Choosing The Right Study Abroad Company

 

DSC 2190So you’ve nailed down the destination of your study abroad program. Woot! You are embarking on a great adventure, on a road lined heavily with dumplings, bicycles, a complicated writing system, a super-duper long wall and some of the most far-out architecture you can even imagine.
 
Despite your confidence in where you want to take your studies, now’s the time to think more proactively about WHO you want to study in China with. (Who? Like my friends? My mom? My grandma?) No, no, no. What we mean is… what company you’d like to study in China through.

As of now, there are three main ways you can study in China:


1. With your university.
 
This is a great option if your university offers a program you are interested in, it won’t break the bank (perhaps your scholarships or financial aid carry over?), and you have a few friends from your classes who will join you abroad.
 
2. Enrolling directly in a Chinese university.
 
This is certainly the most financially viable option for most students, but it is very difficult to coordinate studying in China independently. However, this is a great route to take for students who embrace challenges with open arms or have already studied in China previously.
 
3. With a study abroad program.
 
This is the option that we are going to dive deeper into through this article. These companies exist solely to help you make your abroad dreams come true. There are a number of these types of companies out there, and because you want to be a well-informed intellectual consumer, we are going to give you the in’s and out’s of what to look for in a top-notch, high-quality company to choose for your precious study abroad program!
 
The company’s specialties
 
Ask yourself what type of company you would like to study in China with. You can opt for a company that hosts multiple study abroad programs across multiple countries. Here, you can typically expect the company to have a “formula that works” for study abroad programming, regardless of the destination. You can also typically expect that your experience will be slightly more “cookie cutter” or corporate feeling.
 
You can also opt to pay money to a company that solely specializes in China. These companies might offer multiple programs across various Chinese cities, but focus their efforts solely on helping students study in China. It is safe to say they are the local experts, and will provide an experience that is deeply China-oriented versus surface level.
 
What services are included in the price
 
This may come as a no-brainer, but I want you to think long and hard about what you are willing and unwilling to pay for.
 
Services from study abroad providers typically include:
- your courses
- visa invitation papers
- 24/7 support network on the ground
- a variety of cultural activities or language classes
- airport pick up
 
Additional services to sweeten the deal:
- local phone
- local sim card
- open office hours where students are encouraged to attend
- tutor matching services
- help in organizing independent travel
- a transit card, pre-loaded with some cash
- local guide books
 
Be sure to read the fine print / terms and conditions for your study abroad program provider. Your best bet is to look for a company that allows you to choose what type of accommodation you prefer, versus the one-size-fits-all approach that can land you in a crummy campus dorm. As well, you might prefer to find a company that allows you to pick and choose which activities you’d like to participate in, versus paying a bulk fee for a bunch of stuff you wouldn’t want to do anyway.
 
If you choose to opt out of accommodation services, be leery of who you do business with! (Our tips on misconceptions in China might talk you into paying more up front for a company’s services).
 
For profit or no?
 
Does the idea of someone making a pretty penny off of your desire to travel meaningfully really grate your chains? Then you might consider searching for a program that has a non-profit status. However, don’t fall victim to assuming that non-profit’s always have the students’ best interest in mind. It is always advised to thoroughly research all of your program options.
 
If you still want an element of social responsibility as part of your program in China, considering finding a company that regularly organizes volunteer opportunities or boasts certifications that you find important (such as a commitment to eco-tourism or cultural sensitivity).
 
Will your university accept the program for credit?
 
Before you sign your life away to a company’s contract, be sure to double check with both your study abroad advisor and your academic advisor that your credits will easily transfer at your home university. It would be quite the drag to put all of that studious effort in and not have it be recognized for your degree!
 
Sometimes, your university will require you to fill out a number of forms to coordinate transferring the credits. This is a great opportunity to see which study abroad companies are willing to work with you in a timely, efficient manner and which ones tend to ignore you. Which leads me to my next point…:
 
Customer service.
 
Are you waiting days on end to hear back from a company? Are you feeling like just another face in the crowd? Does your program advisor refuse to speak with you on the phone, or conveniently skim over your parent’s most nagging-questions?
 
A company’s first line of communication sets the tone for your entire experience abroad. If your advisor leaves you feeling like you are now part of a family, you’re in luck - follow that feeling of community and you won’t be disappointed.
 
Chat with past participants.
 
Part of choosing a study abroad program intellectually is speaking with alumni directly. You can coordinate this through your contact at a potential company (they will likely email-introduce you to one of their former rockstar students), or cruise the web for information shared freely about the company from others. There are a number of review sites you can check out (yes! you can review last night’s cheeseburger OR your entire semester abroad!), or you can scour Facebook and LinkedIn for alumni groups. Either way, learning candidly about another’s experience will undoubtedly prove useful in your decision making process.
 
What else would you tack onto the list?
 

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 In-Depth-China      CSA-blog

  


  • Beijing

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    3610 Capital Mansions,
    6 Xinyuan Nan Road, Chaoyang
    Beijing, 100027
    Phone: (+86) 10 8468 3799 
  • London

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    154 Bishopsgate
    London EC2M 4LN
    United Kingdom
    Phone: (+44) 0207 377 84 
  • Hong Kong

    China Study Abroad Ltd
    Rm 604-7 Dominion Centre
    43-59 Queen’s Road East
    Hong Kong
    Phone: (+852) 800 968 924 

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