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Choosing a study abroad program: Do I want to be fluent in a language?

There are a plethora of programs available for students looking to take advantage of study abroad, but if you look closely, they all have different offerings. Some are run by U.S. universities, others are run by private companies who only do study abroad. You may have a destination in mind: That’s the easy part. Now, you have to choose the study abroad program that matches the experience you want.

We start with perhaps the key question in finding a study abroad program: Do I want to become fluent in a language?

There are lots of options to spend a semester in an English-speaking area of the world, where you may pick up an accent or start calling the toilet the ‘Loo’. If you choose to study in Australia, New Zealand, the UK (etc), today’s conversation stops here. You may have reasons for doing this: an area of study, transferable credits. Or you may just want to have an easier time!

If you do choose a non-English-speaking country, you’ll also want to consider your city of study when choosing your study abroad program. While places like Paris, Madrid, or Rome are amazing cities and great jumping-off points for exploration, they’re also flooded with tourists…which means it’ll be harder to avoid hearing and speaking English. And, upon hearing your accent, waiters and shopkeepers are more likely to respond to you in English, too! If you want to become more fluent, consider a smaller city of study, like Granada, Spain, Padova, Italy, or Bordeaux, France.

Then, think about how you’ll study. There are many things to consider when looking at study abroad options: Do you want to go with students from your own school? Do you want to attend separate classes for foreign students? Or do you want to be directly enrolled in the local university?

If you study abroad with students from your own college or university or attend separate classes for non-Native speakers, you are more likely to remain in those social circles (speaking English!) while abroad. But, going abroad isn’t always as easy as it seems, so it can be a big positive to have a pre-defined network in your temporary home.  Going on a small program to a city with almost no Americans and being directly enrolled in a university can be intimidating, confusing, and tiring. But, if you want to become fluent, you have to make the local life and people YOUR life and people.

Next up on choosing a study abroad program: Deciding whether a host family is right for you!

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