While studying abroad is the perfect way to experience another country, make new friends from all over, and travel the world, there is one problem that goes along with it. The biggest regret of many study abroad students? The whole thing goes by too fast. When looking back on their experiences, students who study abroad wish they would have had longer to embrace the new lifestyle and more deeply immerse themselves in the local culture. Students that choose to study abroad for a full academic year will have time to truly settle in and make the most of their time, so why not give yourself a real shot?
Why Study Abroad for a Year
The traditional life path is: college, internship, full-time job. There isn’t an automatic spot built into that schedule for traveling overseas. If you want to see the world, you have to make it happen. That is what makes full year study abroad programs such an effective and positive way to incorporate travel into your life, while still gaining incredible bulletpoints for your resume.
Studying abroad can be one of the most enriching and educational experiences of your college career. The benefits of being immersed in another culture, with new perspectives and opportunities, will leave students more open-minded, independent, and ready for anything. Even though any length of time abroad is worth it, all of these perks are hugely amplified when studying abroad for a full academic year.
Counting down the days until winter break, one semester can feel like an eternity, but a three-month term might be shorter for a study abroad program. Many international universities run on different academic calendars, and since one-semester programs have to accommodate both schools, the semester could be cut short. This means cramming classes, travel, and activities into a small amount of time. By completing a full year abroad, students actually have time to adapt and enjoy the local culture. Students follow the international university’s terms, which translates into built-in holidays and breaks for travel opportunities!
Spin the globe, and pick a spot. Unless your finger landed in the middle of the Atlantic, there is probably a study abroad program in that location. Schools all over the world offer year-long programs that can fit your needs, so decide what country most appeals to your taste palette and pack your bags.
Europe. With spirited locals and vibrant colors, Spain is guaranteed to spice up your study abroad experience. Where else can you actively practice your Spanish while sipping sangria and eating paella? If gelato after every test wasn’t reason enough to study abroad in Italy, the possibility of 20 different regions with their own special charm might do the trick. Soak up the cross-cultural vibes of an international hub, while still having the comfort of speaking English, when studying in England. Use new critical thinking skills to navigate the complex tube and expand your course discussions into the many public seminars and museums.
Oceania. For those interested in keeping things in English in countries build on surfing, sunshine, and smiling locals, head Down Under. More than just kangaroos and vegemite, Australia is known for its excellence in global education, while New Zealand will never leave you with a boring view outside of the classroom window. There’s plenty of opportunities for wild adventures and conservation programs during free time, so boredom won’t be an option.
Asia. A study abroad experience here might just cause you to fall in love with the land and join the ranks of English teachers and chipper interns that flock to this region of the world. While still in school, a dedication to institutionalized learning makes China great place to be challenged and emerge triumphant. For those that want to mingle tradition with technology, kimchi with ancient tombs, check out South Korea, with its endless promise of fun learning.
Academic Year Study Abroad Programs
A full academic year provides students with more time and flexibility to make the most of their experience. Students can choose from many different programs to cater to their specific interests and values.
Traditional programs. With universities everywhere offering a variety of majors, students will have no trouble finding a program that fits their academic needs for a full year abroad. Every region has its own take on culture, technology, history, and business, which will compliment any degree. These types of programs tend to feel a lot like your home university, with the added bonus of experiencing a foreign country firsthand (and the occasional castle visit or museum field trip!).
Volunteer programs. For students that want to engage even more with their study abroad experience, volunteer programs are a great way to go. These kinds of programs that have built-in service projects are growing in popularity for students. They offer the opportunity to have more consistent and meaningful interactions with locals, while adding valuable experience to your resume.
Language immersion programs. One of the most popular reasons to study abroad is to learn or improve a foreign language. A full year abroad can mean significantly advancing your language skills. Language immersion programs provide even more opportunities to brush up on your foreign language, creating even more opportunities to use it inside and outside of the classroom.
Tips For Year-Long Study Abroad
While studying abroad for an academic year is a great way to get the most bang for your buck, it can definitely be daunting to prepare for a full year away. With effective research and good planning, you will have more time to relax and enjoy the experience.
Packing. Despite staying for a full year, pack light. You’ll be thankful for it when you head back and have room for souvenirs. Easy trick: pack neutral clothes that you can mix and match. Also, keep in mind the cobblestone in older cities when packing shoes, and try and keep them comfortable. Bring a smaller backpack for weekend trips so you’re not hauling around a huge suitcase all the time.
Housing. When studying abroad for a full year, students have many choices for accommodation: residence halls, dormitories, student apartments, or homestays (for a more authentic experience). To really make the most of time spent abroad, go outside of your comfort zone and live with a random roommate or family!
Friends. The study abroad circle can be tight knit, especially if your university sends a lot of students to the location. Try and step outside of your friend group and talk to locals., which can make your time abroad even more unique and interesting. Be sure to participate in as many of the university or cultural events as possible - this will make meeting new people a breeze!
Memories. Even with a whole year, your study abroad program is going to be a complete whirlwind with lots of new adventures. No matter how cheesy it seems, find someway to keep track of your trip. Whether it’s collecting postcards, a daily one-sentence journal, or a #PhotoOfTheDay on Instagram - do what it takes to record it all… while at the same time, not forgetting to live in the moment.
Benefits & Challenges
Brace for the budget. Studying abroad for a full year is be more costly than then fall, spring, or summer semester programs. Be sure to check out scholarships to help with the fees. There are some opportunities where you can save money too, such as traveling during off season, researching student discounts, and taking advantage of all those new friends’ couches.
Four seasons of fun. There is something special about experiencing a place during all four seasons of the year. The people, the vibes, and the surroundings change depending on the time of year. By committing to a full year, students are exposed to it all and are able to experience all of the local, annual holidays!
Opening up opportunities. A full year abroad leads to self-discovery and new ideas about your future. A year of living in an international city lets you put down some roots and truly develop friendships. It’s not a bad perk to gain friends (and places to stay!) all over the world.
Take advantage of your study abroad opportunity by doing a full year program. Even though you have more time to adapt and feel at home, it’s very possible you will still feel that it went by too fast in the end. And beware: a full year abroad is known to cause chronic wunderlust.