The Study Abroad Application
While not every school will use the same study abroad application, I am willing to bet that most applications will have pretty similar components. Based on my own experience with the study abroad application process, I’ve compiled a few helpful hints to get you thinking on the right track, as well as provide guidance in case you run into some difficulties.
The study abroad application will look almost like a regular college application. Remember how much work you put into those? Put the same amount of effort into your study abroad application. Unlike the college selection process, there’s no back up or safety net… you only get one shot at this so you need to do it right.
More than likely, it will consist of the following: A personal statement, letters of recommendation, possible course selections, health clearance forms and a general information form.
General Information Forms
This will probably be just a generic form requiring the basics like personal information, emergency contacts, degree information, etc. Nothing complicated. Just fill in the blanks.
Study Abroad Health Clearance Forms
You’re going to need to get a complete physical, and the doctor will have to confirm that you’re fit enough to go abroad and that you’re up-to-date on all of your vaccinations. Understandably, no country wants a foreigner bringing in diseases. Your doctor will have to fill-out the forms after your physical and send them to the school study abroad office or wherever instructed, so don’t procrastinate on these! Doctors are always busy, and it could be a while before they get yours done.
Possible Study Abroad Course Selections
This may be called either a home approval form, or course approval form. Make sure you’ve looked at your progress toward graduation. Compare classes from your host school’s course catalogue with those classes you’ll need to complete your major/ minor and fulfill general requirements, and also identify classes that just generally seem interesting.
Letters of Recommendation for Study Abroad Applicants
Depending on how many are required, ask your favorite professors and mentors if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. If you don’t have a close relationship with any professors, it’s ok to choose a few that may have liked you, or in whose class you did particularly well. If they don’t really know you, don’t worry. Professors are used to writing recommendation letters, and will probably have a generic letter that they can use. In this case, if your personal statement is already done, give them a copy along with anything else you think might help them get a better picture of who you are and why you want to go abroad.
Personal Statement - Study Abroad Essay 101
This is the part of the study abroad application that some people dread, and some people love. Don’t worry; I’ll break it down step by step. You already know the reasons you want to go abroad, now you just have to put them on paper to try and convince your school that you should go. Here’s writing your study abroad essay 101:
First, in a nice intro paragraph, explain your reasons for studying abroad. If you're still deciding your best course of action, review some of our deciding to study abroad resources. Just give a general overview since you’ll be getting into the specifics later in the essay. Include why you want to go abroad, what originally interested you in going abroad, what school you plan on attending, along with anything else that seems relevant.
Academics are always going to be number one in the minds of your deans, advisors and faculty, so it’s not a bad idea to go there next. Explain how going to class in a different culture will expand your capacity to learn and interpret new information. Let them know if by going abroad, you’ll be able to complete certain requirements for your major or just make progress toward your degree in general. Be sure to mention if there are classes offered abroad that aren’t available at your home school.
Next, go into depth about why you chose the location and the school that you did. Does the school have a great reputation internationally? Do you have family roots in a particular country? Really get into the fact that you want to explore the specific culture of that country or region. The more sincere and direct you are about why you want to go where you’re going, the more likely the study abroad admissions staff will approve your application.
Don’t forget to include personal reasons and interests as well. You still need to be selective in what you write – the study abroad admissions office will need to see that you’re mature enough to live in another country, but don’t be afraid to go beyond academics. One of the biggest reasons I went to Scotland was because of golf, and I wrote that in my essay. I didn’t say I wanted to wake up and be lazy on the golf course every day. I explained that golf is a huge aspect of Scottish culture; it holds a different place over there than it does in the States, and it would greatly help me integrate into the local culture.
Writing Tips for Your Study Abroad Application Essay
Sentences like, “I am excited to learn about the culture of Scotland through golf,” are a good start, but something even better might be, “It would be the pinnacle of my golfing career to experience the game of golf in its finest form in its birthplace of Scotland. There, golf is not just considered a sport, but also a vital element of Scottish culture.” Make the effort to write with quality in mind and of course honesty.
End the essay with a strong closing paragraph. Express interest in learning about local culture, such as in Japan where you’ll enjoy both the historic artistry of the culture and the modern amenities of the country. Talk about getting an education, not only in terms of academics, but in life as well. Be specific and explain your desire to pursue those interests and hobbies that you’ve picked up in college, and earlier, in a foreign country.
This is just as important as any other admissions letter you’ve ever written. Use correct grammar and avoid spelling mistakes. Write multiple drafts and have someone competent edit it for you. Better yet, have two. And of course, get it in on time!
Be sincere, be honest, and be smart.
There you have it. Those are my suggested ins and outs of the study abroad application… not as scary as you may have thought.
If you’re applying to study abroad, many programs require that you write a letter of intent– a one-page essay that introduces who you are, why you want to study abroad, and how you will enhance your future plans by studying abroad.
For more competitive study abroad programs, the letter of intent is an integral part of your application. It gives the selection committee a chance to see who you are as a student and a person. Sometimes, a well-written letter of intent will separate who gets accepted and who doesn’t.
To write a good letter of intent, you need to know the purpose of your letter and the audience you’re writing to. With those two important ideas in mind, you’re essentially writing a business letter. Here are some tips on how to begin writing your letter of intent.
- Be direct. Don’t begin with a long-winded, confusing intro. Introduce yourself and state what you are applying for. Include the most important information in the beginning, however obvious it seems.
- Organize your thoughts. The person reading your letter does not want to read a giant wall of unformatted text. Break up your letter into 3-5 small paragraphs. Each paragraph should begin with a strong topic sentence that encapsulates the rest of the paragraph. Address each question directly.
- Show your personality. Give the reader a sense of who you are. Provide specific (yet relevant) details about your life, include an anecdote if appropriate, and be honest about why you want to study abroad. If you’re passionate about travel, for example, tell them.
- Write well. Follow the principles of good, effective writing. Eliminate any grammatical errors, favour the active voice over the passive, and use concrete and specific language. If you enjoy waxing poetic, try to keep it to a minimum.
- Keep it short. Many letters of intent are restricted to one page in length. The reader’s time is valuable, so only state the important things. The more concise you are, the better. Unless told otherwise, keep your letter between 300-500 words.
These letters are important, so don’t be afraid to write several drafts, or seek help from a trusted friend or professor. To give you an idea of what a letter of intent looks like, I’ve provided an example: the letter of intent that I wrote for my international exchange.
Dear Members of the Selection Committee:
My name is Abroad Guide and my dream is to travel abroad as part of a study exchange. A proud Vike, I’m very excited about the opportunity to study abroad with UVic and broaden my own horizons. I am applying to study in Spain and particularly interested in attending the University of Alcala next fall. I believe that as a driven learner, cultural sponge and adventurous spirit, I am an ideal exchange student and perfect for this program.
Travel has always been a part of my life. I remember moving to the Dominican Republic when I was ten. It was an enormous change compared to my hometown in Florida. I was eating things I had never heard of, and I learned that electricity and running water are luxuries for most. During that time, I was introduced to the Spanish language and my love for my Hispanic roots. Studying in Spain—the birthplace of Latin American culture—would help me further explore my heritage.
Studying abroad would give me a chance to continue my studies while experiencing a different culture. While studying English and Professional Writing here at UVic, I used my electives to study Spanish and Hispanic culture. My personal curiosity developed into a scholarly interest, and I have now declared for the Certificate of Spanish Language and Cultural Proficiency. I’m confident that a semester en España would enhance my studies in this field.
The University of Alcala offers the academic and cultural experience that I desire. It offers courses taught in English, along with Spanish classes for non-native speakers. Roughly the size of UVic, the University of Alcala is one of the top schools in the Spanish-speaking world. Located in the hometown of writer Miguel de Cervantes, the school has a rich tradition in humanities and a main campus that dates back to the sixteenth century. It would be a privilege to attend such a world-class institution on behalf of UVic.
As an English student, I have learned that literature plays many roles in our lives. Opening a book is like opening a door into another world full of characters, ideas and perspectives that are otherwise unreachable. I believe that traveling does the same thing. The last four years at UVic have enriched my life with experiences I’ll never forget. With only a few short semesters left here at UVic, my experience as an undergraduate is coming to a close. But I have applied to go on exchange because I think there’s time for one last adventure.
letter of intention, study abroad, study abroad tips, writing, writing tips