In the Northern Hemisphere, May is the “Goldilocks” term to travel abroad. It’s not too hot, not too cold, it’s just right. With summer right around the corner, you’ll not only find good weather, but you can also hit popular sites without the crazy long lines and selfie sticks blocking your views, giving you the freedom to make the most of study abroad. Studying abroad during May term is just the ticket for students looking for a short commitment with a big impact, or for recent grads trying to find your footing.
Why Study Abroad in May
Studying abroad during May term has tons of appeal. If you’re a bit timid to go for a whole summer or semester, May term is the perfect opportunity to get your feet wet. You can also literally get your feet wet by dipping those toes in the Mediterranean Sea or perhaps the Pacific Ocean, depending on where you choose to study abroad in May. There is nothing like the act of getting out there and doing it. You can try out this whole studying abroad thing for just a few weeks, and chances are you’ll want to go back for longer!
Another bonus of studying abroad in May? Heading overseas in May to earn credit won’t interfere with summer job plans or family commitments at home. On the flip side, it’s also the perfect excuse to stick around after your course is through to backpack, volunteer, or write your very own adventure-novel.
While the far north is just starting to thaw out, May is the time to go where it’s heating up. Southern Europe, baby! May term is the ideal time to visit popular European destinations, including Spain and France, before the droves of summer tourists file in.
May 15th kicks off bullfighting season in Madrid with the San Isidro Festival. Madrileños celebrate in traditional dress with music and dancing in the Plaza Mayor, but there are also rock concerts and parties throughout the city during this time. Madrid also offers some of Spain’s best museums, parks, and nightlife. Take a tour at the Prado, and then end your day with some delicious tapas (small plates). That’s so Spain! Perfect that roll of the tongue by studying the Spanish Language, or get ready to launch that start up you’ve been dreaming of by studying business or entrepreneurship.
Southern France is another cool (er, warm) spot and is home to the Cannes Film Festival where you can hang with the rich and famous (or at least pretend to) in between classes. This May event draws celebrities from around the world, so you may want to pack your selfie stick after all. Language study is the name of the game in France as well, but it’s also a superb place to study art or history.
If you’ve been there, done that with Europe, or you want to get off the beaten path, head to Asia! China, in particular, is where it’s at for May term study abroad programs. May is one of the best times of the year to visit much of the mainland, with pleasant temperatures and relatively dry weather.
Beijing is an obvious choice for good reasons. It offers no shortage of options to study foreign languages as well as Asian or Ethnic studies. Begin your explorations in Tiananmen Square, the heart of the city, and then journey to the outskirts of town to the Summer Palace. Also, you can’t go all the way to China without seeing the Great Wall. Do it! Although early May can be busy with travelers due to the May Day holiday, the crowds should die down after the first week of the month.
May Term Study Abroad Programs
Many universities offer faculty-led programs in May, meaning your curriculum will line up flawlessly and you can take a course from your fave professor. Invite your friends along! You’ll likely forge a close bond with the group, as you all take part in the shared experience. Faculty-led programs are often super unique, focused courses, such as culinary arts in Italy or martial arts in China. You might even earn some extra course credits to graduate faster. Booyah!
Because of the immersive nature of May term study abroad programs, it’s also the right time to embark on a language immersion course. In all of the aforementioned countries, you’ll have plenty of language programs to choose from. You’ll be shocked at how much your language skills can improve in such a short time with a little targeted study and real-world practice. Sitting in a cafe and ordering un café, por favor (coffee, please) takes on a whole new meaning. Many May term language programs also include a cultural immersion component, such as a homestay housing option or language partners with a local student.
Again, with the real-world experience, May term programs commonly include an internship or field-study component. Internships are often combined with business, marketing, or tourism coursework to reinforce what you are learning in the classroom. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you can get down and dirty at a field school. Field schools often have a biology, Earth science, or archaeology focus, and typically incorporate both classroom study with time in the field. Both options provide some irreplaceable career exploration and will give a leg up when it comes time to begin the job search.
Tips & Advice for May Term Travel
Expect a jam-packed month complete with intensive study. Many May term study abroad programs try to cram a full semester’s worth of material and credit into three or four weeks, plus you’ll want to see and experience all your host country has to offer. Know your goals and jot down a list of your must-see sites. Planning ahead will allow you to make the most of your short time overseas. On the other hand, don’t worry about sticking too close to your list. Try to go with the flow, too. Taking the wrong bus or asking locals for their choice spots may lead you to an undiscovered nook or cranny of the city that you would never have found otherwise.
About to graduate and not sure what’s next for you? You probably don’t want to spend your time aimlessly drifting in your neighbor’s swimming pool. Do something meaningful and study abroad! Many programs will welcome recent grads. You’ll build your network, and hopefully be one step closer to finding your career path post-grad.
Benefits & Challenges
May term can be one of the most affordable terms to study abroad. Why? It’s shorter than a full summer or semester, so you may spend less overall. Also, some schools may consider May term to be part of your Spring semester, meaning no extra tuition. Good deal! Check with your school’s study abroad office to get the official scoop.
A May term abroad is just the right length for many students. A month overseas is not as intimidating as a semester, but it’s long enough to get the hang of things in your host city. For seasoned travelers, though, it may not be long enough. If your passport is full of stamps, consider a longer time abroad to get a more in-depth look at another culture.
May is a sublime time to study abroad! Go where spring has sprung and the weather is fine. Your month abroad will surely be a memorable, yet productive one, as you are stretching your limits, gaining credits toward graduation, and getting an up-close look at places you’ve only read about.