Anyone that’s done a study abroad program will usually tell you it was one of the best decisions they made, forcing them out of their comfort zone and away from family and friends for a semester or year in a completely new country. But if you missed out on a study abroad program while in high school or college, there’s good news! You can still study abroad after graduation. And what’s more, you won’t be limited to just studying abroad either.
If you’re heading off to university, you can opt to enroll in an exchange program with an affiliate university abroad or take part in what has been dubbed ‘alternative study abroad’ programs. Or if your travel ‘bucket list’ involves a destination not included in study abroad schemes, chances are there is a volunteer or English teaching program you can participate in there. For post-grad students looking to take that next step in their careers, there’s also work exchange opportunities where you can earn invaluable industry skills while at the same time making a big impression on your CV. So what are you waiting for?
Study Abroad After Graduation – High School
If you’ve just completed high school and are about to head off to college, there are plenty of programs that allow you to study abroad after graduation and be credited towards your degree program back home. Most universities have affiliate schools overseas where you can do a traditional exchange and spend a semester or year taking classes on their campus. You’ll meet students from all over the world and experience the unique social aspects of being a student in a different country.
But what’s become known as ‘alternative study abroad programs’ are also becoming more popular, turning the traditional classroom setup on its head. They generally involve a mixture of travel, service-learning and cultural immersion, and vary in length from a few days to a year and are a great way to get the experience of a study abroad after graduation.
Break Away is one non-profit organization that offers alternative study abroad programs based around topics relating to social issues. It’s a team-based initiative that involves meeting with fellow participants in the lead up for lectures and language courses, as well as participating in local service projects together when you return from abroad. Participants sleep in community centers or home stays to be as much a part of the local community as possible, enhancing the cultural-exchange aspect.
The aim is to create active citizens who are aware of social issues facing the world and can apply their newly acquired skills both abroad and domestically. Learning outside of the classroom provides an emotional impact that just can’t be replicated in textbooks, making the knowledge gained even more meaningful.
For those who want to study abroad but can’t decide where they want to go, the Semester at Sea program is ideal – a floating campus that provides an enviable setting for traveling and learning amidst like-minded students. Over the course of a semester you will visit between 8 and 15 countries across Europe, Africa, South and Central America, coupled with the exposure of several different cultures, instead of just one.
Whether you want to assist in an area specific to your field or just gain relevant worldly experience while helping organizations in need, there are volunteer programs across the world catering to almost any interest. Build houses for disaster-hit communities, teach dance to at-risk youths to increase their self-esteem, or work behind the scenes in philanthropic organizations helping in the fight against world poverty. Any of these are well worth it and great alternatives to study abroad after graduation.
Volunteering overseas offers invaluable insight into how life is for people across the world and a cross-cultural awareness that just can’t be obtained back home. It also helps you to develop skills that will either be directly useful in your chosen career or assist in your social and personal interactions well into the future. Having spent time volunteering abroad also looks great on your CV and shows that you have taken the initiative to broaden your horizons and assist those who are most in need.
While volunteer opportunities vary greatly in length and scope, most organizations provide no monetary compensation and others require you to pay for the experience to mitigate the costs involved. In exchange, the organization usually offers housing and food, and will assist with all the logistical challenges of securing visas and in-country transport. Many universities will have affiliate volunteer opportunities that you can check out to see what sparks your interest or there are tons of organizations online in destinations across the globe. A simple online search will come up with thousands of unique opportunities, many of which you had perhaps never even considered!
One of the most popular ways to study abroad after graduation is teaching English as a foreign language abroad. These are usually paid positions, and for those with dwindling finances after years as a poor student, this is a great way to earn a few dollars while experiencing a completely different way of life. It does require a bit more study however, with the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate preparing you for all aspects of becoming a teacher abroad. You’ll learn what to expect in your chosen country, how to plan lessons and manage your classroom, and how your skills as a teacher can impact beneficially on the lives of others. Even if you have just completed a degree in education, the TEFL course will help you make the transition into what will be a completely new environment and an unforgettable experience.
While volunteering and teaching English are two of the most popular ways to see the world as a student or post-graduate, there are plenty of other options available. Business internship programs are available in many fields that enable you to get vital hands-on experience in your chosen field of business, while at the same time living within a completely different culture.
CRCC is one such organization which organizes placements in China, focusing on green technology, finance, architecture, marketing, law and information technology. With China one of the world’s fastest developing nations and a leader in business, this is an exciting opportunity to experience its modern progression and ancient traditions.
CCUSA is another good starting point for those wanting a salary while seeing the world. They offer camp counselor positions in Canada, Croatia and Russia, as well assisting students or post-grads with finding pub jobs in the UK or securing working holiday visas in Australia and New Zealand.
With such a diverse range of opportunities out there for both study and work abroad, there’s no excuse why you can’t continue learning well beyond school and college. The skills gained while volunteering or working abroad will remain with you for life and the cultural immersion experiences will affect you in ways you never imagined. Whether your situation only allows you a couple of weeks away or an entire year to explore the world, there’s a volunteer, study or work abroad opportunity out there for you.