Can I study abroad if I don't speak a foreign language?
Yes–you can study in a country where English is the local language, of course. Alternatively, even in countries where another language is spoken, study abroad programs taught mainly in English usually are available – the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS) offers many such programs. Study abroad web sites such asIIEPassport let you specify the language in which courses are taught.
I've studied a foreign language, but studying abroad entirely in a foreign language sounds scary. What kind of academic achievement is expected of me?
Many study abroad programs offer special foreign language courses for program participants which are designed to be appropriate for the student's level of competency in that language (this will be stated in the eligibility requirements). Students who take regular classes in a foreign language alongside host-country students should expect a challenging academic environment and should be prepared to put forth extra effort in overcoming the language barrier. But it is important to note that most professors understand the situation of international students and will usually issue grades and evaluate effort with a student's language difficulties in mind.
I receive financial aid – can I use it for study abroad? What about scholarships?
For GSW programs, you can use your financial aid and the Office of Financial Aid will process your package. For non-GSW programs, Office of Financial Aid (OFA) will usually not process financial aid. As for scholarships, these are most often made available for specific study abroad programs, although there are a few national scholarships which can be used for any study abroad program.
How do I make friends at a university abroad? Should I just hang around with the GSW students who are also on the program or other Americans who are there?
Most students study abroad with the intent of making friends with local students in the foreign country. This is an excellent goal, but one that is not always easy to attain. You are the one that must be active in making friends, since local students may seem standoffish. Another group of students to make friends with is other international students studying at your site. These students are in your situation and are trying to make friends too, and socializing with them is a great low-stress way to practice the foreign language (where applicable). Don't think that orientation seminars or ice-breaker events are pointless, because they will facilitate valuable global friendships. Finally, there is nothing wrong with becoming friends with other Americans and GSW students abroad. Probably, they will become your best friends while abroad, but don't limit yourself to Americans. Part of what makes a study-abroad experience great is cultural immersion (which may include practicing a foreign language in real-life settings), and making new friends.
(When abroad): Sometimes I get extremely homesick, sometimes I feel like I never want to go back home. Are these feelings normal?
It is normal to get homesick and it is normal to fall in love with your host country. In short, be prepared for many emotional ups and downs, but do not let these spoil your experience abroad. It is the good things that you will remember, and very few students report negative experiences when they return.
(When abroad): I am sick of people complaining to me about how much they don't like American foreign policy. How should I react in these situations?
Indeed many students have reported being bombarded with criticism about the current president, American foreign policy, and sometimes even the American lifestyle. This may make students uncomfortable, especially when they are torn between defending policies they might not personally agree with and standing up for their country. Don't be surprised if you find yourself expressing opinions you never thought you would just because someone is telling you how bad they think the USA is. The best strategy is probably to keep discussion on the level of civilized debate and not to let passions run too high.
Do I need a bank account? How do I open one and what is the best way to transfer my money abroad?
For an extended stay abroad a local bank account can be very useful. You usually receive an ATM/Debit card that will make financial transactions much easier and more cost-effective. Most American banks will perform international wire transfers to your new account abroad for roughly $50, but you could also withdraw cash abroad with your American ATM/Debit card for a small fee and then deposit it in your new account. It is also useful to give a friend or parent power-of-attorney over your American account so they can endorse checks for you or transfer money from that account to you abroad. If you plan on using your ATM/Debit card abroad, it is a good idea to change your PIN to a 4-digit number since foreign ATM machines may only accept 4 digits.