5 Study Abroad Interview Questions You Need to Know

After weeks of finding every excuse in the book to procrastinate, you finally made an appointment with your study abroad advisor. Kudos! But now what? It’s overwhelming, am i right? Thinking about all of the details at once – application, classes, money, flights, and on and on – is enough to make you want to curl up in the fetal position and give up on this venture before you even start.

However, there’s good news. Learning how to prepare to study abroad and knowing these essential study abroad interview questions will help you dominate your advising appointment and be one step closer to stamping your passport.

You can likely anticipate these five main questions from your advisor. If you think about these study abroad interview questions and answers ahead of time, you’ll maximize the appointment time and leave knowing what steps to take next. Plus, you’ll totally impress your study abroad advisor. And hey, study abroad advisors often have input on admission decisions (and …ahem…scholarships).

Follow these study abroad interview questions to help you move forward with confidence:

1. Where do you want to study abroad?

Wrong Answer: I don’t know.
Right Answer: I’d like to study in a Spanish-speaking country.

This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s a big world out there! You don’t have to know exactly where you want to go, but the more you can share about your interests (or where you definitely don’t want to go), the better. If you want to study Spanish, for example, even stating that you want to study in the Spanish-speaking world is a place to start.

It’s important to enter your meeting with a shortlist of destinations that are attractive to you— either different countries or different cities within the same country. Having a strong answer to this study abroad question shows you’re invested in the experience.

If you’re really struggling and feeling equally pulled to Japan and England, or still on the fence if you should go at all, ask for your study abroad advisor’s input. They’re a treasure trove of information and have your best interests in mind.

Still don’t feel like you have a good answer?

If you’re trying to prepare but are still really not sure, that’s OK. Start by thinking in general terms. Read a variety of articles on locations that interest you. What do you like about where you live now, or what do you not like? Did you one time watch a movie about India, and it was super mind blowing? Often, students are drawn to a location, but they are not sure why. Listen to that (and tell your study abroad advisor)!

Maybe you know someone who studied in Sweden, and they rave about it. Or, maybe you know you’re a city person, or cities make you cringe. Either way, let it be known. Out loud. Study abroad advisors are many things, but they are not mind readers.

2. What do you want or need to study?

Wrong Answer: I don’t know.
Right Answer: I need to take Spanish 300. And I’d love to take a History class.

If you have already met with your academic advisor prior to your study abroad meeting, you win a gold star. And a cookie. This inquiry will probably end up being the first of the study abroad questions you are asked, as your eligibility for earning credits (if this is your goal) will vary widely based on location, length, and focus of your program.

Many schools match students and advisors based on subject rather than location, so you might need to zero-in on your program focus prior to scheduling your interview (and subsequent prepping for study abroad interview questions). Keep in mind that academic systems around the world vary, so your study abroad advisor will be helpful in determining the equivalent of Spanish 300 on that program in Argentina.

Some students take the opportunity to study abroad to take classes in something totally different than their major. This isn’t as common as the first scenario, but hey, if you go to school in a land-locked locale, when else can you study Marine Biology? If you go this route, make sure you have enough flexibility in your schedule to handle it. It might mean you need to take summer school, or load up on hours next semester, or (gasp) take an extra semester. That’s cool — it’s your life to design! But, make sure you talk to your parents about this decision. In fact, that’s some pretty key study abroad advice. Talk to your parents about the decision in general. Pretty please?

Still drawing a blank?

Make a point to meet with your academic advisor before you meet with your study abroad advisor. Your academic advisor can give you a general overview of how on track you are for graduating, and help you identify key classes that might be easier to take abroad that will still count for course credits.

3. How long do you want to (or can you) study abroad?

Wrong Answer: I don’t know. However long is fine.
Right Answer: I’d love to go for a year, but I’m open to a semester if needed.

As you can probably imagine, the longer you study abroad, the more you’ll gain in language skills and cultural competency. You’ll build stronger relationships with those you meet and the more empanadas you’ll get to eat! So, you should go for as long as you can. Because empanadas. But, there are also some factors at play that prevent everyone from being able to go abroad for a year.

Budget plays a big role here. Of course, the longer you study abroad, the more expensive the overall cost will be. That’s a given, but you also get a better value for a longer venture abroad. Although a summer study abroad program may be less expensive on the whole than a semester, if you don’t typically go to summer school, that’s an extra term you’re paying for. Don’t forget about lost income from jobs, since it’s not always possible to work while you’re studying abroad— especially for a short amount of time.

And consider your commitments – sports, clubs, family obligations, jobs – and how long you can reasonably put them on hold. On the other hand, don’t let your commitments or budget concerns hold you back! Even a week or two studying abroad can dramatically change your life. Don’t miss your chance.

Still searching for the answer?

Ask your study abroad advisor what she recommends based on your situation. Study abroad advisors talk to hundreds of students and have a lot of experience to share based on feedback from those students (and personal experience). Be sure to share your concerns so the two of you can discuss them together.

4. Why do you want to study abroad?

Wrong Answer: I don’t know. Or, I want to go to Australia for the beaches.
Right Answer: I want to study marine biology and see the Great Barrier Reef up close.

No, really, why do you want to study abroad versus travel, or intern, or volunteer abroad? You can hang on the Gold Coast anytime, but the opportunity to study abroad may not always be there.

Too few students think about this question ahead of time (or at all). What are your goals? Do you hope to learn a language, study your discipline from a new perspective, or meet new people? This may evolve over time. No biggie. But, step one is to actually think about your study abroad goals. And to tell your advisor what they are.

Still grasping at straws?

Reflect, reflect, reflect. If you’re a journaler, get out that pen because writing down your thoughts and goals can work wonders here. If your page is coming up blank, try talking to other students who have studied abroad. See if your school’s study abroad office has a peer advisor or student worker to talk to. Past study abroad students have amazing stories that may spark something you didn’t know was there before.

5. How will study abroad affect your future career path?

Wrong Answer: I haven’t really thought about.
Right Answer: It’s hard to know for sure, but at this point I want to be a lawyer, so I hope studying abroad will give me a greater understanding of how law works in a different country.

It’s true. It is hard to know exactly how studying abroad will affect your future. Plenty of students go abroad with one major and return home with another. Or, their entire career trajectory changes course because of a class or even a small interaction that occurs while studying abroad. Once your eyes are opened to the rest of the world, who knows what you’ll decide to do with it?

But, if you do have a clear path in mind, connecting study abroad to your career plans will enhance your academic experience and take you a step closer to getting on that path you are seeking.

Still having a bit of an existential crisis?

Don’t fret. Or, at least, try not to. Just as it is with the other study abroad interview questions, it’s important to think about your answer to this one, but it comes with a caveat. Whatever your answer is, know that it may change anyway.

Be Sure to Ask Your Own Study Abroad Questions

As with any interview, you should come armoured with your own questions as you are preparing to study abroad. Ask questions that you are genuinely curious about. Here are a few to get you started:

  • What is the day-to-day like on the program you are considering?
  • How much does it cost? Are there scholarships available?
  • Is the location/school/program accessible to your disability or health/dietary needs?
  • What are the next steps and deadlines?

You’ve probably picked up on the theme that I don’t know doesn’t cut it when you meet with your study abroad advisor. All this being said, despite the benefit of reflecting on what’s important to you, approaching the process of how to prepare to study abroad with an open mind and flexibility is just as important as knowing what you want or need. Reflect, communicate, and be honest, and it will all work out beautifully.

What’s Next?

Well, go to your appointment, of course. And prep for it using Vatslya to help you research and track program options, and save relevant articles that might prompt questions. You will be so completely prepared, your study abroad advisor won’t know what to do! How the tables have turned! Plus, you’ll be one step ahead and well on you way to studying abroad. Who knew it could be so easy?

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