My latest Go Overseas article answers this question, please read it here.
After you decide to study abroad, you have to figure how long you can — or should — study abroad. A lot of factors will come into play here, mainly: classes (or other academic criteria), finances, and your goals (why you want to study abroad).
Each program length — summer, semester, or year — will have its pros and cons. Here’s a quick rundown of some of them:
- Pros: Short duration that won’t really affect commitments during the year (ex: clubs, jobs, leadership positions), your cheapest option overall (although there are shorter options like 2-week programs)
- Cons: Peak travel season which means more expensive prices in general, the least immersive experience, not enough time to get a good “feel” of the local culture, less time to travel on weekends (I recommend every other weekend so you can also explore your host country)
- Pros: Happy medium between summer and year-long programs, enough time to be immersed and improve your foreign language skills, decent amount of traveling without breaking the bank, enough time to do some volunteering or an internship if you desire
- Cons: More immersive than summer programs but still not as immersive as going for the whole year
- Pros: Full cultural immersion, a lot of time to make new friends and practice a foreign language, more time to travel, you can potentially take more classes that aren’t offered at your home university
- Cons: Can be very expensive (depends on your program and location, but you’ll also have to pay for more personal expenses), can interfere with your class schedule back home (also could delay graduation if you don’t plan correctly!), you will probably get homesick at least once, you might never want to come back to the U.S….
In conclusion, you have to think carefully about what you hope to achieve personally, professionally, and academically. There is no universal “best” term that is going to fit everyone. Good luck!
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