When a student plans to spend time in a foreign country as a part of his or her program of study, there are plenty of resources for information, such as program websites, travel guides, university websites, and study abroad advisors. But one of the very best places to learn more about the experience of studying abroad in a particular country is from the students who are studying or have already studied there. Here are some questions to ask them!
Questions About Student Life
Knowing what sort of student environment to expect is often helpful in deciding whether that city is a good fit for study abroad:
- I’m thinking of studying in Foreign City A or Foreign City B. What do you know about either of these cities?
- Is there a strong student presence in Foreign City A?
- What are some things to do during the weekend?
- How did you meet the friends you made abroad?
Questions About Academics
Knowing a bit more about the university system and academic expectations is a good idea:
- What is the course load like at your university there? Is it manageable?
- How often are you in class throughout the week?
- What types of assignments have you had this semester?
- How often have you had to write a paper, give a presentation, or take a test?
- How would you compare the level of difficulty to your home university?
Questions About Foreign Language
For students planning on studying in a country that speaks a language other than their own, the following questions are relevant:
- Is there a strong support system for international students/non-native speakers of the country’s language?
- Do you interact often with native speakers?
- How has your language ability improved since you arrived?
- Is tutoring available?
- Does Foreign City A or Foreign City B have a strong dialect? Was it difficult to understand at first? How does it sound compared to the standard form you learned at your home university?
Questions About Housing
Another important area not to forget, especially if a particular study abroad program does not locate and secure housing for its students:
- Do you live with a host family, in a dorm, or in a shared apartment?
- Which of the three would you recommend? Do you know anyone who chose one of the other two options, and what they thought of that living situation?
- How did you find your current living situation?
- Where in Foreign City A are the best places to live? Where should I avoid?
- How much is rent for typical student housing/a shared apartment?
Questions About Finances
Money: Not a fun subject, but a vital one to consider prior to departure:
- Do you receive a stipend through your program?
- Did you have enough money left over each month after rent, food, etc. for fun stuff like travel and a night out?
- Can I use my ATM/Debit card from home at most locations?
Questions About Traveling
While studying abroad, don’t just stay in one place! Though it’s important for students to spend most of their time in the local area, traveling is one of the most exciting parts of studying abroad:
- Are there good train connections in Foreign City A?
- Where did you travel while abroad? What was your favorite? Least favorite?
- Are there student discounts on travel? Is there a specific train/bus travel pass I should buy when I arrive?
- Are there any must-see locations nearby?
Questions About Safety
While some of these questions may be a bit awkward to ask, it’s important to do so. From knowing where not to live to being aware of bad areas at night, it’s good to be prepared:
- Do you feel safe walking home alone at night?
- Are there certain areas of the city I should avoid at night? Avoid altogether?
- Do you feel safe in the city in general?
- Do you know or know of anyone who has had a bad experience in that city ?
Questions About Home, Family, Friends, and Culture Shock
Some of these questions can get personal! But it’s important stuff to ask, as it’s one of the tougher sides of studying abroad:
- Did you experience any kind of culture shock?
- What are some things about the country’s culture that I should know before arriving?
- How often did you communicate with family and friends at home?
- I have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Have you or any of your friends maintained a long-distance relationship while abroad?
- What was it like returning home after living abroad?
- What do you wish you’d known before going abroad?
Students who have studied abroad are a great resource for those looking for a firsthand perspective of life as an international student in a specific country. Asking questions about subjects such as student life, academics, housing, safety, foreign language, finances, travel and culture shock can help students learn as much as possible about the destination city before departure.