What to Consider Before Choosing a Program

Photo taken in Italy by Silvana D'Ettorre.

With hundreds of study abroad programs available, taking the following things into account can help to narrow the options in order to find the program that is right for you.  

Important Things to Consider

Define Your Goals

There is much more to studying abroad than just taking classes in a foreign country. Your perspectives will become global, your attitudes will become international, and you will make memories that will last a lifetime. Studying abroad may be that defining moment that will change your life. Your international experience builds a noticeable sense of independence and self-confidence and opens doors to new opportunities, new friends, and new career paths. The benefits of study abroad are endless, but it is important to consider your own reasons for choosing to study abroad. Do you want to learn a new language- or possibly build on the language skills you have already acquired? Do you want to conduct research in a new environment? Perhaps you are a philanthropist and want to give back to the global community in the form of service learning or volunteer opportunities abroad. Or maybe you want to gain first-hand experience working in an international business environment through an internship. Anything is possible, and preparation is the key to a successful study abroad experience.

Program Administration

The University at Buffalo encourages students to participate in programs administered by the State University of New York. There are three broad program administration types: UB Programs, Other SUNY Programs, and Non-SUNY Programs.  

Type of Program

The Office of Study Abroad Programs at UB administers several different types of programs abroad. In general, there are three different types of programs at UB:

  • Direct Enroll Programs: Students attend classes and pay tuition of overseas university; regular courses are taken alongside local students; students are fully integrated with housing, activities, etc.; support is provided by regular university offices; includes the additional cost of tuition at the overseas institution.
  • Exchange Programs: Similar to direct enroll programs but students do not pay the tuition of the institution overseas. Students from the host/partner institution come to UB and UB students go to the host/partner institution.
  • Faculty-Led Programs: Led by UB faculty or staff, small group setting, students travel together, usually one specific academic focus, typically short-term.

Academics

Classes completed abroad may fulfill degree requirements (major, minor, general education) with the approval of the relevant academic department. Prior to selecting a study abroad program, complete the Study Abroad Course Planning Form with help from your academic advisor. Attach overseas course syllabi and submit them to the Office of Study Abroad Programs along with the completed form. The Office of Study Abroad Programs will work closely with the Transfer Course Articulation Office (TAURUS) and academic departments for course articulation approval. It is strongly recommended that you secure approval for more courses than you intend to take, to allow for flexibility when registering for courses at your host institution abroad.

Location

The country you select determines both the cultural setting and the main language of communication. Some students know they want to study in a big city while others are looking for a more remote destination.

Language of Instruction

The language of instruction should be a main factor when considering where to study abroad. It is a common myth that in order to study in another country, one must possess the language skills to communicate in the native language of that country. The truth is that there are many, many programs in non-English speaking countries where courses are taught in English. So, when reviewing your options of study abroad destination, don't automatically rule out non-English speaking countries.

If you are interested in increasing your proficiency in a foreign language, there is no doubt that the study abroad experience is the best way to immerse yourself in another language.

Many programs abroad offer language instruction at the beginner level, and therefore do not require any previous knowledge of a foreign language for admission. Some programs are designed to teach you a foreign language - a great way to fulfill your general education language requirement, while others offer courses taught in English regardless of the country's native language.

Grade and Credit Transfer

All University at Buffalo students studying abroad through UB or any SUNY 4-year school and non-SUNY students participating on a University at Buffalo Study Abroad or Exchange Program are registered for study abroad by the Office of Study Abroad Programs for the academic credit hours to be earned during their studies abroad. University at Buffalo students electing to participate on non-SUNY study abroad programs are required to notify the UB Study Abroad office. Students who will be abroad on non-SUNY programs during the Fall and/or Spring semesters must also complete a Leave of Absence Form with the Registrar's Office.

Diversity Abroad Resources

LGBTQ+ Students

Map of sexual orientation laws around the world.

Map of sexual orientation laws around the world.

Students identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex or queer should be prepared to encounter new and different attitudes concerning sexual orientations and identities. The atmosphere surrounding LGBTQ rights and issues in each country or region is determined by numerous cultural, religious and political factors. The best way to avoid problems that cause discomfort or danger is to become familiar with the prevailing attitudes before departing for study abroad.

Travelling as a gay student may pose some problems. In order to make your journey as safe and enjoyable as possible, it is important to be cautious in some parts of the world. Such areas include Poland, Mauritius, the Middle East (excepting Turkey), Trinidad, Jamaica, Indonesia, Malaysia and Chechnya, as well as some African countries. These countries have anti-homosexuality laws which reflect cultural attitudes which may pose a threat to your safety while travelling through or visiting.

We also recommend students become familiar with TSA policies and considerations for transgender travelers

For more information, please visit:

IES Country-Specific Diversity Resources

List of LGBTQ organizations around the world

GlobalGayz

US Department of State LGBT Travel

International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

 

Students with Varying Abilities

Students with seen or unseen disabilities are underrepresented in study abroad programs throughout the U.S. Travelling can be difficult for those living with a disability, but there are resources available to aid students who wish to explore the world regardless of physical, cognitive, or emotional/behavioral challenges. With the proper research, preparation and care, every student can have the opportunity to expand their education internationally.

Mobility International USA (MIUSA) provides resources, advice and support to students of various ability impairments seeking to study abroad. 

MIUSA administers the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE).  NCDE provides free advising services, trainings, and online resources.

Their extensive resources include tips organized by disability, advice for revealing or discussing your disability while abroad, negotiating accommodations while travelling, and disability rights and laws in international contexts.

To research disability laws by country, visit the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund's page about international laws.

The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) also has a page listing national and regional strategic plans on disability.

The State Department has a useful page that includes advice about dealing with the Transportation Security Administration and numerous links to other great resources that will help you as you research accessibility around the world.

The CDC has a webpage devoted to travelling with disabilities, where they address accommodations, preparation and service animals.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) page for travelers with disabilities is designed to make their support options clear and accessible. Becoming familiar with the expectations of airport security personnel can streamline and simplify the boarding process.