Studying abroad is an investment in yourself, your education, and your future, and you should do everything you can to get the most out of your program.
Setting goals for a study abroad program can be a daunting task – after all, if you have never studied abroad before, or have never left the country, it can be hard to conceptualize what it’s going to be like, what’s going to be available to you, and what you’ll be able to get out of it.
Think about an internship or a job – you would work with your supervisor to set goals for a given time period or project. You would conduct periodic check-ins to see how you were doing on those goals. And when the project was over, you would reflect back on those goals.
And that’s exactly what you should do for your study abroad program.
Often, setting your first goal for your program can be as simple as this question: Why am I studying abroad?
Did you pick a program to improve your language skills? Complete an internship? See more of the world? Be realistic about what you might be able to accomplish in the time you will be abroad. If you will study a foreign language abroad, you may not come back perfectly fluent in the target language, BUT you can build significantly on existing skills. Travel to other locations every weekend sounds good, but is exhausting and will prevent you from making your chosen location your true “home away from home”. Sometimes less really is more!
From there, you can start focusing on other goals. Here are some that other students have set for themselves:
Please note that faculty may provide suggested goals for your academic experience but at the end of the day you get out what you put in.
Example: Develop a deeper understanding of the role that governments play in nationalized health systems
Study abroad program are not only a great opportunity to fulfill academic needs, but they also prepare you for your future career by helping you build and develop transferable skills. Common transferrable skills developed on study abroad programs include interpersonal and cross-cultural communication, organization, problem-solving, adaptability, patience and leadership to name a few. A study abroad experience prepares you for the workforce and will be a perfect topic of conversation in an interview.
Example: Develop a portfolio of public policy writings with a specific focus on environmental issues
Think BIG picture. We know it's very tempting for your goal to travel to as many places as possible. Your time is limited and will fly-by. Trust us. Try becoming an expert and fully immersing yourself in the country you're studying. If you want to travel, and who doesn't, you may want to think about traveling independently before or after the end of the program. A good personal goal will be something that leaves a last impact or impression.
Example: Become more proficient with the local language and be able to engage more with locals.
Write your goals down, revisit them often. Check out the Journaling While Abroad page for tips on how to check in on your goals – believe us, it will be super helpful when you come home and a ready to talk about study abroad in a job, internship, or grad school interview.