Pros and Cons of Multi-Country Study Abroad Programs

by Megan Lee

Upsides and downsides. Costs and benefits. Henhaos and buhaos. Pluses and minuses. Strengths and weaknesses.

No matter what you call it, we know you get it: to every decision, there are pros and cons. When it comes to making decisions, it's important you identify and weigh each side as distinctly as possible. Then TA-DA, you'll have your decision made, clear as day.









Playing with children in Africa

Do tourists get to do things like this? I don’t think so! Photo Credit: Megan Lee

The age-old question faces you: do I want to study abroad in one country, or should I do a study abroad program that takes me to even MORE countries instead? O-K, maybe calling it age-old is a bit of a stretch, but the question remains.

Are multi-country study abroad programs all they're cracked up to be?

Besides knowing that your increased time traveling between countries may mean sacrificing time to devote to eating tasty, exotic food, there is a lot to consider. Read on for the pros and cons of multi-country study abroad programs!

THE PROS

First up, let's take a stroll down a lane littered with stars, sparkles, kittens, and passport stamps.

1. Up your travel cred!

Who doesn't love filling up the pages of their pretty little passport? Traveling is a hobby that is rarely satiated, and now is as good a time as any to start learning more about your pending addiction.

2. Experience a variety of cultures!

If you visit multiple countries, you'll be able to draw wisdom from experiencing a variety of ways of life. Add more legitimacy to your observations of Europeans or your opinions of Asia by drawing conclusions from multiple locales.

It's cool to be able to compare countries - Carpe Diem Education East Africa student, Jamie Adams.

The ability to compare and contrast more places, more accurately, is a gift!

3. Avoid being a full-fledged tourist!

When you study abroad in a country that is in close proximity to other countries, you may be tempted to visit its neighbors frequently on short weekend jaunts. For instance, a student who studies abroad in Germany may return with stories of upwards of 10 plus countries visited (sound familiar?).

This type of brief travel lends itself to having a very touristy vibe. Instead of checking things off the bucket list, multi-country study abroad programs add a deeper level of interaction with the host cultures. It can be difficult for independent travelers to find or recreate these types of experiences in their personal travels.









Volunteers in Africa

More countries = more people to meet! Photo Courtesy of Megan Lee

4. There's always something new and interesting to look forward to!

Your senses will be all like, WUT?!

You will be exposed to new sights, sounds, colors, cities, projects, people, not to mention cultures, languages, and lifestyles! Boredom will become a thing of the past, and your brain will hardly be able to keep up with all the external awesomeness that you are witnessing.

The best part is: if you're not too fond of the host culture, don't sweat, you won't have to be there for too long!

5. You can learn about a specific subject more holistically.

It is hard to have a full-on grasp of environmental politics, business practices, modern arts, or {INSERT SUBJECT YOU'RE PUMPED ABOUT} from a truly global perspective if you have only learned about it at your home university and in a single foreign country.

Instead, why not deepen your understandings of how the Chinese, the Bolivians, AND the Moroccans approach the same issues?

There are some providers that actually specialize in these types of programs, which tackle issues from a variety of viewpoints, cultures, and realities. Check out these top multi-country program providers to get your started:

CONS

Nothing is perfect, not even Chipotle. Here are some drawbacks to consider before choosing a multi-country study abroad program.

1. You will experience a single country less intimately.

"But wait Meg, didn't you just say that multi-country study abroad programs will have a LESS touristy vibe?!"

While it is true that you will experience FEWER countries as a tourist, you will sacrifice knowing one country or culture more intimately. Between all those weekend trips, students in a traditional study abroad program do spend the majority of their time interacting with a single country and culture. This potentially affords them a deeper understanding of a foreign country than multi-country study abroad program participants can claim.

2. You may feel unsettled from moving around so often.

Don't you hate when you just start to feel comfortable in a place, and then you have to up and move? Sometimes a multi-country study abroad program seems like just that. It’s hard to be continuously robbed of your comfort level and ease in exchange for an entirely new and confusing place, system, language, or way of life.

Starting from scratch all the time can be exhausting!









Hiking in the countryside

Even though you may not know the language, connecting with the landscape is always an easy feat! Photo Credit: Megan Lee

3. Language woes.

It is harder to focus on language study if the local tongues are changing so frequently. You may have hopes of learning Swahili, but you may be surrounded by speakers of KinyaRwandan or Lugandan for half the trip.

It's nice to be exposed to a variety of languages, but you move around so much that it is more difficult to get a good grasp on one language - Jamie, multi-country study abroad program alum

Moreover, it is easy to forget the phrases you DID learn as you go about your travels, which means you might end up feeling like you didn't learn anything at all. How does one say "Total bummer!" in those languages again...?

4. Multi-country study abroad programs are costly.

Not that traditional study abroad programs are necessarily cheap, but the fact remains that with multi-country programs, you may incur added costs. You might have to buy multiple visas, get a wider variety of immunizations, pay for more long-haul flights, the list goes on!

It is important to have a good grasp of your impending costs before you commit to a specific study abroad program. After all, if you do opt for a study abroad program in Munich, you may end up blowing significant amounts of cash-money on all your weekend trips anyway!

Of course, all of these examples should be taken lightly, as one cannot simply cover all of the different (and awesome!) multi-country study abroad program options that are out there. In the end, just trust your gut. Choose somewhere that will push you out of your comfort zone, and seek a program that facilitates powerful, transformative experiences.