Cultural Experience | All Experiences

Study Abroad: A Summer, A Semester or A Year?

Stay a year or just a semester? Pros and Cons of the length of your Study Abroad Program.

So you’ve decided you want to study abroad, some place exotic, a country that will make your friends jealous every time you post a (#nofilter) instagram picture? Congrats! But there is something else you need to consider early on; should you go away for your summer break, for a semester, or for a year?

There are pros and cons to these ideas –> on the one hand you can immerse yourself even more in the culture, language, and cities that your chosen country has if you go for an extended time. On the other hand, it is very easy to become homesick, and miss the “normalness” of life back home. But do not fear, I am your voice of wisdom, the guide to your study abroad journey.

Disclaimer: I am currently studying abroad for a year at UNC-Chapel Hill; but I have also had many friends only go away for a summer session, or for one semester. So what is the right length of time for you? I have compiled a list of pros and cons for each of the options in the hopes that this will further help you decide the length of your program.

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A SUMMER SESSION:

Pros;
– You don’t have to miss any time at school, no having to decide between missing football or basketball season. You get the best of both worlds by being able to go abroad and travel, but not necessarily missing out on what is going on back home
– These are often the shortest study abroad sessions, lasting anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks, so it gives you greater freedom to travel before or after, or just return home for other endeavours before school starts again.
– Sometimes there are specialised classes and programs you can take during the summer that are not available during semester-long programs; this could be a great opportunity to take something that is different to what your university offers, all while exploring a new place.

Cons;
– Keep in mind that while it may be your summer back home, it could potentially be winter in your chosen destination. Make sure that you are aware of the weather and climate, because it would suck to travel half way around the world for it to be raining/cold every day
– The flip side to a studying abroad during summer is that it may not be long enough — you could become completely enamoured with a country, and by the time you’ve really settled in, you have to leave

A SEMESTER:

Pros;
– You are able to immerse yourself in your chosen place for a longer time than a summer session; but again it is not too long that you will start to miss the events going on back home
– It gives you just enough time to settle in and make friends, as well immerse yourself in the city you call home for 4-5 months
– I think it also spurs you to pack in as much sightseeing and tourist moments as possible while you’re there; many of my friends made the most of long weekends and days off to travel to other states or countries because they new they needed to make the most out of the time

Cons;
– On the flip side though, almost as soon as you have settled in and really begun to learn about your destination, it is pretty much time to leave for home
– It’s hard to say goodbye to friends after only spending a short amount of time with them (although this could be true for any length of time you spend)
– You don’t get the full year experience — Fall and Spring semesters both offer something different any place you go, so you would have to make a choice unfortunately

YEAR-LONG:

Pros;
– It allows you to establish deeper friendships and really get to know the place you are living – it becomes like home to you
– Greater chance to travel when you are spending a year in a place, experiencing new cities and countries (you will also get more breaks to travel)
– Can experience all the seasons your destination has to offer; summer, autumn, winter, spring! (Think of all the instagrams you can get)

Cons;
– It is often very expensive to stay for longer than a semester — you have to pay for accommodation/books/meal plans etc twice
– It can create intense FOMO of what is happening back home, and you may feel like you’re missing out on stuff, or that people are forgetting you
– Often it is not practical for you to study abroad for a year — your home university may not allow it, or maybe your specific major doesn’t create the freedom to study overseas for longer than a summer session or a semester

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Regardless of the length of time you choose to study abroad; the fact that you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and explore new places and try new things is already perfect enough. I hope you make the right decision for you (I know that you will), and enjoy what is sure to be an amazing, life-changing experience!

 

Jade Smith-Love

University of Melbourne | 8 stories

Jade Smith-Love was a student at The University of Melbourne, Australia. With a double major in International Relations and Media & Communications, she was accepted to UNC-Chapel Hill for a year long study abroad program in 2014-15. Traveller, ice-cream connoisseur, avid reader, and now forever a Tar Heel.. Instagram: @jade.smithlove Twitter: @jadesmithlove


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