Skip to main content

How to Choose an Off-Campus Study Program

Jacob explores what you should take into consideration when choosing an OCS program, in which more than 2/3 of Carleton students participate.

Jacob explores what you should take into consideration when choosing an OCS program, in which more than 2/3 of Carleton students participate.

When I was deciding what college to attend, I already knew that I was interested in studying abroad at some point. I took the time to look at Carleton’s Off-Campus Studies Programs Gateway to see what my opportunities would be if I chose to come here. I saw so many different programs that interested me and realized that if I came to Carleton, I wouldn’t have trouble finding a study abroad experience that I would enjoy — I would have trouble deciding which ones to go on.


The easiest way to start narrowing down programs is to decide when you want to study abroad. Most Carleton students choose their junior year, and most choose fall term. This is because it is much easier to study abroad on a non-Carleton program in the fall than in the winter or spring. Most non-Carleton programs run for a full semester. In the fall, one can simply extend their term into Carleton’s six-week winter break and return for winter and spring quarters. If you try to do a semester-long program in the spring, you must miss both winter and spring quarters, resulting in taking fewer courses during the year. Carleton also offers a few OCS programs during winter break and spring break. Last December, I went to Tasmania, Australia with the geology department. I knew I wanted to spend a full term abroad as well, but this was an easy way to get experience studying abroad without missing any time at Carleton.

Where? What?

After deciding when you want to study abroad, you must think about two more major factors: location and area of study. At first, I wanted to spend my term abroad in Europe. I considered Carleton’s Spanish program in Madrid, but ultimately decided that I wanted a non-Carleton program. I kept looking at opportunities in Europe, but could not find any that had everything I wanted, so I made the decision to look elsewhere. I knew I wanted a program that focused on Spanish, but I also wanted to be able to study something that interested me. I decided that I would expand my search to programs in Central America and South America, where I was bound to find something that fit my interests. In Costa Rica, I found my program, which has a Spanish component combined with an additional focus on environmental studies. Furthermore, this program has a unique community-based project in the middle that sets it apart from other programs.

No matter what your passions are, there is a study abroad option available for you. Carleton provides many resources, from the Programs Gateway to the Off-Campus Studies office, to help you find a program that incorporates all your interests. It took me a little while to find the ideal program for me, but six weeks in, I know I made the right choice.

Jacob is a junior physics major interested in environmental science, which he is currently studying in Costa Rica (along with Spanish, of course). At Carleton, Jacob enjoys going on outings with CANOE, the outdoors club, and playing ultimate frisbee with the Gods of Plastic, Carleton’s Division III men’s ultimate team. During his fall term hiatus, you can follow his Costa Rican adventures through this blog!