International students in the U.S. are already well-versed on the realities of studying abroad. Nevertheless, many opt to study abroad again during their undergraduate careers.
Some choose a destination that allows them to develop fluency in a third language (or fourth, or fifth,…!) or to gain firsthand experience in an academic area of interest. Others may opt to “study abroad at home,” attending a university or program in their home country, which affords them a unique, comparative educational experience as students with extensive knowledge of two different cultures and academic systems. Regardless of the destination, each new study abroad experience brings with it new challenges and opportunities for learning and growth. As an international student in the U.S., there may be additional logistical details to address, and careful planning and communication with academic advisors and the International Student and Scholar Services office on campus is necessary. Nevertheless, for many international students, having the opportunity to study abroad again during their undergraduate career makes these additional steps worthwhile.
International students studying abroad in a third country may also find themselves in the unique position of being seen as a U.S. American college student first, and then as a citizen of their home countries. This may mean being asked to explain things about the U.S. that, as an international student, you either don’t have an answer for or don’t have personal experience with. Just remember that you are also in the position to provide a unique perspective on the U.S. as an international student and that you can share that valuable perspective with others, as you feel comfortable.
Things to Consider Before Going Abroad
Adapted from Northwestern University’s “Identity Abroad: International Students”
- What are the visa requirements for my study abroad destination based on my citizenship? Who can I work with (e.g., study abroad advisor, program provider, visa agency) to ensure I have the required documentation to obtain a student visa?
- Am I eligible to apply for my student visa in the U.S., or must I apply in my home country? How will my visa application requirements (e.g., location, processing time, etc.) change my plans for the summer or winter break? Are there extra expenses associated with my visa application requirements (e.g., an extra trip home, renting an apartment in the U.S. during the summer, etc.) that I will need to plan for?
- What is the current relationship between my home and host country? Could this relationship potentially affect my ability to obtain a visa?
- Other than visa implications, how might the relationship between my home and host country affect my experience abroad?
- What is the relationship between the U.S. and my host country like currently? How might that relationship affect my experience abroad?
- What steps do I need to take to ensure that I maintain my F-1 status in the U.S. while I am abroad?
Things to Consider While Abroad
- How am I perceived when I explain to local peers and acquaintances that I am a student at U.S. college or university? Am I viewed more as a citizen of my home country or more as a U.S. American college student? How do I feel about this?
- Are there particular aspects of the politics, history, or culture of your home country, or the U.S., that your local peers and acquaintances seem particularly interested in or concerned about? If so, what might the reason be (think about the local context, history, and culture in which you find yourself)?
- What opinions or impressions about my home country, or about the U.S., am I hearing from mylocal peers and acquaintances? If they are opinions that I don’t agree with, what is the best way for me to engage (or not) with them respectfully while also sharing my perspective?
- When I am confused or concerned about what to do, say, or how to react in a particular situation, is there someone with a local perspective that I can turn to for advice (for example: a program director, instructor, cultural mentor or language exchange partner, etc.)?
- Baitan, Bakdaulet. “Retaining my Kazakh Identity While Studying Abroad.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. (2019)
- Bui, Mai-Linh. “Consider Studying Abroad While an International Student.” U.S. News & World Report. (2013)
- Kudsi, Yasmin. “What is it like Studying Abroad While Studying Abroad? Exploring Racial and Ethnic Ethnic Identity as an International Student Studying Abroad.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. (2017)
- Uprety, Shristi. “National Identity Abroad: Us vs. Them - The American and the English.” Unpacked: A Study Abroad Guide for Students Like Me. (2016)
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