The study abroad process extends before and beyond the semester that you intend to go abroad. To ensure that your experience goes smoothly from start to finish, it is best to begin planning as soon as possible. Follow these steps to ensure success!
Step One: Deciding to Study Abroad
Study abroad is one of the most rewarding experiences that students have in their college career. Not only does it allow students to live in a new culture and get outside of their comfort zone, it teaches them integral skills that will benefit them well after they have graduated. Ask any former study abroad student and they will tell you that their experience helped change them and their view of the world; gave them unforgettable experiences and friendships; and helped them grow as an individual.
When a student decides to study abroad, they should begin planning their experience right away. The best thing that they can do is meet with their academic advisor to determine how study abroad fits into their degree program. Advisors can often give advice as to when a student should go abroad, as well as what kinds of courses they can take abroad. As a general rule, it is best to save general elective courses, as they are the easiest courses to fill while abroad. Additionally, students are encouraged to meet with the Office of International Education and/or attend a Study Abroad 101 session for help with next steps.
Step Two: Picking a Program
Fredonia students have access to SUNY's 600+ study abroad programs, which means that they are likely to find a program that fits their major/minor, budget, time frame, or regional requirements. If you do not find a program that fits your requirements within Fredonia's options, you should be able to find other possibilities within the SUNY system. To explore programs, you should use the SUNY study abroad database, which allows you to narrow search options based on country, term, or major. Once you pick out a few possible programs, you should reach out to the SUNY study abroad office that administers the program for more information on coursework, costs, etc. If you seek admission into a non-SUNY program, additional steps not outlined here are required so be sure to contact the Office of International Education.
Once you have selected a few possible programs, you should meet with the Office of International Education to inform Fredonia of your decision to study abroad.
Step Three: Applying to Study Abroad
When you have narrowed down your favorite programs, you can begin to apply to study abroad. Note that you usually apply to programs the semester before you intend to go abroad, but keep an eye on application deadlines for programs as they can vary. Every SUNY study abroad office has different application procedures, so it is important to be aware of requirements before you apply. For the most part, you will need the following (short-term program application requirements may differ):
- Official transcripts from all institutions attended mailed to the SUNY Study Abroad office(s) that administer(s) the program,
- Two faculty recommendations,
- Foreign language proficiency form if you are studying at a university where courses are not taught in English,
- Study abroad statement on why you have chosen to study abroad in that country, an overview of academic goals, etc.
Step Four: Acceptance into a Program
You've been waiting patiently and the good news has finally come-- you have been accepted to study abroad! Now what? For certain, you can be prepared to fill out lots of paperwork with the SUNY institution that administers the program and with Fredonia's Office of International Education. In many cases, you will need to pay a deposit to confirm your acceptance in a program. After payment, the SUNY office that administers the program will be in touch with next steps on applications, course selection, housing, visas, and finances.
Additionally, it is very important that you notify the Office of International Education that you intend to study abroad, as this will allow OIE to work with you on next steps for registration and course approval processes at Fredonia. If you do not notify OIE of your intention to study abroad, it could affect things such as financial aid and registration. Even if you are studying on a non-Fredonia program, OIE must know that you are going abroad.
Besides registration, the course approval process is very important for prospective study abroad students. For students intending to take coursework for a major, minor, or CCC, please read more about The Course Approval Process.
If you intend to use financial aid to study abroad, it is very important that you meet with Fredonia's Financial Aid office to get loans, scholarships, and grants squared away. When meeting with Financial Aid, it is important that you bring your study abroad acceptance letter and program budget.
Step Five: Preparing to Go
As you fill out paperwork, you should begin researching the country that you are preparing to study in. Do you need a student or tourist visa to enter that country and live there for an extended period of time? Does the government require you to receive any vaccinations prior to your arrival? What is the form of government in that country and what major issues are relevant there right now? Who is the current leader of the country? It is important that you have some background knowledge of your country before you go. Former study abroad students have commented that they sometimes felt embarrassed about how little they knew about their host country while everyone seemed to know everything about the United States.
You will likely need to purchase a flight shortly after your acceptance to the program. In some cases, if other SUNY students are studying on your program, you can travel together. For the most part, however, students studying on semester programs will book their flight independently. OIE recommends that you wait until you receive confirmation from the SUNY and host institutions that you should book your flight. (Note: students on Fredonia short-term programs do not need to book international flights.)
The Office of International Education holds a mandatory pre-departure orientation session at the end of the spring and fall semesters for students going abroad. These sessions include relevant information on health, safety, and preparation for study abroad and therefore, parents/guardians are welcome to attend. Students will be advised of pre-departure sessions mid-way through each semester. In addition to questions they may have, students are encouraged to take notes during these sessions. Following the pre-departure orientation session, OIE distributes a pre-departure guide to all students going abroad.
Step Six: While Abroad
As the day of departure draws nearer, you may find yourself getting nervous and excited about your upcoming adventure. Feelings of nervousness are completely natural to the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of what's ahead. Indeed, in the first few days or weeks of a study abroad experience, students can sometimes feel culture shock or homesickness until they find a routine. While these feelings are natural, if students find themselves in a situation where they are feeling depressed, they should reach out to their host institution or Fredonia immediately. While abroad, the best ways to combat homesickness is by enjoying the new environments you are in. Travel, explore your city, and do things to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
The Office of International Education will be in touch with you periodically throughout the semester to check in and to ask for testimonial from your study abroad experience. Additionally, OIE will give you instructions on course registration and application for graduation. Please continue to check your email for important updates from home.
Step Seven: Returning Home
After students return from their study abroad experience, the Office of International Education encourages them to keep their study abroad experience alive, and the best way to do so is by sharing it with other students or finding students that have similar interests in global education. OIE offers the chance to connect with like-minded students at workshops and events:
- Study Abroad Ambassador Program: study abroad alumni work with the Office of International Education to recruit students to study abroad. Ambassadors arrange and present at classroom visits, speak on panels, and participate in Open Houses and other recruitment events. Students interested in applying should visit the Study Abroad Ambassador website.
- Unpacking Your Study Abroad Experience workshops: OIE hosts monthly workshops on how to "unpack" your study abroad experience. Workshops include discussions of re-entry and reverse culture shock, American identities, career outcomes, and cultural stereotypes.
- Global Student Ambassadors (GSA): did you love being around other international students when abroad? You can work with Fredonia's population of international students as a GSA! For more information, please visit the Global Student Ambassador webpage.