The Study Abroad Experience: The Pros and Cons of Faculty-led Study Abroad

With international borders becoming less relevant every day, it may seem surprising to consider that only about 2% of American college students are studying overseas at any given time. Of course, the geographic location of the USA is much different than the map of Europe, where dozens of countries are situated closely to each other and where a common currency, the Euro, continues to erode the former national boundaries. Here in the USA we’re familiar with the general differences between the fifty states that constitute our nation, but in Europe over forty different countries offer amazingly rich and long histories that have shaped their cultures and their learning institutions. They speak a wide variety of languages and they embody manners and mannerisms that are, of course, foreign to us.
Many students desire to experience the adventure of study abroad, but there are many daunting obstacles to overcome and much fine-tuning that goes into planning. One of the first choices you must make concerns whether you will go alone, or perhaps with a friend, planning your own itineraries and having to do all the research on your own, or if you’d prefer to be part of a faculty-led group. Let’s consider just a few of the pros and cons of a faculty-led study group that’s going abroad.
Pro: A faculty-led plan is far more likely to allow you to earn readily-transferable credits. In fact, in most cases it is the College facilitating the program that is actually giving you credits for the study.
Con: Maybe it isn’t the credits you’re after, maybe it’s the experience.
Pro: It’s likely that your fellow students will arrive at the same time you do, as a group, and you’ll readily form new friendships in this experience.
Con: There is more flexibility in making your travel arrangements yourself and being more likely to utilize incentives and frequent-flyer miles.
Pros: Many of the faculty-led programs seem well-suited to first-time travelers with fewer potential “scary moments” in an unfamiliar country.
Cons: For some folks, immersing themselves in new places is the most exciting and quickest way to learn.
Emerging from our comparison of the pros and cons of faculty led study abroad is the consensus that if you are seeking a relatively safe experience that is tailored to both your individual needs and the needs of the institution you’re attending you’ll choose the faculty led approach. In fact, for first-time students it would seem essential to rely on a tried-and-true program. Parents may also be relieved to know that you’re not trying this on your own, but are part of a group. Enjoy the experience!

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