In the summer of 2008, I left the US for the first time on a plane bound for Santander, Spain. Although it was only a month-long program, it completely changed the way I see the world. Inspired by my incredible study abroad experience, I haven’t stopped traveling since.
Many students feel the same way about their own study abroad experience, although most go abroad during the fall or spring semester. Increasingly, study abroad programs in summer are becoming an appealing option, but you might not know what you're sacrificing or gaining by studying abroad in the summer compared to another part of the year.
Based on my own experience, I'm here to say that summer study abroad can be a great choice. If you’re on the fence, here are some of the reasons why studying abroad during summertime could be the right option for you, too.
You Earn Extra Credits in Less Time
Aside from being a fun and exciting way to earn your degree, studying abroad in summer can put you ahead of the pack. Earning extra credits during the summer term will allow you to move up in your course faster or take some additional classes outside of your major that you find interesting.
In Spain, I studied several modules on Spanish Language and Culture which were worth 6 credits in total; all in the span of just one month. Completing extra credits during summer contributed to my ability to graduate a semester early and get a jump on the job market ahead of my peers.
You Keep Current with Campus Life
We all know (and hate) the feeling of FOMO. You know, that paralyzing fear of missing out on epic social activities and events. If you suffer from this very real condition, then summer study abroad is the perfect way to experience an exciting life overseas all while staying involved in campus happenings during the year.
For those who play sports, this applies to you, too. My sophomore year in college, I joined the equestrian team and competed in horse shows during the fall and spring semesters. Prior to college, I had wanted to spend a semester abroad in Australia but abandoned my plans as soon as I got heavily involved with the team, both competitively and socially. The compromise was perfect: spending part of my summer in Santander, Spain allowed me to balance the two.
You Meet Diverse Student Groups
Summer programs draw a bit of a different crowd than more "traditional" fall or spring study abroad programs; they cater to students from all over the world. Summer programs also have the flexibility to focus on different topics since they aren't constrained by academic year or college credit modules. This can take many different forms.
For example, if you want to make new international friends, consider a language program that will bring in a diverse group of language learners. My study abroad took place at Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo which had Spanish Language and Culture courses specifically for foreign students. The group from my home university was small but we were surrounded by students from all over: my friend circle came to consist of people from Nigeria, Italy, Czech Republic, England, and France.
While our time together was short, we kept in touch after the program ended. Eight years later, while on vacation from teaching English in Madrid, I met up with one of the Italians in Brussels where he was living. You don't need a semester or year program to make life-long friends!
You Receive More Attention in Smaller Classes
Right now, summer study abroad programs aren't as popular as programs during the school year so you can potentially take huge advantage of that depending on which one you choose. Most summer programs tend to involve more focused and specialized classes giving you individual attention and comprehensive course material.
Rather than a large lecture hall where you're just a body in the seat, smaller class sizes ensure hands-on learning and interactions with professors and fellow students. You might even get to study abroad with a professor conducting a unique research experience in the field that you'd never have the chance to experience on campus or in a fall or spring program.
Summer study abroad can give you an edge by allowing you to explore a topic more in-depth than you might normally do during the school year.
You Overcome First-Time Traveler Anxieties with a Shorter Program
Do you get homesick easily? Have you always wanted to study abroad but are hesitant about being away for an extended period? Summer study abroad programs are perfect for first-time travelers who may be wary about how they'll adapt to the experience.
Ranging from as short as a week to as long as the entire summer, there are a variety of programs to suit your needs. Before I left for my study abroad, I thought a month was a long time. By the end of it, I found myself disappointed to leave and eager to plan my next trip overseas. Once I got a taste of experiencing life in another country, I was hooked! I'm confident that even if you face a bit of homesickness during your summer study abroad program, you'll feel the same.
You Typically Spend Less than Semester- or Year-Long Programs
Some students think studying abroad is beyond their reach due to the cost. One of the perks of going overseas during summer is you can knock out multiple credits under one program fee.
As a Maryland resident studying in West Virginia during my undergraduate degree, I paid higher tuition fees than in-state students. It was actually cheaper to do 6 credit hours in Spain than it was at my home university. Additionally, most summer study abroad program fees include room and board so outside costs are kept to a minimum.
You Enjoy Good Weather (in the Eye of the Beholder)
If you want warm weather during with your study abroad experience, plan accordingly: seasons are flipped between the hemispheres. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer months are May to August; if you're planning to study abroad in Europe or Asia, these are the best months for a summer study abroad program.
Students in the Southern Hemisphere enjoy their summer between November and February; if you want to study abroad in South America, Africa, or Australia, New Zealand, or Oceania, you might look at a winter or J-term program that will allow you to experience summer while studying abroad.
Although students from the Southern Hemisphere will experience cold weather if they study up north during their summertime, there are perks to this as well. Since summer break is over winter holidays, opportunities exist to visit Christmas markets across Germany, eat 12 grapes at midnight on New Year's Eve in Spain, or see a rare snowfall in the U.S. or Canada.
My study abroad experience in Santander, a resort town in Northern Spain, had me within walking distance from a pristine beach. Nearly every day after class, a group of us would lay down our towels and break out our notes. Trust me when I say that studying is less painful while surrounded by sun and sand.
Is Summer Your Study Abroad Solution?
Don't let your university career pass without a study abroad experience. Going overseas not only gives you a unique international outlook, it sets you apart from your fellow students and can make you more appealing to future employers. If you think you don't have room for studying abroad in your university plan, think again. Summer programs are the perfect way to see the world in a short amount of time.
Here are some popular study abroad options in summer to get you inspired:
- Spend your summer in Vienna with IES Abroad
- Explore Irish history and culture in Northern Ireland with Queen's University Belfast
- Study abroad in England at Leeds University
- Engage in intercultural and language exchange during the summer in Japan with Rice University
- Opt for a summer or J-Term program in Indonesia with VIA programs
As you can see, the world can be your oyster even when you take a less conventional path. Browse all the summer study abroad programs to get more information and read reviews from other alumni who've spent their summer studying abroad.