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Choosing a Study Abroad Program

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 that focuses on your priorities while abroad.

Identify your goals

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? Think through the questions below, or use the Study Abroad Goals Assessment Worksheet.

  • Gain a new perspective on world affairs
  • Improve my professional skill set
  • 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 Northwestern
  • Pursue an international internship or civic engagement opportunities
  • Take courses not available at Northwestern

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?

Program Type

There are various program types, 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.

Career Impact

What skills are you hoping to develop while abroad that are important in your intended field?  What activities abroad will help your graduate school application or make you a more marketable candidate for jobs? If you are not planning to pursue an internship abroad, what are other opportunities you might engage in while abroad to further career aspirations?

Use northwestern resources

  1. The Northwestern Affiliated Program List: A searchable list of programs by country, language, region and term.
  2. Program Sponsor’s Website: Each program has a one-page summary on our website, with a link to the sponsor for more information.
  3. Peer Advisers: Peer Advisers are trained to answer your questions about study abroad opportunities at Northwestern, and are happy to talk about their experiences and/or answer questions via phone, email, or in person.
  4. Program Evaluations: Program evaluations are available online and in the Study Abroad Office, and are a great way to see what your peers have to say about the programs!
  5. Study Abroad Returnees: Contact past participants. In many cases your fellow students are the best resource for getting the inside scoop.
  6. 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.
  7. Financial Aid & Funding:  Meet with Krista Bethel, Assistant Director of Study Abroad Financial Services, to discuss how your financial aid applies to study abroad. Call 847-491-7400 to set up an appointment.
  8. 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, or in our weekly newsletter.