Home > Students > How to Write an Outstanding Study Abroad Application Essay
For some students who wish to study abroad, the statement of purpose can be one of the most daunting components of the program application. The good news: it’s not as difficult as it may seem at first! After all, you’ve come this far in the study abroad research process, so chances are you’ve already given thought to what the essay requires you to write about. As long as you don’t rush and take the time to create a solid outline, your study abroad application statement of purpose will truly shine.
Common statement of purpose requirements
Although each program application may have program-specific essay requirements to address, most will ask students to address the following two components:
- Goals for studying abroad (i.e. academic, career, and personal) – Most likely, you will have to briefly describe your goals, outlining specific ways in which studying abroad will help you achieve these goals.
- Reason you chose this program/location – This aspect of the statement of purpose is more specific to why, out of all the programs and locations on Earth to study, you’re applying to this one.
Creating an outline
Before rushing into writing out your statement of purpose, make sure you’ve carefully read the instructions and prompts for the essay. The worst way to sabotage an otherwise excellent essay is to miss a key requirement outlined in the instructions. To help keep essay requirements fresh in your mind, consider copying and pasting the requirements at the top of essay document so that they are there for quick reference.
After you fully understand what points you are required to touch on in your statement of purpose, drafting an outline will help keep your essay organized, clear, and succinct. Consider following the steps below to help make this process easy and straight-forward.
Open up a blank Word document, and get down the general essay components:
Now that you have the foundation laid out, you can complete your outline by creating a couple compelling sentences for each paragraph. Having these sentences drafted will help you quickly move forward after your outline is complete. Let’s take a look at each paragraph, and sample sentences for each.
Introduction – Create a strong thesis sentence that sums up your overall purpose for studying abroad.
- Example: Studying abroad at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid will be a monumental step in realizing my personal, academic, and career goals to my highest potential.
This thesis sentence portrays to the reader that you have identified personal, academic, and career goals in relation to studying abroad in a specific program, and will describe them below.
Paragraphs 1-3 – Draft a sentence that sums up your response to the each point, then a second sentence that provides a specific outcome that this study abroad program will provide.
Paragraph 1 (e.g. personal reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):
- Example: My grandfather migrated to the United States from Madrid, and since an early age I’ve wanted to see and experience the city and culture he grew up in. By the end of my study abroad program, I plan to have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for my family heritage by becoming more fluent in Spanish and familiar with Spanish customs and cultural practices.
Paragraph 2 (e.g. academic reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):
- Example: As a history major, I plan to utilize my time in Spain to contribute to my overall academic success and focus within the history program at my home university. Throughout my time studying abroad, I will visit historical sites around Spain relevant to my intended topic for my graduate thesis topic: Moorish architectural and cultural influences in modern Spanish society.
Paragraph 3 (e.g. career reason/goal for studying abroad in this program):
- Example: I plan to one day teach Spanish history and culture at the college level, and this program will give me the first-hand experience I believe necessary to be qualified and successful in this position. By being completely immersed in the Spanish culture, and by having access to a large number of relevant historical sites and resources, I will enter this study abroad experience with my career development in mind.
For the conclusion, come up with a strong sentence to sum-up (again) why this program and location is the best choice.
- Example: After extensive research of all possible programs, I am convinced that studying history and Spanish culture at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid is an ideal match for my personal, academic, and career goals outlined above.
Now that you have a strong outline, filling in the rest should come easily and naturally. As would be normally expected in college-level essays, it’s important to make sure that each sentence you write relates directly to the main sentences in its respective paragraph you came up with in the outline.
After you’ve written your completed first draft of your study abroad application statement of purpose, save the document and take a break for a week. After you’ve had some time to clear your mind, you’ll likely come back to edit your essay with a fresh perspective and as a result more easily catch mistakes you may not have otherwise caught!
Finally, before you send it off, double (and triple) check to make sure that you haven’t overlooked any requirements for the statement of purpose. Also, consider having at least one other person look at your essay – your campus’s writing center is a great resource you might consider utilizing!
After you’ve sent in your essay, congratulate yourself! You are well on your way to one of the most exciting journeys of your life, and you certainly deserve to be proud of this accomplishment.
How to Write a Unique Study Abroad Essay
Sometimes, the process of studying abroad can feel almost as difficult as applying for college. You have to choose the country you want to study in, compare and contrast programs (hint: MyGoAbroad), collect your transcripts and references and, inevitably, you will have to write a personal statement and study abroad essay for your application.
When applying for a study abroad program – especially a competitive one – your personal statement and/or study abroad essay can make or break your application. After all, your program wants to know who it is exactly that will be representing their program in another country! They want to know exactly why you’ve decided to make the life-changing decision to spend a summer, semester, or even a year abroad.
Sound intimidating? Don’t you fret. We’re here to give you 10 study abroad essay tips so you can WOW your study abroad program with your application.
Most study abroad applications will ask you something along the lines of, “Tell us about yourself,” and “Why do you want to study abroad?” Simple questions, right? Actually, these can be pretty tough, when you consider how many ideas you need to narrow down to fit into a 500 word response. Remember that writing is a process. And, the best first step to streamline your study abroad essay-writing process is to just scribble some ideas down and do some good ol’ fashioned brainstorming.
Write down the things you’re excited to see, do, eat while abroad. Think about what intimidates you or what will be challenging in a new country. Doodle some of your goals for your summer/semester/year abroad, and really think about what it is that has made studying abroad so important to you. Is it the idea of finally exploring that country you’ve been reading about since you were seven? Is it because this will be your first time living independently and far away from home? Are you just over the moon to be learning about your favorite subject in a place that is relevant to your studies? Whatever it is, write it, draw it, sing it— but get those ideas out there, so you can plan out the best essay you can possibly write.
[Browse study abroad programs here]
2. Outlines, Outlines, Outlines
Yeah, yeah, we know: since day one, your teachers and professors have pushed the idea of an essay outline. You’ve done about a billion of them, but breaking down your study abroad essay and knowing exactly where you’re going to go in your writing can help you have a more concise argument as to why your chosen study abroad program should choose you. We repeat: writing. Is. A. Process.
3. First Impressions Matter
You always want to have that eye-grabbing introduction: who are you as a student, a person, and a traveler? In just one to two sentences, try to summarize and explain exactly who you are and why you want to study abroad (easy-peasy, right?). Don’t be afraid to get personal and really let your true colors fly — this is how you’ll stand out to the admissions counselors who are reading hundreds of personal statements and essays!
[How to master study abroad scholarships for international students]
For example: “My grandparents emigrated from Argentina at the ripe, young age of 20 years-old, and throughout my entire life, I have been taught to love a country I have never met. My passion for studying the Spanish language, and gaining a deeper understanding of where my family comes from, has inspired me to apply to ______ study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina.”
4. Supporting Statements
Up next in our study abroad essay tips: support your statement on why you want to study abroad by expanding on the ideas you presented in your introduction. This is where your brainstorming comes in! What has brought you to this point? What subjects studied, projects completed, or passions followed have made you choose to not only study abroad, but study abroad with this particular program?
Be honest and sincere. It’s okay if the main reason why you want to study literature in England is because you spent your childhood reading Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s perfectly acceptable if your love of the ocean comes from an obsession with sea turtles, which is why you’ve decided to study marine conservation in Costa Rica. Maybe you want to study in Germany because you’ve always had the goal of working in international business! These are the things that make you a unique and interesting prospective study abroad student!
Just be sure to always tie your passions, goals, and dreams back to how this study abroad experience will help you expand on these things and carry them with you through the rest of your life.
5. Get Detailed
When you’re describing the who, what, when, and why of your decision to study abroad, be sure to state your goals clearly. Passion is one thing, but your study abroad program also wants to know what it is exactly that you plan on gaining from this experience. How will this summer, semester, or year abroad bring you closer to your academic or career goals in the future?
Example: “Through this study abroad program in Israel, I will expand my worldview and understanding of Middle Eastern cultures, which will, in turn, prepare me for my plans to pursue a graduate degree in Global Peace and Conflict Studies. With this, I hope to eventually utilize my experience and passion to work for the United Nations. Studying abroad will help me achieve these goals.”
[Get custom program advice to study abroad]
6. Be Yourself!
In the world of academia, being formal and professional is key, but in the world of study abroad, it’s all about making those human connections beyond the borders of your own country! That’s why it’s so important to be yourself when writing your study abroad essay. Of course, always put in the time and effort so that your writing sounds smart, but don’t be afraid to add a little pizzaz and let your personality shine through! This will set you apart from other study abroad applications, and will give your study abroad program a much clearer sense of who you are as a student and a person.
7. A Two-Way Street
Ask not what you can do for your study abroad program, but what your study abroad program can do for you! Studying abroad isn’t just about what your study abroad program can provide you — you also need to prove your worth to the program’s officials. After all, you’ll be serving as an ambassador of your home country and this program in a completely different country. They want to be sure that they’re accepting dedicated and deserving students into their program, so that years from now, when you’re a famous scientist or a world-leading politician, they can point to you and say: “See that person? They studied abroad on our program!”
A study abroad program’s reputation is dependent not only on the opportunities they build for their students, but also on the caliber of students that they bring in. So when writing your personal essay, be sure to highlight what you bring to the table and how you look forward to continuing your study abroad program’s mission.
Example: “As a participant in this program, I know that I could expand my worldview and continue <Insert Study Abroad Program Provider’s Namer>’s mission of creating global citizens by creating bridges between myself and other cultures.”
8. A Solid Sprint to the Finish Line
As you conclude your study abroad essay, be sure to nail the point home and finish with a strong conclusion. You’ll have to tie together your original introduction, the reasons for studying abroad, and your goals for the future all together in a nice, clean, concluding two to three sentences. Don’t repeat yourself, but be sure that these final sentences pack a punch, and leave your study abroad program admissions officers ready to buy you your plane ticket outta here.
9. Edits & Revisions
Never hit submit without first revising and editing your essay two or three times! You might notice typos or awkward sentences at second glance, and you might also think of an exciting new idea you want to add in after your third look-over! It’s also always a good idea to have someone else to look at your essay, to get a fresh pair of eyes on your writing.
[Use MyGoAbroad to bookmark & compare your fave programs]
10. Submit! (on time)
Once you’ve cleaned up your essay, upload that application and click submit! But, don’t forget to pay attention to all of the application deadlines, and be sure to get all of your relevant documents to the study abroad program on time! There’s no worse feeling in the world than having spent weeks perfecting an essay and application, only to have missed the deadline.
A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Study Abroad Essay
With all of these study abroad essay tips, you might as well start packing! You’re well on your way to your grand adventure abroad, and by investing so much time and effort into your writing, your chosen study abroad program will be sure to accept you! Applying to study abroad can seem like a lot of work, but the minute you step off that plane and into your new home, you’ll realize that it was all worth it.