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The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

A Veteran’s Guide to Study Abroad


It’s your first, or maybe fifth, semester at NJIT, and you are looking forward to making the most of your college experience. The classes, clubs, friends, parties, events, and…maybe even studying abroad for a semester. You’ve rewatched Emily in Paris, you’ve bought a scratch-off-map of the world, and you’ve bought new boots that can make it through Sahara Sands and Swedish Snows. Then, you opened the NJIT study abroad website, got overwhelmed, and decided that Sweden isn’t for you.  

Well, fret not, because a veteran in the program is here to help. This guide is compiled with my own experience as well as other students I know who have studied abroad after me, and what they would have liked to know before starting this process. 

First, you will need to do a bit of legwork to make your study abroad happen. Before filling out any paperwork, lay out your study abroad in broad strokes. Do this as soon as possible. Here are some guiding questions to think about, along with some possible answers: 

  1. Why do you want to study abroad?

There are many reasons why you may want to study abroad, and your reason will impact everything else about your journey. Maybe you’ve been learning a language since middle school and really want to perfect it. Perhaps you want to live in the country of your ancestors for a little while. Maybe you simply want to see more of the world because you’ve never been out of the country. You might just want to get out from under the watchful eye of your parents. Whatever the reason may be, figure it out and keep it with you as your driving force. 

  1. Where do and don’t you want to go?

Some people don’t care where they end up going. If this is you, you’ll have a lot more options than others. However, you may have certain constraints that may make certain places unappealing to you. For example, I studied abroad in Sharjah, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, and the only one where the sale of alcohol was forbidden. There was a young man who studied abroad in this same cohort who would think of increasingly creative ways to homebrew at every outing we had as exchange students. He had put down a total of six schools for his program, and he ended up at his last choice.  

Don’t be the person whose lifestyle is completely incompatible with your chosen location! If you like skiing, go north. If you like beaches, don’t go north. If you want to go to a new country every weekend, go to Europe, because their countries are tiny and high-speed trains and low-cost flights go between them. If you want to explore a culture that is significantly different than your own, go to the Middle East, Africa, or Asia. If you want to go very far while remaining in a culture where you feel more comfortable, Australia or New Zealand may be for you. Also consider if you want to be in the city, a suburb, or the countryside. 

  1. When and for how long do you want to go?

The question of when is almost as important as the question of where. In fact, there are two aspects to think about: during which part of the calendar year and during which part of your college journey. Several people in my study abroad cohort had been there during the fall semester before I got there, and a few stayed at the same university for the summer session. I had intended to return to Sharjah that fall, but I decided not to.  

Studying abroad is intense, and for most people, a single semester is more than enough. A full year could be better for you for several reasons: your goal is understanding language, getting a job, going graduate school in your chosen country, or you have relatives in your country of choice and you feel more comfortable there. NJIT will not allow you to apply to study abroad before you get a GPA and you need to apply to study abroad a semester before you go, meaning that the earliest you could study abroad is the summer after your first year.  

  1. Do you want to study abroad at a university or through a program?

Studying abroad will typically take the whole semester or summer. You will be taking normal classes at your chosen university while living in a dorm or an apartment, just like all the other students at your university. In other words, you’ll be almost completely immersed in your local country.  

On the other hand, some programs are like field trips, and you will be led by an United States-based faculty member to different destinations in a country with a group of other American students. For example, you could go to Indonesia to study conservation and visit rainforest-adjacent locations. Such programs are usually shorter: either during spring break or during summer and winter vacations, and especially for the ones during spring break may be attached to a course in America.  

These programs are perfect for those who are not currently comfortable leaving their known culture behind completely, whose major does not fit in well with studying abroad, or who do not want to deal with foreign bureaucracies. A typical five-month study abroad will typically require you to get a student visa and possibly health insurance; if your health insurance includes global coverage, you can get this waived. Additionally, there are programs that, for a fee, will help place you at a university that NJIT does not usually partner with. 

  1. What universities or programs are available to you?

Now that you have a general idea of where you might want to go, it is time to start researching actual universities in this place. A good place to start is the NJIT global website. There are three main channels through which you can study abroad at NJIT: direct exchange partners, Global E3, and the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). All three involve you paying tuition to NJIT, and all the financial aid you typically receive remains valid. Only ISEP includes meals and housing in their exchange. Room scholarships are name-specific and do not normally apply to study abroad, but this may have changed in the past two years.  

If you are looking for programs, NJIT has a few usually through the Albert Dorman Honors College, but your best bet would be to go through Rutgers University, which has a great range of programs. It is very important to make sure that the program you are applying for accepts non-Rutgers students. Those who are not from New Jersey may find that their state school has a more affordable program for them, as there is an in-state vs. out-of-state difference in tuition.  

Finally, you may go with a ‘create-your-own’ study abroad, where you find a university not connected to NJIT and pay tuition directly to them. You then go to the global office for approval. This is the least common way to study abroad because it takes significantly more legwork than any of the other options, and unless you have a specific university or city in mind, it is likely not worth the extra hoops through which you’d have to jump. 

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Matthew Fleishman, Staff Writer
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