WHEN SHOULD I START?
The Office of Education Abroad (OEA) recommends students start researching and planning for a study abroad at least one year before they wish to go abroad so that they have plenty of time to research program options and resources. The OEA is here to support you throughout your program research, the application process, while you're abroad, and even once you return.
How do I Start?
What follows are the different steps and "phases" you'll go through as you progress throughout the study abroad process, which will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect.
STep 1. Research!
TIMEFRAME: 1 YEAR BEFORE DEPARTURE
Determing which program is a good academic, financial, and personal fit for you can be one of the most time-consuming - and possibly hardest - part of studying abroad (because there are so many great options to choose from)! However, putting in that time well in advance is crucial to helping ensure you find the best program for you, that you are well-informed and prepared for your experience, and that you have the best experience possible abroad.
Complete study abroad 101
The Office of Education Abroad has created a video series called Study Abroad 101. In this series, we describe the different study abroad program types, cost considerations, financial aid and scholarships, resources, how to search for programs, and more. In most cases, completing Study Abroad 101 will be required before you're eligible to meet with an Education Abroad Advisor or start an application to study abroad.
Whether or not it is required, we strongly encourage all students to complete Study Abroad 101 to ensure they understand the full range of international opportunities and resources to which they have access.
Learn More about program types
When you are getting started, we cannot tell you exactly what you will do abroad or how much it will cost, as there is no one single type of study abroad experience! There are several different types of study abroad programs, which offer over 1,000 very-different individual study abroad programs from which to choose. This is both amazing and can also be a bit overwhelming!
It is very important that you take the time to understand the different program types before diving into researching individual programs; not because one type is better, less expensive, or easier to get accepted into, but because the program type determines generally what kind of experience you might expect to have, cost structures, how academic credit will be processed, and the application process. Each individual program within a program type will then offer a different cost, course offerings, and experience.
To learn about the different program types, start with Study Abroad 101 for the basics and then review more detailed information on the program types here. Before you dive into researching specific programs, you should next build your budget, understand program costs, and research how study abroad academic credit is processed.
Build Your budget & understand program costs
One of the most important things for you to do once you understand the different program types is to determine how much money you can spend on studying abroad by building your study abroad budget. Add together all of your anticipated resources (savings, financial aid, scholarships, familial support, etc.) and consider when you will have access to them in order to be able to identify a program that will be a good financial fit for you.
Once you have determined how much you can spend, be sure to review our Money Matters pages to familiarize yourself with ALL the costs that may be associated with study abroad. There, you will also find resources regarding how financial aid can be applied to study abroad and how to apply for scholarships.
understand how academic credit works
You will receive UNC Charlotte course credit for any courses taken abroad! Depending on which program type you pursue, the way that academic credit works will be a little bit different. Explore our Academic Credit page to better understand how you will receive UNC Charlotte equivalent credit for the courses you take abroad.
Use The Program Search Function
After understanding the different program types and building your study abroad budget, you should then start researching individual programs. Our Program Search Function allows you to filter approved programs based on a variety of parameters, such as term, location, and area of study. You are encouraged to spend a good bit of time playing around with this search function to start a list of programs that you think could be a good personal, academic, and financial fit for you individually. The OEA cannot tell you which program you should choose, but is here to support you should you have questions during your research.
Meet with an Education Abroad Advisor
Once you've started your research, meeting with an Education Abroad Advisor may be required before you're able to gain access to an OEA application to study abroad. Whether or not it is required, you're welcome to schedule an appointment to meet with an Advisor in OEA in order to discuss specific questions you may have from your research. Keep in mind that, in most cases, you'll need to complete Study Abroad 101 before you'll be eligible to meet with an Advisor. Additionally, the OEA can better assist you if you have already done a fair bit of research and narrowed your search down to a few programs that you would like to explore further or about which you have specific questions.
Chat with a Study Abroad Alum
The OEA has a great team of Study Abroad Peer Advisors, which is a group of UNC Charlotte students who have already studied abroad that you can chat with to learn more about the student experience abroad. Take a look at our list of Peer Advisors and feel free to reach out to any of them!
STep 2. Applying
TIMEFRAME: EARLY in THE SEMESTER BEFORE DEPARTURE abroad
determine how to apply for your program
Once you have done thorough research and identified the program you think will be the best personal, academic, and financial fit for you, it's time to complete an OEA study abroad application. All students have to receive approval from the OEA via the OEA application in order to study abroad on any program. The steps to apply for your program will vary depending on the program type. Refer to our Application Process page for more information on how you can apply when you're ready.
TIMEFRAME: SEMESTER BEFORE DEPARTURE
Approval from the OEA
Once you apply and receive approval from the OEA to go abroad, you will have access to resources in your OEA application to help you prepare for your upcoming departure; a ton of resources are also available on our website. Keep in mind that depending on your type of program and individual program, there may be an application you'll need to complete in addition to the required UNC Charlotte OEA application (e.g. an application with the affiliate provider, host university, etc.) in order to receive official acceptance into the program.
At the time the OEA approves your application to study abroad, you will receive more information on how to complete OEA Pre-Departure Requirements within that application, which includes things such as providing us with a copy of your valid passport, uploading your flight itinerary, and more. The information we collect is used for risk management purposes and may also be important to helping us prepare for your departure (if applicable).
As soon as you are approved you should login to your OEA application familiarize yourself with the deadlines associated with each requirement, as some could be due immediately after your approval.
All UNC Charlotte students going abroad are required to attend a Pre-Departure Orientation facilitated by the Office of Education Abroad. During the orientation, OEA staff will cover important topics ranging from academics abroad to health & safety. The date, time, and format of the orientation will be communicated to you at the time the OEA approves your OEA study abroad application.
STep 4. While Abroad
Communicate with the OEA
If you experience any issues abroad, be sure to alert the OEA as soon as you can. Even though we're located in Charlotte and may not be able to solve your issue, we certainly can put you in touch with the people who can and do our best to advocate on your behalf.
Communicate with On-site Staff
When you are abroad, you should always have access to on-site staff who can assist you, whether it's a UNC Charlotte Faculty Member, the international student office at the host university, or affiliate provider staff. These individuals can be one of your best resources should you have any difficulties on-site.
Study abroad alumni resources
The OEA has a whole section of our website filled with resources for Study Abroad Alumni, to include information regarding when grades will be processed, how to get involved with the Office of Education Abroad, how to purchase a Study Abroad Graduation Sash, and more!
Photo by Caroline Kraft