[INFOGRAPHIC] When Should I Study Abroad?

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GoAbroad’s got the scoop on the best time to study abroad

Choosing when to study abroad is an art, like pairing wine or… well… art. Don’t know anything about art? That’s okay you can take an art class abroad. So, what’s the secret to finding the absolute best time to study abroad? Come a little closer. No, closer. EVEN CLOSER. 

This infographic is going to be your forest guide—you know, kind of like how every Disney hero(ine) has an animal companion? This infographic is the Hey-Hey to your Moana, the Dante to your Miguel. You get the idea. 

So, ask us again!

Ahem… GoAbroad...When to study abroad?

Study abroad Freshman year

Even before you step onto the quad you can step off the jetway and into a foreign country to study abroad. Crazy? Maybe, but you’ve always thought the best and brightest people were a little unconventional. If you’re dead set on studying abroad, but know that your ideal major won’t fit into your schedule once you’ve got the ball rolling, OR if you have NOFREAKINGIDEAWHATTHEHECKYOUWANNASTUDY—deep breath—studying abroad early in your academic career can really help you figure it out. 

Recommended Programs: 

Study abroad Sophomore year

You’ve been around the block now. You can cook more than microwave noodles (hopefully). You actually know how to do your own laundry. You’ve ironed a pair of pants! Look at you go! You might notice a lot of friends and classmates studying abroad spring semester of sophomore year. That’s because three semesters is the magic number to have your sh*t figured out, to stop being afraid of your academic advisors, to actually know where the study abroad office is, and to be comfortable enough with yourself to travel around the world for the experience of a lifetime. 

Recommended Programs: 

[Just getting started? Get matched with study abroad programs]

Study abroad Junior year

At this point, your more “eager beaver-y” friends have returned from their study abroad experience and won’t shut up about it. Now it’s time for your class to head abroad en masse. Nearly ⅓ of students choose to study abroad during their Junior year. Three just seems to be the magic number, and by your third year you could really use a change of pace and scenery. You’re closer to adult than teenager now, and you’re ready to take on the world! 

Recommended Programs: 

Study abroad Senior year (yep, it’s possible) 

If you thought studying abroad Freshman year was wild… Well, let me tell you, there are daredevils so brazen that they choose to study abroad as late as their FINAL semester of college. It does happen. I may not recommend it personally, but it’s definitely possible and if you really, really have your sh*t together you can pull it off. 

Recommended Programs: 

[Save and compare different study abroad programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad]

Summer study abroad

Summer study abroad, the great equalizer! When asking yourself, “when should I study abroad?” take comfort in knowing that a summer study abroad program is the easiest to fit into most schedules. In fact, this is the route most college students take—it’s the most popular time to travel and soak up that summer sun. Just remember when you’re choosing where to go that a northern hemisphere summer is a southern hemisphere winter. You’d hate to show up in New Zealand ready for sun and surf without a parka and cold wetsuit. 

Recommended Programs: 

Winter break study abroad

For anyone trying to find time when to study abroad in a pinch, a winter break study abroad, or J-Term program, is a great way to take an extra class, get a jump on the next semester, and see the world at the same time. You can choose to escape or embrace the cold—snow bunnies might want to hit the slopes in Switzerland and beach babes will head for warmer temps in the Caribbean or South Pacific. 

Recommended Programs: 

jungle near beach in morning light

Summertiiiiiiime and the studyin’ ‘s eeeeeaaaaasyyyyyy.

Deciding when to study abroad? Consider this…

There’s a lot that goes into figuring out when should to study abroad. Here are just a few things you should consider before making your final decision. 

Academic considerations

Talk nerdy to me. What classes are only offered in specific semesters? What internship requirements need to be met? By when? Are you taking notes? You should be! 

  • Credits. This is the big one. Not only do you need to check that you’re on track with credits before you leave, you need to make sure that any classes you take while abroad will transfer and count towards your degree. Are there certain classes you HAVE to have for your major that are only offered in the Spring? Well, a summer or fall program is probably the way to go. This is why meeting with all your advisors and academic stakeholders is so important! (More on that later...keep reading!) 
  • Flexibility. Think about when your academic schedule is the most flexible. Freshman and Sophomore year will let you choose programs all across the world regardless of focus because the classes you take will likely transfer back as elective credits. You’re not quite in the thick of your degree-specific classes yet. If you study abroad as a Junior or Senior, you’ll need to take this into consideration when choosing programs. 
  • Online Classes. If you absolutely HAVE to take Comm102 as part of your degree program and it’s only offered only semester you can feasibly go abroad and there isn’t an equivalent course through your program, talk to your advisors about online classes. If your home university has online sections of on-campus classes, you can finally be in two places at once! Abroad, and in class. 
  • Your Resume. I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, but just in case you haven’t—EXTRA, EXTRA! READ ALL ABOUT IT! STUDYING ABROAD LOOKS DOPE AF ON YOUR RESUME. That’s right, folks, you don’t have to choose between building up your resume and studying abroad. Studying abroad IS building up your resume. 

[Download this ebook, y’all: First Time Study Abroad Tips that will Change Your Life]

Other important factors

It’s not all nerdy stuff like making up credits and missing out on exams. There are important things to think about that happen to be fun, too. 

  • Duration. How long do you want to be abroad? We think forever, but we also understand that’s not really an option for most study abroad students. That’s a different program entirely! How long you go abroad will basically dictate when you go. If you can only swing a few weeks—winter and summer break programs are where it’s at. If you’re looking to be abroad for longer term—semester and academic year programs are going to be your ticket.
  • Location. This is the most fun part of the study abroad planning process! WHERE do you want to go?! Close your eyes. Spin the globe. Point. Stop. If you keep getting the same spot in the middle of the Pacific, just start by thinking about a region that interests you! You can wander the cobblestoned streets across Europe, become besties with a llama in South America, slurp noodles in Asia, or dance to the beat of a new drum in Africa. 
  • Climate. When to study abroad has a lot to do with location, but even more to do with climate and weather. Too many students choose summer programs in the South Pacific, not remembering the way hemispheres and seasons work. That warm day at the beach quickly turns into a snowy day up in the mountains. Remember to look into the weather/climate of where you’re going around the time you want to study abroad. Is it the rainy season? Are summers unbearably hot? Are winters unbrrrr-ably cold? This will all play into your decision! 
  • Extracurricular Commitments. If you know that missing fall recruitment for your sorority/fraternity is a non-starter, then you’ll want to look at studying abroad in the Spring or summer. If you’re a student-athlete, that’s a whole other can of worms and you’ll need to work with your coach and your study abroad office to figure out fitting a program in with your training and game schedule. 

But, don’t let these commitments hold you back. If you talk it out, everyone will be understanding and want you to have this amazing experience. It just takes some extra planning and logistical magic (welcome to adulthood, friend). 

[The World’s Best Places to Study Abroad—A GoAbroad Report]

winter snow and street lights, Belgium

Studying abroad during J-term is like you were brrrrr-ly gone!

Finding the best time to study abroad for YOU (a step-by-step guide)

The operative words there being “FOR YOU.” Because really, any time you study abroad is the best time to study abroad. There’s no BAD time to study abroad, silly goose! Here’s how to figure out what will work for you. 

1. Commit to making it happen

Stop yourself asking, “when should I study abroad?” and start asking yourself, “when will I study abroad?” The minute you resolve to make it happen, it will! So, stop floundering. Commit to this life changing experience, and start the process as early as possible. 

2. Talk to your academic stakeholders

This includes academic advisors, thesis advisors, and yes—study abroad advisors. If you haven’t made an appointment with your university study abroad office already, bookmark this article, close your laptop, and get down there you bing bong! 

It’s important to make sure you know what requirements you’ll need to fill, regardless of when you decide to go. Plus, they’ll likely all have insight based on past student experiences about what types of programs and what time frames work best with your specific major or area of study. 

[American Students Studying Abroad—DO NOT Make These Stupid Mistakes]

3. Find a program that fits 

Now that you’ve taken lots of notes and gotten sage advice from allllllllll your academic stakeholders, you can take a little time to reflect on what you want out of the experience and start looking for a program that fits your wildest dreams! 

If you need a little help finding programs, take another trip to your study abroad office, or let one of our Online Advisors help you out! You tell us what you want, and we’ll send you program matches that we think are just the ticket. It’s pretty cool, you don’t have to thank us. (But, we do love cookies…so… you do you.) 

Weigh all your options and make sure the programs you save and compare side-by-side check off all your boxes—where do you want to go, what do you want to do, when do you want to do it? Once all of these ducks are in a row it’s time to… 


YOU DID IT! You committed to making it happen and now here you are, at the terminal, trying to get your sobbing mother to let go and stop getting snot all over your sweatshirt. Double check that you have your passport and don’t forget to take your liquids out of your bag at security. 

See you when you get home! Send us a postcard! 

Let’s recap...WHEN should YOU study abroad?  

Uhm. Whenever the hell you want to. The cat’s out of the bag! There’s no one-size-fits-all best time to study abroad. You study abroad experience is unique to you, and that includes when/where/how/why you go. Just be sure to cover all your bases and expect the unexpected! 

Find study abroad programs today