One of the most powerful experiences that Wake Forest students can have is through studying abroad or taking part in an international service program. Around 70% of our students take part in a foreign academic program or international service trip.
You might be thinking that freshman year is too soon for your student to be thinking about studying abroad, but that is not the case. Why should first-year students begin thinking about study abroad now?
Registration and Course Selection – As students learned during Orientation in August, there are a number of majors that require a specific sequencing of coursework, and/or certain classes are only offered in the fall or spring. Students who believe they want to major in areas such as Biology, Chemistry, or Music, or who wish to apply to the undergraduate School of Business, do have the ability to go abroad, but need to plan their coursework carefully to ensure they meet all requirements for their major.
And while it is customary for students to study abroad their junior year, for some of the majors above with specific course sequencing, it may be better to study abroad fall or spring of a student’s sophomore year or in the summer.
Choosing a Program – Students who wish to study abroad have two main options: 1) study through an official WFU program, such as our residential houses in London, Venice and Vienna, or 2) going through an Affiliate program with another university.
There are pros and cons to each. With the WFU residential houses, students live in a house with a faculty member and have their own built-in network of familiar community members, and the security of knowing a Wake Forest faculty member is there to assist students as well as teach them. With an Affiliate program, students can go to parts of the world that do not already have an established WFU program. Students need to think carefully about where they want to study and which program best meets their academic needs.
There are GPA requirements and application deadlines for either option – and again, the sooner your student is aware of those requirements, the better able he will be to plan his study abroad and ensure he has the GPA necessary for admittance to the program.
Determining Needed Finances – While your student may have every intention of studying abroad, you as parents and family members may need to consider how that fits in your family’s budget. There are extras that come with a semester abroad – airfare for the student, potential airfare for you to visit your student in his country of study, cost of EuroRail passes for student travel, and more. You may wish to have time to begin saving for those items now. Information about financial aid is available online.
For more information about all the considerations of studying abroad, visit the Study Abroad main page or their section specifically for parents. Encourage your student to sign up for a Study Abroad information session and begin working with one of our study abroad counselors.
If your student doesn’t want to spend a whole semester abroad, or doesn’t want to spend time doing academics, what other options are there? For students interested in international service, there are a number of life changing opportunities to travel to and serve people in another country.
The International Service Trips web page has descriptions of programs. It also has link to a remarkable video with interviews from students and faculty who have gone on these trips. It’s about 8 minutes in length and shows some of the transformational growth students on these trips experience.
For any successful abroad experience, it takes good planning. So the earlier you and your student can begin these conversations, the better.
From a personal standpoint, I can say that my semester abroad was the best of my semesters at Wake Forest. It truly is a transformational experience, filled with personal gr0wth and a new perspective on oneself and one’s place in the world. Please encourage your freshman to consider a semester abroad if at all possible.