Congratulations! You have made the decision to study abroad, but now you must make the tough decision of choosing the right semester. There is no right or wrong time to study abroad, but when you look through the options, you should strongly consider the spring semester. Why? Because there’s plenty of time to get started, meaning you can take your time. Think about what you want to accomplish during your time abroad and find a spring study abroad program that best suits you and your objectives. Whether you want to head south of the equator to revisit fall or are simply looking to extend your summer, there’s a spring study abroad program for you!
Besides not missing out on Thanksgiving turkey, there are plenty of reasons to choose the spring semester for study abroad. For those students who opt to head home directly after their program, there are benefits to studying abroad in the spring rather than the fall. Before traveling, many students forget to consider the difficulty of returning home after the semester. You may have heard buzzwords like “reverse culture shock” but struggle to fully understand what that means (and what it can look like in your life).
When you return home, you’ll have new insights, new war stories, a new sense of self. Your perspective of the world and the way you fit in it will be more developed. Sometimes, students don’t even fully recognize the ways they’ve changed until they return to a familiar place. And sometimes, it is tempting to revert to your old ways instead of consciously maintaining your new habits, especially when you must quickly process your past semester while simultaneously preparing for the next.
Returning home in the summer means a soft landing: ample time to transition smoothly and more intentionally. You can kick your reverse culture shock in the butt, while not feeling swamped by the quick turnaround of the academic school year.
The days are getting longer, the sun is shining more, the weather is getting warmer. People have been bundled up for the long winter but are now bursting with heaps of joy. Spring is a fun time to be anywhere on the planet, but at least in this way you won’t be stuck staring at the blue skies longingly out the window from your desk chair in your university classroom. Happy days! Here are some of the most popular destinations for spring study abroad programs:
Turkey. From ancient ruins to modern beaches, Turkey attracts students from all over the world looking to spend the spring semester studying abroad in an exotic Euro-Asian country. Turkey’s rich history combined with its diverse modern society has turned it into one of the most vibrant spring study abroad options. You can drink tea at an authentic Turkish tea house, visit a historic Byzantine-Christian-Islamic place of worship, or haggle your heart out at some of its colorful bazaars. Lucky enough to have coasts along the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, Turkey enjoys a standard Mediterranean climate and some of the best beaches in the world, perfect for a quick spring getaway or a break from studying.
Portugal. Students interested in being part of a harmonious blended community will be glad to know that Portugal is known for being one of the most liberal and open countries on the European continent. The best time to visit Portugal is during spring, when the flowers and trees throughout the countryside begin to bloom. The geographical location of this coastal nation on the Iberian Peninsula makes it a grand destination for students who enjoy great weather.
Cambodia. Located in the heart of Southeast Asia, Cambodia is shining a light over its dark and turbulent history, and its people are hopeful for a brighter future. This ancient kingdom is known for the kindness its people show toward visitors in the middle of the Indochina peninsula. As a spring semester study abroad student, you will have a chance to explore tiered rice paddies or visit the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat.
This is an exciting time in your academic career, so be sure to focus on the courses that are best suited for you and your education. Some universities and study abroad programs only offer certain courses and subjects during specific semesters. Since you have made the decision to study abroad during the spring semester, make sure the courses you decided to take are offered within that time frame.
Studying physical therapy in the spring is a popular course for students because it gives them a chance to take on patients in an international setting and be exposed to new methods and techniques in the field. Healthcare is ever-evolving around the world, and having experience abroad will certainly give students the necessary skills to take on the growing challenges within the field. As a student looking to study abroad in the spring, you will surely gain some experience working with athletes participating in springtime athletics too.
Meteorology is a field full of international collaboration. You truly cannot study or work within meteorology without discussing the entire world, it’s science! This is a perfect course for students studying abroad in the spring as it gives them insight on how scientists and meteorologists around the world study weather patterns and the atmosphere. There is no right or wrong time to study meteorology, as weather is obviously an ongoing and cyclical phenomenon; however, spring semester study abroad programs will allow you to experience a transition of seasons from winter to spring, starting in March, in many nations.
Naturally, students interested in travel and tourism should also indulge their sense of wanderlust. What better way to prove your experience to future employers than by learning about the field abroad? Choosing to study tourism abroad in the springtime, just when tourism is picking back up after the winter months, will give you the chance to experience the challenges that arise when working in the industry.
Keep in mind that depending on the courses you are pursuing and the country you choose to study abroad in, knowing the local language may be advantageous to your learning experience.
Your summer holiday will be right around the corner. What’s the rush for getting back to sitting around your hometown? Spring study abroad students can consider extending their travels for three to four solid months past their program end date. One awesome option to consider is completing a different type of program in your study abroad destination, like volunteering or interning, during the summer months.
No matter where you study abroad in the spring, make sure to get involved and stay engaged with the local community. It can be detrimental to your experience if you don’t make an effort to step outside your comfort zone and engage with people on trains, at parks or museums. This is a good way to learn your host country’s cultural idiosyncrasies as well, the fun, subtle nuances that most tourists skim over.
While you are studying abroad, even if your program does not require it, take time to write in a journal a couple times a week. This will serve as a way to preserve your memories and emotions as you are experiencing a new culture. The same holds true for pictures. Make sure your pictures have some context by chronicling your thoughts and impressions on the moment you captured.
When considering study abroad in the spring semester, keep in mind the locations you are interested in traveling to and consider what is most important to you. Whether it’s for the weather, the local festivals (St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, perhaps?!), or the availability of your academic schedule, getting outta dodge for your spring semester might just be the solution you’re looking for.
The challenge to finding a perfect spring semester program will be narrowing it down to just one! There are so many opportunities to pursue that it may be overwhelming. Make sure you do your research about the program and country of your choice; preparation is key to any successful study abroad experience.
There is no right and wrong for students committed to spending a semester abroad. But if you wish to maximize adventure (er, learning potential) and give yourself the time and space needed to sort out your newfound realizations (without sacrificing cranberry sauce), a spring semester abroad will do you good.