Studying abroad can teach you about more than just another country or another culture; the experience of studying abroad is often cited as a major factor in a student’s personal development, in truly coming to know oneself. Students who study abroad tend to graduate at higher rates, have higher GPAs overall, and be better problem solvers - all qualities that are sought-after by employers after graduation.
Did you know?
- Students who study abroad graduate at a higher rate and they develop academic and career skills that stay with them for the rest of their lives.
- WMU offers lots of different types of study abroad programs - semester long, year-long, summer session, or even short-term programs of a few weeks.
- You can apply your WMU financial aid to your study abroad program and there are also scholarships based on merit and need.
ANYONE can study abroad!
You’ve made it to college, now where else will life take you? Take advantage of all that WMU has to offer you and expand your horizons by studying abroad. You’re ready for this! You’re going to grow in ways you never could have imagined, while also having the time of your life. Study Abroad staff is here to help you along your journey!
- Benefits of study abroad for a first-generation college student, IIE Blog.
- First Generation Student blog: how to figure out study abroad as a first-generation college student.
- IFSA-Butler First Generation Scholar blogs
- Where do I want to study abroad (country, city, region)? Do I want to choose a program that will work well with my major?
- What courses will I be able to take abroad?
- How will study abroad fit in with my major or course requirements? Should I save some elective credits so that I can choose a program based on its location, or should I look at programs for their course choices?
- How long do I want to study abroad (full semester, full year, summer session, short-term program)?
- When do I want to study abroad (Fall, Spring, Summer)? When should I begin the application process? See our general timeline below to aid in your planning
- How can I explain the benefits and safety of study abroad to my family?
- How will I know if I’m on the right track in the planning process?
Students who are interested in studying abroad should begin planning early on in their college career. However, not having considered study abroad during freshman year certainly does not mean that it’s too late to start.
Nine months to one year before departure
- Begin researching programs that you might be interested in
- Download a free comprehensive guide to Study Abroad"A Student Guide to Study Abroad".
- Attend a study abroad drop-in info session and/or study abroad fair
- If you have questions about a specific program, you can make an appointment to meet with a study abroad specialist. You can do this by coming in to our office or calling (269) 387-5890
- Apply for your passport if you don’t already have one. If you do already have a passport, check the expiration date to make sure you won’t need a new one before you depart. Your passport should be valid for at least six months AFTER your intended stay in the host country.
- In your research, be aware of the costs for each program. Budgets for each program are available in the program brochure by term.Create a budget of possible expenses for your time abroad and begin putting money away in a savings account for your time abroad. Remember you can use your financial aid toward study abroad, but if finances may still be an issue, perhaps think about choosing a program in a country that might be less expensive. A study abroad specialist can help you with this.
- Begin researching and applying for scholarships. Many scholarships have varying deadlines, so keep track of when they are due. You may be able to apply some private scholarship funding (whether they are specifically related to study abroad or not) toward your study abroad costs; be sure to check with each scholarship administrator first.
Six—nine months before departure
- Meet again with study abroad specialist if you have additional questions you need to discuss before submitting your study abroad application.
- Submit your application for study abroad before the appropriate deadline. Application deadlines are determined based on the program and which semester you’re planning to be abroad. You can find the specific deadline for each program listed in the online program brochure in Broncos Abroad. General deadlines can be found here.
- Meet with your academic advisor to obtain study abroad course approvals for your program abroad if you will be taking courses at a host university abroad.
- For short-term, faculty-led programs, students should consult their academic advisor to determine how the credits will count toward their WMU degree requirements.
- Once you’re accepted, you must officially commit to the program to reserve your place and pay the study abroad commitment fee billed to your student account.
- After you commit to participate in a program, follow instructions from Study Abroad staff and the faculty director of the program.
- For a short-term faculty-led program, the professor will schedule group meetings to discuss travel to the destination and other necessary preparations. You will learn about whether or not you need a visa and how to get one at those meetings.
- For semester programs, meet or follow up with your study abroad specialist to complete registration at the host university. The specialist will give you information about when and how to get a visa at this time.
- The process of receiving a visa can take several months, and will require that you already have a valid passport when you apply. Find information on getting your student visa on the embassy website of the country you will be studying in, NOT the US embassy website.
- The US State Department has an excellent database of information on where and how to get student visas depending on the country where you will be studying. You can also discuss this with a study abroad specialist. Be sure to let your study abroad advisor know if you hold a US Green card or are otherwise a non-citizen resident of the United States, as the procedures may be different.
Approximately three months prior to departure (semester before departure)
- Book your airfare (a study abroad specialist can help your learn how to do this if you’re not sure).
- If you have not already applied for a student visa, do so now (if required).
- Check your WMU email account regularly (and read it carefully) for important trip information.
- Continue to save whatever money you can in a savings account. Contact your bank to determine the best way to access your money abroad.
- Attend mandatory WMU Study Abroad pre-departure orientation(s).
- Prior to departure, students are required to register their trip with the U.S. Department of State STEP program.
- Learn about your host country; being aware of differences in culture may help you experience less culture shock. Culture Crossing is an excellent resource to help prepare you for everything from typical gestures to gift-giving to common greeting customs. Also, The University of Arkansas has some excellent suggestions for preparing for a new culture.
- Information sessions: informal meetings in the study abroad office with peer advisors to go over the basics of study abroad and the process
- Walk-in hours for advising: get more specific information from study abroad specialists on specific regions or programs during the fall and spring semesters, by appointment only in the summer
- Frequently Asked Questions
- A Student's guide to study abroad: a free comprehensive guide to study abroad
- Study abroad info emails: monthly information and tips about programs and deadlines
- Parent Information
- IFSA-Butler Pamphlet for parents of First-Gen college students
- Diversity Abroad: a resource with advice and information specifically for first-generation students; it also hosts information for many other groups, such as racial/ethnic minority students, LGBT students, students with disabilities, and more.
- AllAbroad: features advice on planning and funding, talking to your parents about study abroad, and much more.
Can I Afford it? Did you know that you can use your Western Michigan University Financial Aid towards your study abroad?
Studying abroad can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many programs that cost nearly the same as studying for a semester at Western Michigan University; some WMU study abroad programs are actually cheaper than studying on campus for the semester. Study abroad specialists can work with students to find a program that fits their academic objectives and budget.
There are many scholarships available through WMU colleges and departments, as well as scholarships awarded through community organizations, service clubs and national competitions, such as the Boren and Gilman programs. In 2012-13, students studying abroad through WMU received more than $400,000 in scholarships. For WMU students who are willing to invest some time in developing their foreign language skills before they go abroad, the President’s Grant for Study Abroad can meet most of the financial need, offering awards of up to $10,000 for an academic year.
Study abroad scholarships for first-generation students:
- API First Generation Scholarship: for use with API programs
- Benjamin A. Gillman Scholarship: for students who receive a Federal Pell Grant and who have been traditionally under-represented in study abroad
- IFSA-Butler First Generation College Student Program: for use with IFSA-Butler Programs
- IES Scholarship for Under-Represented Students: open to students who have been traditionally under-represented on study abroad programs including first generation college studetns, students from low income families and students with a history of overcoming adversity
- IIE Travel Grants
- The Education Abroad Network Diversity Scholarship: for use with a semester Education Abroad Network semester program
- DiversityAbroad.com Scholarship for Semester at Sea