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AU Abroad American University Washington, DC

Getting Started

Congratulations on your interest in studying abroad! Picking a study abroad location is about finding the right destination and program for you.  Input from parents, friends, and professors maybe helpful, but ultimately the best study abroad destination is the one that meets your needs and goals.  Understanding what you want to get out of your study abroad experience takes time, research and reflection.  Try working through the following questions to challenge yourself and begin the life changing experience of study abroad.

What are your goals for study abroad?

Completing a term abroad whether in a summer, semester or full academic year has the potential to impact you in many ways: academically, socially, financially and more.  What are your broad reasons for wanting to study abroad and what personal goals do you plan to fulfill by doing so?  The entire process from researching and choosing your program to completing it and reintegrating upon return will be a challenging but rewarding time.  How will you make the most of it?

What are your academic objectives?

It's called Study Abroad for a reason!  A large part of your time will be spent in the classroom and engaging in academic work.  Do you want to focus on fulfilling major requirements?  Is your primary goal to improve your language skills?  Are you interested in studying the culture and history of a particular country or region? Our website has several ways to search programs related to your interest areas. Major Advising pages provide program suggestions based on your degree and partner universities that have a broad selection of courses to fulfill your major.  The Language Abroad section will help you determine skill set and programs for language study.  And the Course Equivalency Database provide examples of courses offered at partner institutions and how they translate onto your AU academic record.  Delve into the programs that spark your interest by visiting the partner institution or program page.  Make sure the program you pick has the courses you want and need.

Do you speak the local language?  Does it matter?

Through AU Abroad you can excel in a language you are already learning, or start at the beginning and learn the basics. Based on language study (or native language), certain programs offer you the opportunity to engage in course work in the host language.  Don't speak another language or no time in your schedule to learn one?  That works too, as many of our programs offer courses in English; just because you don't speak another languages doesn't mean you are limited to the UK and Australia.  If you do want to learn your host language and do want to engage more while abroad, consider taking an introductory language course at your host university/program.

What can you afford?

The majority of our programs are similar in cost to your educational and living expenses for a semester in D.C.  How do you finance your studies at AU - including tuition, housing, transportation and food costs?  Think about how these sources might be different during your term abroad; especially, for upfront expenses like plane ticket or visa fees.  All of your AU financial aid package will apply to your semester(s) abroad, except work study.  There are also scholarships available to off-set the costs of study abroad, many with a particular focus on Pell Eligible and minority students. Each destination will have a unique cost of living; for example, cities like London, might be more expensive than D.C., while other locations might be less expensive.  So think about your financial goals and which study abroad destination is right for you.  A great way to save money is to spend your weekends and free time exploring your host country.  Take time to really get to know your host country, rather than traveling to other countries.

Individual Considerations

Ask yourself what kind of environment is most conducive to your semester(s) abroad.  Every destination will have some challenges; this is all part of the study abroad experience.  Different programs structures, locations and resources may better help you to succeed based on your personal needs.
  • Think about what you need to be comfortable. How well do you cope with ambiguity? Do you have certain accommodations through ASAC?  Are you comfortable traveling or living by yourself? Do you have special dietary needs? 
  • On direct enroll programs you act as an individual student at a foreign university.  In these programs you are largely responsible to manage your experience and arrangements on your own. You may have to take the initiative to connect with students and faculty at your host institution. You may be responsible to make your own housing arrangements.
  • Non-direct enroll programs are more formally structured and offer the opportunity to take a set schedule of uniquely designed classes. Dedicated staff are available to assist students through the semester, and room and board are frequently arranged in advance.  Some of these programs include organized excursions and activities.
  • Time matters! Consider if you have room in your schedule for a longer program. While not everyone can go abroad for a full year, it is important to remember relationship building and getting to know another culture takes time. Returning study abroad students regularly comment they wish they had spent more time abroad. The more time you spend immersed in one country the more you will learn.
  • Think outside of the box.  There are many wonderful study abroad locations in lesser-known places, like Nairobi, Kenya, Thessaloniki, Greece or Aberystwyth, Wales. Thousands of American college students study abroad in England, France and Italy, but you may want to consider less traditional locations!

Make an Appointment with Your Academic Advisor and a Study Abroad Advisor

One you have taken the time to clarify your study abroad goals and identify a few programs of interest, you are ready to sit down with your academic advisor AND meet with a study abroad advisor to discuss individual programs more in depth.

What to discuss with your Academic Advisor

  • Degree/major requirements
  • Academic planning at AU
  • How/whether a course abroad will count

What to discuss with a Study Abroad Advisor

  • How to access study abroad course information
  • Program specific information
  • Comparing/contrasting program offerings
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