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Choosing When to Study Abroad (page 2)

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Jul 7, 2011

Slipping away during second semester

Most sophomores who study abroad do so during the second semester. At this point, you more than likely have carefully thought out your plans to study abroad by completing core requirements and starting coursework toward your major, and thus going away is more feasible. Spending time abroad during your sophomore year may suit you for any of the following reasons:

  • You want to complete a considerable amount of advanced coursework in your major, which requires you to stay at your home university during your junior and senior years.
  • You want to take advantage of opportunities when you become a junior that are available to upperclassmen, such as independent research, internships, and leadership positions in campus organizations.
  • You want to quickly improve your foreign language skills.
  • You want to go away during the off-season semester because you're an athlete who competes and trains during only one semester. In fact, you may even want to go away during two off-seasons semesters (in other words fall sophomore year and fall junior year if you're a baseball or softball player).
  • You want to go away to two different places each for a semester thus spreading your studies abroad over two academic years.

Cascading across continents as a junior

Junior year is the most popular year to go abroad. Some universities allow their students to go away only during the junior year for a variety of reasons.

  • You've finished four consecutive semesters of language study, making you proficient through the intermediate level, and now you're ready for total immersion into the language to increase your fluency.
  • You plan to write a thesis during your senior year, so you certainly cannot go away then. Furthermore, if you've determined your thesis topic and decided a semester away in a country that's relevant to your topic will benefit your research, you need to go before senior year.
  • Your home university requires you to spend the final two semesters at home, which makes study abroad during your junior year an obvious choice.
  • Many overseas universities and study abroad programs require study abroad students to be juniors.

Some reasons why you, personally, may find junior year a great year to study away from home could include:

  • After two years at your home university, you've matured enough to venture out on your own, away from family, friends, and everything familiar.
  • Many of your friends also are studying away at the same time, which means that you will have plenty of people to visit and free floors to sleep on!
  • You're well established at your home university. You have professors and advisers who know you. Your social group is set, you know all the ins and outs of college life, and you won't be returning to any unexpected situations as a senior.
  • You must apply to graduate school or for postgraduation jobs during your senior year.

Savoring a senior-year sojourn

Most universities require you to spend your final undergraduate semester at your home university because you'll likely need to finish one or two requirements at that time. Therefore, your last chance to spend one of your undergraduate semesters abroad is probably during the first semester of your senior year.

Most students who go abroad this late in the game usually do so because they realize that they'd be passing up an amazing opportunity by not studying abroad during their undergraduate years. Or in some cases, students decide not to write a thesis, finish satisfying their core and major requirements, and then find some time and flexibility in their schedules that they didn't originally think they'd have. Perhaps courses that you desperately wanted to take were offered during your junior year, and after having taken them, you created space in your schedule to go abroad.

If you're writing a senior thesis, you can't go away. If you have too many credits to complete, you can't go away. If you want to apply for graduate schools and fellowships or participate in on-campus job fairs, being away is a handicap.

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