program

Not everyone can afford a semester abroad. Fortunately, shorter study abroad experiences still have clear benefits. Look for an educational institution that keeps their options open and embraces ways to support students in whatever study abroad endeavor they can afford to take on.

Quality of the international degree program

Some students who chose to study abroad come home inspired and switch their degree focus to foreign affairs or a related field. It makes sense to choose a college that not only has a well-establish study abroad experience but a quality international studies degree program.

Do I need to speak the language to study abroad?

As we’ve previously stated, it will create a more authentic experience if you speak the language of the country you’re traveling to, but it’s not a strict requirement. However, depending on the geographic location and the number of English speakers, navigating public transit, eating out, and other daily activities will become much more complicated if you don’t have basic conversational skills.

It’s optimal to study the language before you begin your study abroad experience, but be prepared for the bumpy transition between learning a language and speaking it in the real world. Understanding and speaking at speed, as well as navigating slang and dialects, will take time and plenty of repeated interactions with native speakers.

If you’ve demonstrated sufficient language proficiency, some study abroad programs will allow you to join in on classes in the local language. This is an opportunity to accelerate your learning and help you make more authentic connections with local students. In many areas across Europe, a large portion of the population speaks English proficiently , and once they catch on that you’re an exchange student, they’ll switch to English. Avoid falling into that habit by speaking the language from the beginning and asking others in your company to do the same.

Can Rosetta Stone prepare me for studying abroad?

As you may have realized, the kind of language learning you get from college courses and textbooks doesn’t always translate well into real-world conversations. Whether you’re trying to smooth out your conversational skills, accelerate your learning, or gain confidence in your pronunciation, Rosetta Stone can help. 

Our unique Dynamic Immersion® methodology means that you’ll always practice words, phrases, and new concepts in the context of situations in which they occur. This places emphasis on creating deeper connections rather than rote memorization. Language lessons from Rosetta Stone also encourage speaking up from the very first lesson, with an adjustable speech-recognition engine engine called TruAccent embedded in every lesson. The real-time feedback you’ll receive helps you to fine-tune your pronunciation. so you can try to pass for a local during your study abroad experience.

Learn more about how Rosetta Stone can help you prepare to study abroad from Luke, a foreign exchange student who learned Hindi with our app before traveling to India.

Start your study abroad adventure even before you land with a free trial of Rosetta Stone.

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