Can’t decide whether to go to Barcelona for the spring semester or the summer? Or maybe you’re not sure if you want to study in Greece during fall semester or January term. When students start thinking about going abroad, a big question they ask themselves is: how long should I go for? The most traditional option is to go for a semester but there are options during the summer and January Term that can fit what you’re looking for.
Since there is no right or wrong answer to this question and a study abroad experience is unique to each person, we’ve written a few things to keep in mind as you decide when and how long your study abroad adventure should be.
Pros: As the most traditional length, you can get comfortable living in your city and really immerse yourself in the culture. If the program is held in a non-English speaking country, you have all that time to improve your language skills (after getting over any initial nerves you may have during your first few weeks!)
A common misconception about study abroad is that you will fall behind in your classes, but if you go abroad for a semester you have the time to take a full semester of courses as you would have back home. Plus, four months away means four months of weekends to travel! Not only can you travel around your city and within your country but you will also have many opportunities for weekend trips.
Cons: Fours months away from friends and family can seem like a long time for someone who doesn’t want to miss out. (We’ve also made a list of tips to avoid feeling like this.) Also, required courses at your home school may only be offered during certain semesters, limiting your flexibility.
Summer or J-Term Programs
Pros: Short-term programs are great if you don’t have flexibility of required courses or have sports commitments because they are offered outside of the academic year. Whether you spend your January term studying French in Grenoble and Chamonix/Mont Blanc or History in Berlin, short-term study abroad programs offer many of the same benefits of longer programs for a less expensive fee. With more international universities offering short-term programs, they continue to grow in popularity with students choosing to focus on academics during the year. Short-term programs also offer you the opportunity to get a head start on courses or take electives that may not count towards your major.
Cons: Because many of the programs are only 3 to 4 weeks, you may have a harder time getting acclimated with the culture, as you are busy seeing everything in a short time. Then once you are finally getting settled, it is time to leave. Some short-term programs offer fewer opportunities to practice your language skills and less course variety.
Academic Year Programs
Pros: You will get the most opportunities to completely immerse yourself in your city and culture by spending a full year abroad. You can also perfect your language skills both from classes and speaking with locals.
Cons: It can require a lot of planning to fit into your academic plan as you must make sure you meet all class requirements from your school back home. Plus, a full year away means a full year away from family and friends.
Although it can be difficult to decide the length of your study abroad experience, it’s worth it to explore the different program opportunities that can fit your needs. It is important to figure out what you want out of the experience and find a program that matches those needs. Thinking about it as early as you can certainly helps. Each program has its drawbacks but if you make the most of your experience abroad, the outcomes outweigh the drawbacks!
And finally, let’s be honest: you really can’t make a wrong decision between Paris in the Spring or Summer- both are gorgeous!
Still undecided? Check out our program search by course and see when courses you are interested in will be offered – or give us a call (1-800-727-2437) to discuss any of our programs in detail.