Summer or Semester? Tips for Choosing the Perfect Study Abroad Experience

Ginger Abbot

Sep 13, 2019

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Are you ready to see the world? Get ready for an ultimate study abroad experience.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.” Travel broadens your horizons and helps you learn new ways of seeing the world. And what better time to explore than as a student? Study abroad enriches both your educational experience and your life.

But how do you choose the best study abroad experience? Should you go overseas for an entire semester or even a full year, or would a summer program work better for you? Here’s how to decide.

1. Spending the Semester Abroad

Many experts recommend spending a full semester studying abroad to make the most of your experience. Why? Shorter excursions leave time only for visiting popular touristy sights, while longer stays enable you to immerse yourself in the culture. If you’re traveling abroad to gain proficiency in another language, a longer stay gives you time to master the tongue. Plus, you’re already amassing considerable expenses in terms of flight tickets, so why not get more bang for your travel buck?

If you treasure family holiday traditions, however, studying abroad during the fall semester can lead to homesickness. (There’s no Thanksgiving anywhere else, after all!) If the thought of missing out on annual celebrations gives you pause, consider spending the spring semester overseas instead. You may miss out on spring break — but you can have even more exciting experiences at your destination.

2. Studying Abroad for a Full Year

Studying abroad for a full year allows you to immerse yourself completely in another culture. If you have a limited budget, an extended stay enables you to accept employment overseas to pad your pocketbook. Employers give potential hires who plan to stay longer more consideration than those seeking a shorter-term gig.

If you’re mastering a foreign language, a full year abroad gives you ample time to build proficiency. You’ll pick up on common colloquialisms and learn how to navigate day-to-day conversations. This gives you a substantial edge over other candidates when it comes time to start your career.

3. Doing a Shorter Summer Study

Are you curious about studying abroad but leery of leaving home for an extended time? Summer study programs let you get your traveling shoes wet without a lengthy time commitment. Plus, many summer courses feature smaller class sizes, meaning you’re more likely to get the individualized attention you need. They’re also much more affordable when you’re watching your budget.

Studying abroad for a brief period may ignite your passion for a lengthier stay. A short time overseas helps you overcome travel anxiety. Plus, you can explore destinations like developing nations you might not want to remain in for an extended period.

A shorter summer program also poses less possibility of postponing your graduation. If you spend a semester or year abroad, you’ll need to coordinate with your academic adviser to ensure you meet all credit requirements by commencement — but a summer program can actually provide you with an extra credit without worrying about scheduling.

4. Embarking After Graduation

Finally, if you choose not to study abroad during your traditional four-year college career, you can embark on your travels after graduation. Postponing travel enables you to expand your educational horizons. Whether you opt to attend graduate school overseas, apply for an internship or teach English as a second language, you will gain valuable skills to bring to the job market stateside — or wherever your future leads.

Studying abroad once you have your degree opens financial and cultural doors. For example, many programs that allow you to teach English overseas require a bachelor’s degree or higher. Additionally, many paid internship opportunities give strong preference to candidates who already possess their undergraduate degree. You might land a position with a multinational company and choose to extend your travels for years.

Ready for Take-Off? The Best Study Abroad Experience

When you travel, you gain a new way of seeing the world — and seeing yourself. Whether you go for a few short summer weeks or a longer time, you’ll expand your own horizons, develop your self-sufficiency and make memories to last a lifetime.

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