Most traditional study abroad programs include daytime classes and a home stay, during which a student lives and takes meals with a local family. This arrangement is inexpensive and great for language immersion. Some students form lifetime friendships with their host family.
But the classes-plus-host-family arrangement isn't for everyone. You may want something less structured or simply more affordable. Here are a few study-abroad alternatives for students to live, travel and work overseas.
There's no rule that says you must sign up with your university's program if you want to study abroad. If you have a specific interest that's not reflected in the course offerings, see if your school will let you create your own experience or participate in an outside program. Typically students will need to submit an application outlining their plans, coursework and intentions. Not all programs may permit students to transfer credit or apply financial aid.
Some students treat their study abroad program as a semester-long break from hard work. Others see it as a priceless opportunity to get some international experience on their resumes. As an study-abroad alternative, you can sign up for a business internship overseas. CRCC's China internship program, for instance, offers 1- to 3-month internships in major Chinese cities in fields such as finance, green technology and marketing. You won't be stuck in an office the entire time, either; a good internship-abroad program will include social and cultural events.
If you're looking for an unusual alternative study abroad program, consider the Semester at Sea, a 50-year-old program that places students aboard an ocean-going ship. In just a semester, participants visit between eight and 15 destinations on two to four continents. One sample itinerary includes England, Russia, Ireland, Portugal, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina and Cuba. The credits received for on-board classes can be transferred from SAS sponsor the University of Virginia. The program touts the benefits of exploring and comparing several cultures instead of immersion in a single country, as is the case in most study-abroad programs.
A solo trip overseas might be out of your budget, but what if you joined forces with friends? A service that helps people find vacation rentals, such as Airbnb or HomeAway, may be your ticket to an affordable, long-term place to stay abroad. If you're more of a backpacking nomad, you can try couch-surfing - staying in strangers' homes for free. Use common sense and caution if you go this route, however.
Most students who study abroad say they learn the most from the culture, not the classroom - so why not skip the classwork altogether? American college students can find abundant opportunities to work abroad.CCUSA.com lists hundreds of lifeguard and camp counselor jobs available in Russia, Croatia, Australia and other destinations. GoAbroad.com is an enormous database of opportunities to teach English or volunteer overseas. Research any work-abroad program carefully before you sign up.