Study Abroad Guide: Getting Started
As you begin thinking about your study abroad experience, it is important to consider what type of program structure and format you are looking for. Consider the following:
Types of Programs Abroad
University Study/Direct Enrollment – This option allows you to take your courses enrolled in the local university alongside students from the host country. Usually this means you have access to the full range of curriculum that the university offers, and you are expected to perform at the same level as local students. Many of the Middlebury Schools Abroad offer direct enrollment opportunities where you take your courses in the language, alongside local degree-seeking students. It is important to remember that the academic year calendar varies considerably in some parts of the world (e.g., the Southern Hemisphere). If you are considering a university direct enrollment externally sponsored program (e.g., in an English-speaking country), in most cases you can apply directly to the university as a visiting international student, or you can go through a program provider for additional support and services.
Free-Standing Programs – This option, which is common in countries where the language spoken is not taught at Middlebury, may or may not be affiliated with a local university. These programs offer their own courses (conducted in English in countries where the language spoken is not taught at Middlebury), usually taught by local faculty.
Field-Based Programs – Field-based options utilize theories of experiential education to offer a non-traditional classroom approach. Typically, a distinguishing feature of these types of programs is independent research opportunities and training in fieldwork methodology and culturally appropriate research skills and ethics. Field-based programs do have lectures, homework, papers, exams, and other “traditional” components of academia, and students do receive grades for course work.
Service Learning Programs – This type of program usually includes regular university course work, in addition to a significant service-learning component. These programs are based on the pedagogy that service learning unites and links academic study with community service. Credit and grades are granted for the course work, not the service-learning component.
Internships – Internships allow you to gain professional experience in your field of interest, use your language skills, and meet people in your host country outside of the university environment. In many locations, Middlebury students can participate in internships in addition to taking regular university courses. Typically, the internship component is only 25% or less of your credit load and is a graded and credit-bearing academic component.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What do I want to study?
- What are the academic strengths of the universities and programs, and which are the best match for me academically?
- Are there any academic requirements I must fulfill abroad (major/minor/distribution)?
- What size city do I want to live?
- What size program do I want to be on?
- What sort of program format is the best match for me (see above)?
- What type of learner am I?
- Do I want a language class as a component of my program?
- Do I want language immersion to be a primary focus of my program?
- Do I need to select a program eligible for Middlebury grant financial aid?
- What level of independence am I seeking?
- Is it important to me to be on a program where there is an on-site or in-country director?
- What type of city am I looking for?
- What type of living environment do I want?
Knowing the answers to the above questions and which factors are most important to you will help you rule out programs and narrow your focus along the way. Remember, different programs are right for different students.
A homestay is where you live in a local home, though the make-up of the family and the involvement with the family may vary by situation.
A residencia or apartment can be a more independent option and may include roommates from other areas of the world (not just from the host culture).
A dormitory or residence hall may be with local and/or other international students, and you may or may not have a roommate. In large cities, dorms and residence halls may or may not be located on a campus where you are taking your courses; rather, they may be scattered throughout the city.
Resources for Choosing a Program
- Research program options on our web page.
- Attend Information Meetings and the Study Abroad Fair.
- Read past students’ evaluations.
- Talk with your academic advisor and other faculty.
- Talk with study abroad returnees (International Programs and Off-Campus Study can give you a list of students).
- Meet with an advisor in International Programs.