It is commonplace on a college campus for people to talk about study abroad. However, domestic off-campus programs (studying off-campus in the United States) can be just as extraordinary and life-changing. When I started college, I knew I wanted to study off-campus, but I wasn’t sure which program would be best for me. During my freshman year of college, I thought that it would be cool to study in Australia or the United Kingdom — without any thoughts of the preparation I would need.

Through careful consideration, I realized that I was not emotionally ready to go abroad. If I went abroad, I would have to push through more anxieties. While I am all for personal growth, it just didn’t seem like a good idea — I would be so afraid of doing certain things, and I would not get everything I want to out of the experience.

Even though I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, I knew very little about the city. So, the perfect option was the Associated Colleges of the Midwest’s (ACM) Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Urban Studies. I was able to test-drive independent living while, at the same time, having my parents nearby if I needed anything. For more information about my experience, check out my blog.

Below is a sampling of domestic off-campus study programs. Note that while the programs accept applications from students at any college or university, there may be problems with transferring credits if you do not attend an affiliated school.

The decision to study abroad, domestically off-campus, or not at all is a very personal decision.  Consider how programs fit into your academic, career, and personal goals. It is helpful to use resources on campus — professors, your campus’ off-campus study office, and students who have already participated in a particular program.

ACM’s Chicago Program: Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Urban Studies: The program focuses on experiential learning outside of the office and classrooms located next to the Chicago Theatre in the Page Brothers Building. The majority of classes include guest speakers and field visits, including attending a short press conference by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, seeing Ada/Ava at Links Hall, and sampling delectable sweets at various bakeries in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Students choose a seminar class focused on three content areas (arts, entrepreneurship, or urban studies), participate in an internship, complete an independent study project, and take the interdisciplinary Core Course, which aims to examine issues affecting Chicago.

Washington Semester: Students have the opportunity to learn about journalism, politics, and law through a seminar, internship, and research or elective course.

ACM’s Newberry Seminar: Research in the Humanities: Students participate in an interdisciplinary seminar and conduct a substantial research project utilizing the Newberry’s vast resources.

Semester in Environmental Science: Students conduct hands-on research in the lab and field at the Ecosystems Center of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Participants have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have gained through working on a project for the last five weeks of the program.

The Philadelphia Center: Students participate in an internship and seminar classes. With help from the program, students find and sign a lease for an apartment at the beginning of the semester.

Are domestic off-campus programs something you’ve tried or might be interested in?