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How to Get the Most Out of Your Short Term Study Abroad Program

Short Term Study Abroad

Student life can be surprisingly busy. You’ve got classes, part-time jobs, internships, and social events vying for space on your calendar, not to mention that pesky problem of figuring out what you’re going to do with your life. Where, then, will study abroad fit into your schedule? Taking a whole semester off might seem like an impossible feat.

Fear not! It's time to take a look at the miracle that is short-term study abroad. These programs allow you to experience another culture and further your education without carving out a large chunk of your semester. For the time-crunched student with a mad case of wanderlust, these programs could be just what you’re looking for. If you're interested in participating in a short-term study abroad program, keep reading for all the information you'll need.

Before You Go...

If you're only heading abroad for a short amount of time, it's important to find a program that will help you have an incredible experience. These tips will help you prepare ahead of time and find the perfect short-term study abroad program.

Be practical

When choosing a program, be realistic. Don’t expect to learn Spanish in three weeks - even Spain can’t make you a linguist overnight! Find a program that will allow you to expand on a skill you've already started to explore. If you’re already studying Spanish, a language course abroad might be right up your alley. Look into a program that taps into your existing course of study, so you can make the most of your time abroad instead of reinventing the wheel.

Be prepared

Sort out the details before you leave home. Where will you stay? How much spending money will you bring? How and when will you travel, if you wish to do so? What’s the story with visas? The more red tape you can take care of before you leave, the more time you’ll have to enjoy yourself when you arrive.

Be picky

If you truly want to make the most of your time abroad, select a program that compliments your academic goals. Selecting a program that targets a specific subject of study (such as Architecture in Europe or Film in China) will help you further hone in on your overall learning potential.

While You're There...

You've only got a few weeks abroad, and there are so many different things you're eager to do! Here's how to fit in as much as possible while still enjoying the experience.

Be specific

Now is not the time to see all of Europe or backpack through Southeast Asia on your weekends. When you’ve only got a month or less, decide what your top priorities are and stick to them. You may not have time to do it all, but you do have time to see a few things that are important to you.

Be adventurous

You will get the most out of your short time abroad if you can completely immerse yourself in the new country's culture. The best way to do this is to be open to trying new things. Although you'll certainly arrive with some ideas of fun activities to do and places to visit, spur-of-the-moment side trips and short excursions during your down time will help you make the most of every minute abroad.

Try to Score Academic Credit

Get more bang for your tourism-buck by earning academic credit for the program you complete. This might be easy-peezy to do at your university or you may have to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops. Either way, that extra 3-6 credits will help free up your semester course load or allow you to catch up if you're falling behind.

Realize You Can't Do it All

Identify up front what are your "must-do" or "must-see" activities while traveling abroad. If you can't squeeze in that one last famous sight, don't worry. If anything, it'll give you a reason to return someday (hopefully for longer!).

After Your Return...

Just because you've returned to your home country doesn't mean you need to return to your old life. If your adventure abroad sparked a serious wanderlust, these tips will help keep travel and adventure on your mind.

Work in your college's study abroad office

You loved your time abroad, so you're the perfect person to help other students organize their own trips abroad! Sharing your own stories from abroad will help keep your trip fresh in your mind.

Keep in Touch

If you established strong relationships while you were abroad (especially with some friendly locals!), commit to yourself that you will continue to cultivate your friendship with them. Write them emails, letters, or friend them on Facebook. If anything, it'll be a great avenue to continue utilizing your language skills.

Start planning your next trip

The best way to get over back-at-home-blues is to get excited for another adventure abroad! Whether that means a whole semester or year studying abroad, a volunteer trip during the summer, or a gap year after graduation, there are tons of different ways for you to travel again soon. Start saving up money and dreaming about where you would like to go next.

Top Short-Term Study Abroad Programs

Now that you’ve got some idea of where to start, here are some tantalizing short-term programs to spark your inspiration and get you thinking about what will work best for you!

    Africa Study Abroad


  • Behavioral Ecology of African Mammals in Kenya: This program is ideal for students in animal or veterinary sciences. Probe into the wildlife, zoology, and natural resources of Kenya while camping in the field. The program is comprised of field study and lectures. Program length: 3 weeks.
  • Kruger to Coast Wildlife Studies in South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique: Students participating in this program can help with current research, which might include fieldwork in a national park or snorkeling with whale sharks. This is the perfect opportunity to learn about conservationism in a hands-on way. Program length: 4 weeks.
  • James Madison University Summer in Ghana: Attend this program at the University of Ghana and you'll gain six credit hours for one month's work. For 2 ½ weeks you will attend classes in the morning and participate in afternoon volunteer work; the program culminates with a 10-day trip to visit various historical and cultural sites. Program length: 4 weeks.
    Asia Study Abroad


  • Culture, Art & Religion in Dhrangadhra, Gujarat, India: This program offers the perfect opportunity to dive into Indian culture and history by studying its religious and artistic traditions. You’ll be expected to complete an independent field research project, chosen from a wide range of topics. There are great opportunities for creative students to explore their skills in photography, painting, dance, and more. Program length: 4 weeks.
  • Learn Chinese in Shanghai, China: Although this course is run by a private institute, 2-4 university credits are possible. The course requires only a minimum of two weeks, so it's perfect for students who don't have much time to spare but still want to dip their toes into Chinese culture. The language lessons are accompanied by local activities. Program length: 2-4 weeks.
  • Vietnamese Language & Culture Studies at the Vietnam National University: This program offers the opportunity to study Vietnamese language and its fascinating culture while in the heart of it all in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Participants will see how decades of war affected this southeast Asian nation and how the culture still thrives in spite of past hardship. Program length: 4 weeks.
    Europe Study Abroad


  • Winter International Business: Seville + Rabat: With two weeks in Spain and 1 ½ weeks in Morocco, this course can give you a taste of international business culture in a short period of time. It is an especially great opportunity for business students who wish to improve their cross-cultural communication skills. Program length: 3 and 1/2 weeks.
  • Liberal Arts & Social Sciences in Prague, Czech Republic: With this program, you will earn a minimum of 3 credits while studying one elective in a general field like business, history, or marketing. This is good opportunity to immerse yourself in life in the Czech Republic while still earning academic credit. Program length: 3 weeks.
  • Creative Writing in Scotland: This program is short, but it’s intense. Sharpen your pencils and get ready to mingle with some of the UK’s most influential writers, across genres like fiction, drama, and screenwriting. Another perk: program dates coincide with major literary events like the International Book Festival in Edinburgh. Program length: 3 weeks.
    Oceania Study Abroad


  • Power of Australian Summer: Integrating Sport, Culture, Health and Wellbeing: This course takes place in January and offers a perfect escape from winter into the southern hemisphere’s summer. It delves into the history of sport in Australian culture and is comprised of lectures, field visits, guest speakers, and activities. Program length: 3 weeks.
  • Challenge New Zealand – Leadership Development: The eternal question on many students’ mind is this: What am I going to do after I graduate? This course is designed to help you answer that question through group activities, discussions with business leaders, and a five-day outdoor challenge program in beautiful New Zealand. Program length: 2 weeks.
  • Fiji Short Program: Sustaining Human Societies and the Natural Environment: In just eight short days, you can accomplish an awful lot; namely, three credits and a comprehensive study abroad experience in the South Pacific. This program can be combined with 3 ½ weeks in Australia or New Zealand. Program length: 8 days.
    South America Study Abroad

    South America

  • Summer Intensive Language + Culture in Rio de Janiero, Brazil: This program offers the opportunity to participate in a month of intensive language studies and dynamic cultural experiences. The program's prerequisite demands at least one semester of Portuguese or two semesters of Spanish, but the language courses are specifically designed for international students. Program length: 4 weeks.
  • Intensive Language & Study Abroad in Santiago, Chile: This program offers a choice of academic coursework options in Spanish language, Latin American studies, or Anthropological studies. You can also participate in field trips and cultural excursions, ranging from skiing to visiting important historical sites. Program length: 4 weeks.
  • Exploring Cultural Contrasts in Argentina: This is a Global Seminar presented in English during the winter break, and culminates in three credits. Learn about Argentina’s tumultuous history and how it affects the country today. The course is a mix of hands-on activities and discussions. Program length: 3 weeks.

It's time to take a look at the miracle that is short-term study abroad. These programs allow you to experience another culture and further your education without carving out a large chunk of your semester.

This is just a sampling of the many short-term study abroad adventures waiting for you. Which one will you choose?

Photo Credits: Wikimedia and API Study Abroad.

Lauren Fitzpatrick
Writer, expat, and former working holiday addict setting up shop in Australia. Embracing surfing, reversed seasons, and cricket, but not Vegemite. Read More...