Cultural Experience | New Zealand

How to Choose Your Study Abroad Destination

Language, Culture, Education, Adventure…The Possibilities Are Endless, but How to Choose?

It’s a big world out there and when your counselor hands you a stack of study abroad brochures to look through, it can be difficult to make a decision. There are so many great and beautiful places out there, how can you possibly narrow it down to just one country? And then you have to a pick a city within that country! There’s a lot to consider.

1. Consider the Possibilities

When are you ever going to have a chance to go this country again outside of your study abroad experience? And if you do get a chance to go that country, will you ever have a chance to live there? Obviously, this can apply to any country you might be considering, but really think about what you want. Which country would be the most interesting to live in, not just to visit, and which would you feel comfortable living in? Eventually, you’re going to have to go grocery shopping and decide on your favorite bar or café and where you choose to live can make all the difference.

Cozy Farmer's Market in Wellington, NZ

Cozy Farmer’s Market in Wellington, NZ

If feeling comfortable is a priority for you, maybe you’ll want to choose a place that’s not too different from home. But if you’re feeling daring, you could choose somewhere that’s the complete opposite. Whether it’s taking a calm walk to the farmer’s markets in Paris or navigating street vendors in Mumbai, there are many options. You’re going to want to account for everything and consider what it would be like to be like to really live in that country and whether or not that excites you.

2. Consider the Language

Do you speak the language of the country your considering? Would you like to? Many people feel more comfortable going to English-speaking countries because they know it will be much easier to get around. There’s nothing wrong with this if it makes you more comfortable knowing there’s one less cultural barrier to overcome. It’s also important to consider that in many countries, children start learning English at a very young age, Germany and Iceland for example, and it’s not hard to find someone who speaks it.

My friend Maria's English got better every day!

My friend Maria’s English got better every day!

However if you want to learn a new language, living in a country that doesn’t speak English is the best way to pick it up. Experience and being forced to communicate only  in that language is the best and quickest way to learn. Consider what could be useful to know, such as Spanish, or whatever you would enjoy being able to speak!

3. Consider the Education

Is there somewhere you could go that would align well with your major? Are there possibilities for exciting internships in this country? When choosing where to study abroad you might want to consider how what you’re studying will contribute to what you’re learning at home.  For example, if you’re studying archaeology it would be relevant to go to Greece and try to visit or become a part of research sites. Or if you’re focusing in music, Vienna has a rich musical history. And of course if you’re studying a language, there’s nothing better than going to that country and putting your skills to the test!

As a Writing major, I fell in love with all the cute independant book stores in NZ.

As a Writing major, I fell in love with all the cute independent book stores in NZ.

Do a little research on the potential schools you could attend and see if there are any that specialize or are renowned for your area of study. You just might find that a University abroad could offer you more than you ever imagined.

4. Consider the Adventure

Studying is important, but you also want to be able to go somewhere where that excites you. Do research on these countries and figure out what they have to offer you in your travels. If you’re an art fanatic, maybe you’ll want to be somewhere with a lot of museums or if you’re a foodie, you’ll probably want to go somewhere known for it’s food. Or if you’re adrenaline junkie like I am, you’ll want to find somewhere that will offer you an outlet for your dare-devil tendencies.

Bungee Jumping in Cairns, Australia

Bungee Jumping in Cairns, Australia

5. Consider the Unknown

It’s confession time. I didn’t really have a good reason for picking New Zealand as my study abroad location. I hadn’t been dreaming about it since I was little and I’m not even a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I chose New Zealand because I knew so little about it. I had heard that it was beautiful and exciting and in many ways, that’s all I needed to know. There’s so much I learned about the country and its culture during my five months there, that I could have never learned through research alone. For me, not knowing what I was getting into was exciting and terrifying, but it turned out to be an important decision that changed my life for the better. So embrace the unknown and open your minds!

Queenstown, NZ

Queenstown, NZ

It’s a big world out there and you’re ready for it.

Jamie Ditaranto

Emerson College | 7 stories

Jamie Ditaranto is a senior at Emerson College majoring Writing, Literature, and Publishing with a minor in photography. She never hits the road without her camera and would rather buy bus tickets than anything else. She will be graduating and on the prowl for new adventures this coming December.


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