In this section, you will learn how to better understand who runs your program, and whether it is closely connected with your U.S. home university. Before deciding on a study abroad program in the country of your choice, it's important to identify what kind of relationship your U.S. College or University has with your study abroad program; essentially, you want to know who is "in charge," and who will help you if you need assistance.
There are five general types of study abroad program sponsors, which can be classified by the kind of relationship your U.S. home institution's staff has with a program's international staff. This can help you determine how much communication goes on between U.S. staff and abroad staff; does each party know what the other party is doing?
1. Five Types of Program Sponsors
2. Four Types of On–Site Program Providers
The program sponsors listed above, may provide on–site program administration in the country of your choice through four types of program providers:
- Foreign University Programs: Students directly enroll in the courses offered by a citizen of the country of your choice college or university. a citizen of the country of your choice colleges and universities offer varying levels of services and support.
- U.S. University Abroad: Students can enroll in other U.S. universities' programs in the country of your choice with which their U.S. home university has a formal agreement.
- Independent Program Providers: Many study abroad providers are neither colleges nor universities, but are solely in the business of providing study abroad programs. Programs vary from well–staffed organizations with offices in the United States and the country of your choice to a one–person office anywhere in the world.
- Hybrid Program Providers: Many study abroad program providers are mixtures of the three previously mentioned types of program providers. For instance, your U.S. college or university may have an administrative office in the country of your choice, while courses and housing may be offered by a citizen of the country of your choice college or university, and excursions may be arranged by an independent program provider.
After you understand who runs your study abroad program in the country of your choice and whether it is closely connected with your U.S. home university, the next step should involve a review of whether the level of support services both in the United States and in the country of your choice will meet your needs. Remember that there is no national organization that regulates the quality and certifies any minimum standard for study abroad programs. For this reason, it would be wise to take an active role in evaluating a program prior to participating in it. It is important to look at the many types of activities provided by your program.
3. Activities Include
- Excursions/Field Trips
- Counseling (if provided)/Student Services/Health Office
- Academic Advisement for classes
4. Contracts and Obligations
Participation in a study abroad program very likely will involve contracts. You, and maybe your parents, will have to read through and sign a number of important documents. Some of these documents might limit a program's responsibility or liability in the case you are injured in the country of your choice, other contracts might hold you responsible for certain behavior, still other contracts may require you to release personal information. Read everything before you sign. If you have to, re–read everything, have your parents read everything, or have your lawyer read everything before you sign anything. Don't let anyone pressure you into signing an agreement that confuses you, or one you don't understand. Ask study abroad administrators to explain exactly what they are having you sign, what it means, and what happens if you don't want to sign. Know your rights and take time to think about any possible consequences
of signing or not signing. Among other things, think about the following when deciding to sign or not sign a contract:
- By signing, what are you agreeing to do/not do?
- What rights do you gain/give up?
- Does the contract protect you or your program sponsor?
- Is the contract legally sound?
- Can the contract be broken after you have signed?
5. Relevant Questions
- What are the main differences among the five general types of program sponsors?
- Can you identify which one of the five general types of program sponsors your program has and why you prefer that type of program?
- What kind of relationship does your home college/university have with the study abroad program in the country of your choice?
- How long has the program been in existence (a new program doesn't necessarily mean a bad program)?
- What is the program's current financial situation?
- I have asked my program's administrators how closely my U.S. home college/university will be working with my program coordinators in the country of your choice.
- I know which of the five types of program sponsors runs my study abroad program.
- I am aware of what kind of facilities my program has in the country of your choice (i.e. a one person office versus a comprehensive campus).
- I know whether I will be enrolled in a foreign university, a U.S. university or an independent program in the country of your choice.
I understand what services and activities will and will not be provided for me by my program.
- AllAbroad.us – Deciding on a Program Mentors address the most important issues around deciding on a program.
- Goabroad.com Provides information about various study abroad programs.
- IES MAP Homepage for the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) which provides guidelines for evaluating study abroad programs.
- IFSA Butler For Students Section Example of types of support services offered by a study abroad provider to students abroad.
- Inter–Organizational Task Force Guidelines A task force of study abroad administrators developed a set of guidelines, which include fourteen points of responsibilities for program administrators.