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Choosing a Study Abroad Program

What program is right for you?

Take the time to identify your reasons for studying abroad and articulate what you hope to gain from the experience. This will help you choose a program and focus on your priorities while abroad.

Identify your goals and expectations

Why do you want to study abroad? Some students explore a particular academic field in greater depth; others work toward greater proficiency in a foreign language. What do you hope to achieve while abroad?

  • Gain a new perspective on world affairs
  • Improve my professional skill set
  • Question my stereotypes/cultural biases
  • Experience a different educational system
  • Travel to nearby countries
  • Immerse myself in another culture
  • Take courses toward my major and/or minor
  • Continue research started at NU
  • Pursue an international internship or civic engagement opportunities
  • Take courses not available at NU

Research programs

Along with the broader goals you’ve identified above, consider some of the more practical issues that might influence your program selection. Do you have strong preferences about the following?

Location and Size

Do you have an academic or personal preference about where you want to study? Do you prefer to live in an urban or rural setting?


How long will you be able to study abroad? A year? One or two quarters? A summer?

Program Type

There are various program styles, including direct enrollment in a foreign university, taking courses only with other study abroad students, service learning, spending most of your time on research or an internship, or a combination of these. Find which program type most interests you.

Academic Offerings/Language of Instruction

Do you want to fulfill major, minor or distribution requirements abroad? Review our suggestions for finding programs in specific academic subjects and disciplines.


Are you interested in taking courses in a foreign language, in English, or both? Search by language to learn more about your study options.


Do you prefer to live in a student residence hall, with a host family, or independently? Do you prefer to live with study abroad students or local students?


Study abroad program tuition and additional expenses can be more or less than what you would spend at Northwestern. Be sure to consider what is feasible for you financially and create a budget.

Use advice and resources

  1. The Northwestern Affiliated Program List: A searchable list of programs.
  2. Program Sponsor’s Website: Each program will have a one-page summary on our website, with a link to the sponsor for more information.
  3. Program Evaluations: Program evaluations are available in the Study Abroad Office and are a great way to see what your peers have to say about the programs!
  4. Study Abroad Returnees: Contact past participants. In many cases your fellow students are the best resource for getting the inside scoop.
  5. Study Abroad Advisers: We encourage you to meet with a study abroad adviser. They are a great resource for you if you have more specific questions about courses, housing, and extracurricular options.
  6. Study Abroad Events:  Check out our calendar for upcoming events where you can learn more about programs. You can also find information about events on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or our listserv.