study-abroad-programsIt might seem as if study abroad programs and online college degrees just don’t go well together, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, many students enrolled in online education programs routinely head overseas for study abroad programs that introduce them to new cultures, new ways of thinking about their program’s curriculum, and new professional networks that can benefit them as they begin seeking full-time employment after graduation.

Due to the nature of distance education programs, however, some students may find that they need to jump through a few additional hoops in order to enjoy this international experience. Here’s what today’s online students need to know.

Many Online Universities Offer Their Own Study Abroad Programs

It might seem counter to the nature of online degree programs, but many universities offer their own study abroad programs to students who are enrolled in distance learning. That’s because the largest providers of distance education programs in today’s economy are actually established universities that have long held classes on a traditional campus and afforded their students the benefit of study abroad opportunities. Major state schools, many prestigious and private institutions, and even community colleges, all offer online degrees and study abroad opportunities.

Typically, students simply need to apply for the opportunity alongside their counterparts who study on-campus. Applications are reviewed without regard for the student’s on-campus, off-campus, or online status. Those applicants who show real academic merit and make a strong case for acceptance to the study abroad program will likely find themselves packing their bags regardless of their campus choice.

Some Schools Work with Private Study Abroad Companies

Though many schools offer both online education programs and established study abroad opportunities, many others don’t have that same strong connection to the international learning community. Instead, they offer study abroad opportunities to their online students through private companies that work with university campuses overseas. These private companies often charge their own tuition rates for the program, which may be higher than the tuition rate charged for a typical full-time semester of online study. The good news for students, however, is that these programs typically qualify for federal financial aid and scholarship programs that are offered solely to student who study abroad.

Private companies often accept applications from students at many schools, and have a limited number of spaces to fill. The nature of the application process is highly competitive, so students whose universities participate in on of these unique programs should apply as early as possible and present a strong application with both academic and extracurricular merit.

Partnerships with Existing Study Abroad Universities

Finally, a third group of online students will find that their online university has partnered with a brick-and-mortar university to offer a limited number of study abroad slots to those students completing their degree through distance education. Many universities that operate exclusively online have partnered with established study abroad programs, like those offered through Arcadia University and others, that will allow students to study overseas at the partner school’s tuition cost. This represents a significant savings over private company partnerships and offers students a unique way to meet students from other schools as they broaden their horizons internationally.

There Are Great Ways for Online Students to Study Internationally

Studying online doesn’t have to mean foregoing some of the biggest benefits of a traditional, on-campus program. Study abroad programs and online college degree programs are not incompatible; instead, they offer similar opportunities for international travel, study, and enrichment, to students of all backgrounds.

You may also be interested in: College Tuition Around the World (Infographic)

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