Choosing an International Program

Adding an international program to your time at Western is a great way to learn about different world perspectives, gain some important skills for your future career, and learn about yourself in the process. But before you can pack your bags, you’ll have to decide what kind of international experience you want to have, and which program is right for you.

This guide will help you to ask the important questions and make sure you pick the program that’s best for you.

What are my goals?

You might have a number of goals for your time abroad, including personal, professional, and academic goals. Read through the examples below and see if these align with your own aspirations. Do you have other goals for your experience?

I want to:

  • travel abroad to a new country.
  • advance in my academic coursework and not add time to my degree program.
  • study a different language.
  • interact with people who have a different background and culture from myself.
  • be in a warm climate during the winter term.
  • become a more independent and confident person.
  • improve my intercultural communications skills.

What are my priorities?

Sometimes, you might have conflicting goals or too many goals to achieve them all through a single international experience. Try to rank your priorities to see what is most important to you and remember you can always have more than one international experience! Below are some examples of how you might balance your priorities.

  • I want to study abroad for a full academic term, but I would have to extend my time at Western to complete my degree. Instead, I will look for an experience over the summer or during reading week.
  • I want to travel during the winter term and I want to study French in an intensive program. I am most interested in a French program offered only in the summer, so I choose to take the summer course.
  • I really wanted to travel to West Africa to conduct research, but I cannot travel due to personal health concerns. I will explore remote research opportunities with African partners through Western Heads East.
  • My friends want to participate in a faculty-led program together, but I also want to use my time abroad to develop independence. I will plan to join them this summer and also participate in another international program in the future so that I can also have a more independent experience abroad.

What accommodations might I need?

Now that you’ve identified your goals and priorities, it’s time to think about some more practical considerations. Every program is different, and the support systems available through our partner organizations may vary. Think about what challenges you might face and what accommodations you might need abroad. Some examples could be:

  • I have academic accommodations for testing support at Western and want to make sure I can receive the same support from my host institution.
  • I have limited financial means, so I want to participate in an exchange to ensure my tuition payments don’t change.
  • I’m part of the LGBT+ community (or another minority group), so I want to travel to a country that is welcoming of my identity.
  • I have a chronic medical issue, so I want to ensure that the local hospitals can provide care while I am abroad.

For a longer list of potential considerations and issues, please be sure to review the International Experiences Considerations Checklist. If you wish to discuss any academic accommodations or accessibility issues, please contact the International Learning team at and/or Student Accessibility Services.

Who should I talk to about my decision?

Don’t forget to check in with some other key people in your decision-making process. This list will look different for every student, but some people you may want to discuss your program with includes:

  • Your family
  • Your academic counsellor
  • An International Learning Coordinator
  • An International Learning Ambassador (trained leaders who have participated in a Western international learning experience)
  • Your roommates/housemates
  • Close friends or significant others

I'm ready to find my program! Now what?

Now that you know what you are looking for in a program, it's time to dive in and research our many offerings. Get started by visiting and clicking 'Search Programs' for details on opportunities for international exchange, study abroad, research, and internship programs.

Keep in mind that eligibility, application fees, and deadlines vary by program. Most deadlines are during the fall term, a year in advance of the program start. Be sure to research your program options early and plan in advance!

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