Choosing When to Study Abroad (page 3)

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

Studying abroad during summer

When you plan out your entire undergraduate academic program and realize spending a semester abroad just isn't possible, a summer program may be just the thing for you. Studying abroad often becomes difficult whenever you're majoring in two subjects, delaying declaring a major, needing to take a particular sequence of courses before taking an exam (like the Medical College Admissions Test), or applying to graduate school.

At many universities, course scheduling for majors such as science and engineering can be so tight that a semester abroad is simply not possible. For these students, summer study abroad can provide the opportunity to experience another culture, if only for a few weeks, without delaying graduation or missing important classes.

Or maybe you just have too much to accomplish, too many interesting courses are offered at home, or you're too afraid of missing out on all that your home university has to offer. If you can't bear to spend a semester away from school but still want to see a different part of the world and experience a different culture, a summer study abroad program is your best bet.

Many programs offer summer study options; however, you need to realize a few things before deciding to pursue study abroad plans during summer months:

  • You lose your chance to have a summer job. If you usually depend on summer income to make money for school, this option may not work. And chances are you won't be allowed to work in a foreign country.
  • Financial aid and scholarships for summer study may be limited or unavailable altogether.
  • Some summer study abroad programs are watered down and glorified tours, so not much actual studying is going on. Be careful which programs you choose. If you want to receive academic credit at your home university for summer courses, you need to investigate which summer programs your school recommends.
  • Most summer programs offer a small selection of courses, and most of these courses are in the humanities, fine arts, or even pop culture. You may have a hard time finding science, engineering, or social science courses in a summer program.
  • You may need to petition your school for academic credit for summer courses because they may not be as structured as courses are during the regular academic year. Home universities may even impose a limit on the number of credits you can transfer from summer courses.
  • Some universities abroad completely shut down or may not even offer undergraduate study during summer months. Often, the only students at school in summer are postgraduates conducting research and international students (mostly Americans) attending summer study abroad programs.
  • In many countries, the majority of native students are away from university during summer months, which limits the number of courses available and the amount of contact you have with the country's culture. You can wind up on a mostly American program with few opportunities to meet and mingle with natives.
  • Some summer programs offer research and internship opportunities, which may be valuable. However, your home university may not grant you credit for them.
  • Consider the climate and weather. If you plan on studying close to the equator, be aware that some places can be very hot and without air conditioning. And if you want to study in the Southern Hemisphere, remember that our summer is their winter.
  • When you're planning to study away from your home university during the summer between your junior and senior years, consider your postcollege plans. If you're are planning to apply to graduate school and end up away from home that summer, you may miss an important opportunity to study for graduate school exams or start filing applications.
  • When you study during the summer, you may not be giving yourself enough of a break from school and can return to your home university in the fall more burned out than when you left.
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