This is a critical step of the study abroad application. It is one which that some people dread, and some people love. The key is not to worry. You already are aware of the reasons you want to go abroad, now you just have to jot them down and try convince your school why it really matters. Here’s how you should go about it.
First, in a nice intro paragraph, explain your reasons for studying abroad. If you're still deciding your best course of action, review some of our deciding to study abroad resources. Just give a general overview since you’ll be getting into the specifics later in the essay. Include why you want to go abroad, what originally interested you in going abroad, what school you plan on attending, along with anything else that seems relevant.
Academics are always going to be a priority in the minds of your deans, advisors and faculty, so it’s not a bad idea to go there next. Explain how going to class in a different culture will expand your capacity to learn and interpret new information. Let them know if by going abroad, you’ll be able to complete certain requirements for your major or just make progress toward your degree in general. Be sure to mention if there are classes offered abroad that aren’t available at your home school.
Next, go into depth about why you chose the location and the school that you did. Does the school have a great reputation internationally? Do you have family roots in a particular country? Really get into the fact that you want to explore the specific culture of that country or region. The more sincere and direct you are about why you want to go where you’re going, the more likely the study abroad admissions staff will approve your application.
Don’t forget to include personal reasons and interests as well. You still need to be selective in what you write – the study abroad admissions office will need to see that you’re mature enough to live in another country, but don’t be afraid to go beyond academics. One of the biggest reasons I went to Scotland was because of golf, and I wrote that in my essay. I didn’t say I wanted to wake up and be lazy on the golf course every day. I explained that golf is a huge aspect of Scottish culture; it holds a different place over there than it does in the States, and it would greatly help me integrate into the local culture.
Sentences like, “I am excited to learn about the culture of Scotland through golf,” are a good start, but something even better might be, “It would be the pinnacle of my golfing career to experience the game of golf in its finest form in its birthplace of Scotland. There, golf is not just considered a sport, but also a vital element of Scottish culture.” Make the effort to write with quality in mind and of course honesty.
End the essay with a strong closing paragraph. Express interest in learning about local culture, such as in Japan where you’ll enjoy both the historic artistry of the culture and the modern amenities of the country. Talk about getting an education, not only in terms of academics, but in life as well. Be specific and explain your desire to pursue those interests and hobbies that you’ve picked up in college, and earlier, in a foreign country.
This is just as important as any other admissions letter you’ve ever written. Use correct grammar and avoid spelling mistakes. Write multiple drafts and have someone competent edit it for you. Better yet, have two. And of course, get it in on time!
Be sincere, be honest, and be smart.
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