How to Choose a Program

Know Your Options while studying abroad

First Steps

Ready to learn more about studying abroad? Your first step is to narrow down which program or type of program is the best fit for you. Review the considerations below, and then attend a First Step Session! No preparation is required, but considering the items below will help prompt questions to ask, or bring up things you want to discuss. 

You can also meet with a Peer Advisor one-on-one with no appointment neededPeer Advisors are Tommies who have studied abroad for at least one semester and are a great resource when you are getting started with your study abroad planning. Learn from their experience, ask questions, and explore all of your options. Check out their bio and drop-in hours below.  

Do you already feel like you know which term or program is for you? Visit our How to Apply page to review the application process.

Consider Your Priorities

There are many different ways to approach selecting the best program for you. To assist you in the selection process, answer the following questions. 

Do you want a program that will contribute to your expertise in your chosen major and/or career? If so, a program specific to your field would be your first priority. Such a program might include:

  • major/minor specific classes
  • an internship
  • a location that relates to your major.

Do you have a specific location in mind that fits your personal interests and/or major? If so, focus on location to help you narrow your search.

Do you know what type of program you are looking for? Here are some program components you might consider:

  • program size
  • classes with other international/U.S./local students
  • internship
  • cohort model
  • research/project options

Do you prefer to study abroad for a specific term?

  • J-Term/summer programs offer an intensive experience to fully immerse yourself in the course content for a short period of time.
  • Semester/year programs allow you to actually live in a new country and adapt to another culture while pursuing your academic and career goals.

Create Goals

Why do you want to study abroad? What do you hope to gain from the experience? 

Maybe you just know you want to see the world, or perhaps you have a specific program in mind that supports a career goal. Either way, take some time now to note some broad goals, and consider what is important to you. 

Goals and desired outcomes will change and develop throughout the study abroad process. Beginning to define them now will help shape your experience, and bring a more focused perspective as you consider different options and program types. 

Meet Your Peer Advisor: Lexi Shields '22

Peer Advisor Lexi Shields standing on a bluff in a coastal town in Italy

J-Term Zoom Advising Hours: 

Drop in for advising here.

Monday - Thursday 10am - 1pm

Please email to schedule an appointment:


J-Term First Step Sessions: 

Attend a First Step Session here.

Monday - Thursday 10am - 1pm

Please email to schedule an appointment:


See Events Calendar for details. 


Hello, my name is Lexi Shields. I am from Bloomington, Minnesota and graduated from Bloomington Jefferson High School. At St. Thomas, I am majoring in Economics – Public Policy, with minors in Justice & Peace Studies and Legal Studies. I’m a pre-law student and I hope to attend law school after I graduate this year!

I was fortunate enough to study abroad during Fall Semester 2019—just before the pandemic started. Before I studied abroad, neither my family nor I had traveled outside of the U.S. I chose the Rome Empower program because I wanted the support of on-site St. Thomas staff and because the classes fulfilled my general degree requirements.

My favorite parts of the program were trying new foods, spending time with my classmates, and exploring Europe. My friends and I travelled to many different cities in Italy, including Florence, Naples, Sorrento, Cinque Terre, and Reggio Calabria. I was also able to visit seven other countries during the program: France, the U.K., Greece, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, and Vatican City.

This summer, I studied away at George Mason University through an academic internship program. I lived in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, only one block away from the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar to my experience in Rome, I enjoyed learning about historical events where they happened.

In addition to my position as a Study Abroad Peer Advisor, I am also a Resident Advisor in Tommie East and a Student Sustainability Leader for the Office of Sustainability Initiatives. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, spending time with friends, and rewatching Gilmore Girls. I’m looking forward to connecting with my peers and helping them achieve their study abroad goals and dreams!