Today I wanted to talk about something that was brought to my attention when I sought out my University’s academic advisor about my decision to study abroad for Spring of 2017. Though my minor is in Japanese, she seemed rather concerned that I would choose a semester over summer; I was equally shocked that she would assume I’d go for such a short length of time! If you’re thinking about studying abroad, take note of these points, they might just help you come to a conclusion or change your original plan.
- Why are you studying abroad?
This may seem like a simple question, but it’s an important one to say the least. If the school offers a summer program (or semester) for your major that is prestigious and will look bangin’ on your resume in the future, then go that route. If it’s to learn and experience the culture of that country, well, you might want to stay a little bit longer than a month/month and a half.
- Financial Aid coverage
No, this does not apply to all forms of financial aid, but a majority of them do not offer coverage for summer or they require a certain amount of credit hours to be eligible. For me, this means 12 credit hours a semester or 9 a summer, and my summer is only covered by about a fourth it would be for a semester. This added cost would theoretically make my summer study abroad cost only a smidge less than a semester session, and I would have to take 9 credit hours which would leave me almost no time outside of studying to explore and learn about the country. At first glance, summer may seem like the economical option, but in reality, not so much.
Going on from my last post is travel; just how much do you want to see while you’re in the country? If your main focus is school and only school, this may not matter so much for you, but if you want to see the ins and outs of the cities, towns, and countrysides, then you might want to seriously consider how much time this will take you. Think about exploring a major city in your country; yes, you could see the main sites in a day, but you can experience so much more of it on day two, three, and so on. Don’t underestimate how long it may take to really feel fulfilled in your explorations. I promise you, whether it’s a month or four months, time will fly by and what you got to see is what you got to see.
Remember your first day of class of your first year in high school? Looking for that one person that you knew, and not making friends with the people around you until a few weeks in? Imagine that all over, except this time in a new country surrounded by people who may or may not speak your language (or at least fluently); just how long do you think it will take to feel acquainted with them? Yes, I do think that lasting friendships can happen from a summer study abroad, but I think the longer that you get to know someone by hanging out with them, traveling with them and overall just experiencing new things with them will really strengthen that relationship and be more satisfying.
- Weather and Festivities
This may seem a little strange, but it is something to really consider. In fact, it’s the reason why I chose spring over fall for study abroad; I wanted to see the sakura bloom. If you absolutely despise the cold, then spring or summer will be your best option; on the same note, if you hate the heat, then fall (or even spring) will be your best bet. This is important because after all the frustrations and hard work, the last thing you want to be upset and uncomfortable about is something like the weather. Also keep in mind festivities in the country you’re looking into. I chose spring in Japan because of the beautiful sakura blossoms, but someone may want to go in the summer to experience the Hanabi (firework festivals) or in winter for the New Year.
Study abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and truly requires you to think throughly about what you want to get out of it. Like I said before, whether it’s one month or five, it’ll pass by in a blink of an eye and it’s entirely what you make of it with the time you have.