In order to truly get the most out of your study abroad, you want to ensure that your trip is long enough to fully absorb and experience the culture of your destination, but short enough so that your transition into your life at home is not so drastic.
To ensure you have the time of your life and benefit as much as you can from studying abroad, the ideal program length is three to four months, or a full semester. A semester of studying abroad not only allows you to retain a full course curriculum in a foreign environment, but it also is the perfect middle ground between experiencing a country to its fullest and preventing homesickness.
If you are still debating what the duration of your study abroad program should be, check out these important reasons why a semester study abroad program is best:
A week or even a month is cutting yourself short.
Since you’re already putting a lot of thought and effort into studying abroad, you might as well get the absolute most out of your trip. While you can certainly see and do a lot during a short term study abroad program, you won’t be giving your destination a fair chance of showing you what it has to offer. On shorter trips, people tend to only experience the popular touristy sites, while giving yourself a full fall semester abroad allows for unexpected experiences to arise.
It’s during the down times that true adventures can unfold, and everyone knows there aren’t many downtimes in a summer study abroad program. By having down time in the first place, you will have the opportunity to get creative and make your own fun, rather than racing to get through a carefully planned agenda. Instead you will surrender yourself to the moment, which can really allow you to see the country and people for what and who they really are. This may consist of something as small as striking a meaningful conversation with a stranger to taking a spontaneous road trip to another part of the country.
Giving yourself time to relax and explore your destination will open you up to qualities of the country that you never knew existed.
Studying abroad for any longer than a semester can seem more like a permanent move than a visit.
When studying abroad for longer than a semester one of two things usually occurs: you either become homesick, craving the people and customs of your own country, or you find yourself consumed by the travel destination and never want to come home. Some study abroad programs can span a full academic year or longer, and if you’re up for the extreme change of scenery it can be quite refreshing and beneficial. But if you’re not looking to commit yourself to a year in another country and still want a nice getaway from your ordinary routine, then a semester abroad is your answer.
Most college students find it hard to be away from their friends and family for much longer than a few months, which is why schools strategically schedule academic breaks every couple of months to give out of state students time to travel home to their families. The same goes for semesters studying abroad, perhaps to an even greater extent, since the change of environment is much more drastic. By the end of a semester abroad, most students will find themselves longing for the delicacies of their home country. Although the majority of students who have studied abroad will come home with nothing but positive memories, once you have landed back in your hometown you will find that the famous saying, “there’s no place like home,” holds true.
Three to four months is an ideal amount of time for a personal transformation to occur.
Like the changing of the seasons, individuals also go through a variety of physical and personal changes throughout the year. Some can occur on a daily basis, but the truest transformations are the ones that stand the test of time. This is why the fall and spring semesters are specifically structured to last three to four months.
Within this time frame students can experience a variety of mixed feelings and emotions about their courses, but it’s important to experience the whole duration of a course in order to receive the full effect of its message and curriculum. Sometimes a class that you initially dreaded going to for the first couple of weeks can turn out to be your favorite class by the end of the semester.
This is where the magic of time and patience allows for the most meaningful transformations to occur. Through struggle and perseverance often comes the most rewarding of outcomes.
Studying abroad for a full semester increases your chances of acquiring transferable course credits.
While some study abroad courses offer course credit, others do not; completing a full semester’s worth of classes abroad will certainly increase your chances of earning course credit within your chosen field of study. By completing a full semester of course material abroad, you will demonstrate your ability to commit to a set time frame and acquire a full term of material. These are qualities that will very likely be recognized by your school and should earn you the well deserved credits.
A semester of study abroad abroad is not only beneficial to you and your educational career, but it also allows ample time for your destination to show its truest colors. This way you gain the most out of your trip, and the country in which you travel to is able to accurately present itself.
Studying abroad for a semester is the perfect amount of time for first time travelers to test the waters and assess how they feel being in a foreign country for an extended period of time.
Once that first extended trip abroad is under your belt, you might even consider traveling abroad for a longer duration in the future.
College is a time for exploration, and by giving yourself the appropriate time to explore various options, you are not selling yourself short of your potential. While, on the other hand, you are also able to leave the door open for new opportunities to arise.