Without a doubt, almost all (if not every) college student who studies abroad will tell you that it was one of their best experiences in college. I mean, who wouldn’t want to explore the world and earn college credit at the same time? But with so many different destinations and courses available, it’s easy to get lost in the whole process. Luckily, that’s where study abroad fairs come in.
Study abroad fairs are a must-attend event for students interested in going abroad. An abundance of information is right at our fingertips (quite literally, since there are often dozens of booths with numerous information packets and pamphlets) and representatives from each program is there to answer questions, provide information, and give you a general run-down of what their program has to offer.
As a student who dreams of studying abroad one day, I’ve attended several of these study abroad fairs. Each time I went, I looked at dozens of programs, asked questions, acquired pamphlets and booklets, signed up for email lists, and grabbed plenty of freebies. I mean, who wouldn’t grab a free phone charger or bowl of ice cream?
But let me pause the story right here. It sounds like I was making the most of my study abroad fairs, right? After all, I was getting tons of information and ideas!
Here’s the problem: The answers to my questions got mixed up and forgotten within a day, and trying to compare the programs of the dozens of information booklets I had grabbed was extremely overwhelming. Each time I checked my email, my inbox was clogged by the number of email lists I had signed up for. Even worse, some of the emails were from programs I wasn’t even interested in, which made the entire process even more frustrating!
After my third attempt of comparing the programs of the 15+ booklets I had picked up, I finally realized how wrong my approach was to study abroad fairs. After all, I left study abroad fairs feeling more overwhelmed than when I went in, and this was harming me more than helping me. Most of all, I knew that many other students were probably feeling the same way. After learning from my experiences, I uncovered the “Dos” and “Don’ts” of study abroad fairs, which will not only make study abroad fairs a lot less overwhelming, but easier to navigate, as well!
DO pick up information booklets
Information booklets are a wealth of information, and one of the most valuable assets I received at study abroad fairs. Since the program coordinators couldn’t go over every detail with me when I visited their booths, the information booklets were an additional source of information, and gave me full specifics about costs, scholarships, class descriptions, and program dates. Grabbing information booklets made looking over the details of each program so much easier!
DON’T pick up every booklet
Many information booklets are huge, and if you’re picking one up from every table, you’re going to end up with huge stack that ends up weighing down your backpack and cluttering your room. Believe me, you do not need that many information booklets.
Also, trying to review every booklet you picked up and compare the programs between them is more overwhelming than helpful. I’ve tried doing this many times, especially since I have no clue which country I want to study abroad in. But each attempt was fruitless because I couldn’t keep the immense amounts of information straight!
Instead, limit yourself to only picking up four or five booklets, and have them only be from programs that you’re particularly interested in, rather than from all programs that would fit your major.
DO ask plenty of questions
Study abroad booths are often run by the program’s coordinators or the professors themselves, so this is the perfect time to strike up a conversation and see if their program is the best one for you! I’ve had several amazing conversations with program coordinators and professors, which helped their program stand out to me much more than others, all by just asking a question!
DON’T forget to write those answers down
If you’re planning on asking questions at booths (which you should be), then you’re bound to forget some of the information they tell you. Before you go, take a pen and a pad of sticky notes with you, so that you won’t forget their answers. Once you write them down on the sticky notes, you can stick them to the inside covers of the booklets that you collect, so you won’t lose them.
DO sign up for email lists
While it sometimes seems like the main goal of their email list is to clog up your inbox, they actually contain a wealth of important information. You’ll receive news about scholarships, application deadlines, and sometimes application fee waivers! Just by signing up for the email list, you could be saving yourself a lot of money.
DON’T sign up for every email list
It seems like I was encouraged to sign up for every email list at my study abroad fair, even for programs I wasn’t that interested in, “just in case I changed my mind.” Sure enough, my inbox became clogged within just a few days, and it became difficult to differentiate the emails from the programs that I was interested in from those that I wasn’t interested in.
That being said, only sign up for the email lists from the same booths you picked up the information booklets at. (Remember, only 4 or 5!) This keeps the number of emails lists you’re on to a smaller amount, and they will only be the ones that you actually want information from.
DO go to plenty of booths
Attending a study abroad fair is like window shopping: you never know what you’re going to discover. You may find a program you’ve never heard of before, or begin considering a country that you didn’t even know would have classes available for your program. Since I’m a student who has no clue what country I want to study abroad in, I found this method to be very beneficial for me.
However, even if you do know what country you want to go to, I still encourage you to look around at other booths. You may find a new program that fits your interests better, a cheaper program for the same country, or something else entirely. It’s just important to keep an open mind!
DON’T go to all of them
While it’s great to explore plenty of booths at your study abroad fair, you shouldn’t go to every one of them. You may know that some programs won’t offer classes in your major, or that you don’t want to study in a specific country. (Maybe because you’ve already been there before and want to go somewhere new.) For example, there are some booths at my school’s study abroad fair that are only have courses available for students majoring in French or Spanish, which isn’t applicable to me. Not only would it be unnecessary to go to that booth, it would also be a waste of time to both me and the program coordinator. Don’t go to every booth just for the sake of going to every booth!
DO some research beforehand
Before you go to your study abroad fair, do some research beforehand to figure out what countries you may be interested in, or would most likely have programs in your area of study. For example, Italy would have plenty of programs for me since I’m an art student, whereas Brazil would have plenty of programs for Biology students. Some classes may be harder to find in some countries than in others, so doing your research ahead of time may help you to narrow down which booths to visit.
DON’T go in without any ideas or questions
Many students go into a study abroad fair with no idea where they want to study abroad, when they want to go, or what they want to study while abroad. I’ll admit that I’ve done this before, and that’s okay.
At the same time, however, it’s difficult to get valuable information if you can’t narrow down some of your choices, and a program coordinator can’t help you if you have no idea yourself. That’s why having some tentative ideas figured out before you go is important. It could be as simple as choosing a continent, whether you want to go for a semester, summer, or winter session, or if you want to take general education classes or classes in your major. Having a vague idea is better than no idea, and will make it much easier to gather information, ask questions, and browse the booths.
Study abroad fairs should be an opportunity to clarify your questions about study abroad, not to make you feel more overwhelmed and confused! Hopefully these tips will help your next study abroad fair be a successful one.
Before you go, let me know if you’ve ever made any mistakes while attending study abroad fairs, and what your tips are for making the most of them!