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Pros and Cons of Short Term Study Abroad Programs

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Considering a summer study abroad program in Spain? South Africa? Short term study abroad programs, typically lasting between 2-8 weeks, offer condensed courses - many of them focusing on culture and language. If you are thinking about participating in a short term study abroad program whether this summer, spring, fall, or winter, there are some pros and cons you should take into consideration. While there is no right or wrong way to go about your study abroad experience, this article will help you further decide if this program length best suits your needs!

PROS of Short Term Study Abroad Programs

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Less costly

If financial concerns are preventing you from studying abroad, consider a short term program. They may be a little less bang for your buck, but a 5-10 week program will inevitably be cheaper. Plus when factoring in the cost of living abroad, especially in Europe, you will certainly save.

However, take a look at fundraising possibilities and ways to save money if this is your only reason you feel you can't participate in a long term program.

Get your gen eds outta the way

Have you been dreading completing a certain history requirement? By taking the course abroad, you not only will have a chance to take a completely unique course but because it's condensed into 5-10 weeks - it'll fly by! Plus when you take cultural courses, it'll help you get a better idea of the people and history that can be difficult in short term study abroad. Art history in Florence? Awesome!

Great for those with a rigorous course load

For pre-medical, engineering and transfer students, you may have thought studying abroad was out of the question. However by fitting a short term program into one of your summers, you'll not only stay on track, you may even put yourself ahead of the game. Plus it will give you a break from the endless hours you’ve spent studying the same subjects. Showing that you are well rounded will impress future employers and graduate schools more than an extra molecular biology course. If you're still uncertain, there are ways to study abroad in engineering and biology.

By taking the course abroad, you not only will have a chance to take a completely unique course but because it's condensed into 5-10 weeks - it'll fly by!

Ideal for someone who has limited experience abroad
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If you have yet to have the opportunity to venture overseas, the idea of studying abroad may be intimidating. If you're feeling a bit nervous about hopping on a plane and living in a foreign country for 3-12 months, consider a short term program. It will give you a supervised taste of life in a foreign country, build your confidence and independence, and prepare you for future adventures. And for those with protective parents, you’ll ease their worries by opting for a shorter program.

An option for those with FOMO

One common reason students say they don't want to study abroad is a fear of missing out on their awesome life in college. Whatever the social scene, the concern that you will be left behind as your life at home moves on without you may be enough for you to decide against studying abroad. By joining a summer study abroad program, you can gain experience in another country while still returning for the school year. Just remember, when it comes down to it your friends will probably be more jealous of YOUR life abroad than you are of the same ol' life at home.

CONS of Short Term Study Abroad Programs

Less time to get acquainted with the culture and language of the country

With only 5-10 weeks to get to know a city, the culture, and the language you may not have enough time to take it all in. Even if you are taking accelerated classes in the local language, a short term program is unlikely to give you time to really pick it up. To prepare yourself for this, take classes on the language before you arrive. Do your homework on customs, etiquette and the general culture and read more about what mistakes to avoid while studying abroad.

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Fewer chances to meet locals

Along the same thread, by participating in a short term program you are less likely to interact with locals. Having a pre-made group of friends from the program, it will be hectic enough getting to know them in a limited period of time. By seeking out spots where locals hang out, you can both take in the local culture and make a few acquaintances. In many countries, the local population is eager to practice their English, so use this to your advantage, be outgoing and introduce yourself around. You may just find someone willing to do a language exchange!

Limited opportunity to explore the country

If you are joining a program that is only 5-10 weeks, you have only a few weekends to get out and see the rest of the country. Often times, study abroad companies build weekend trips into the program to the most popular nearby destinations. So if there's somewhere you're dying to go, you may not has as many opportunities to do so. For 5 or 6-week programs, contemplate traveling before or after the program.

If there's somewhere you're dying to go, you may not has as many opportunities to do so. For 5 or 6-week programs, contemplate traveling before or after the program.

You might feel overwhelmed or rushed
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When arriving in a new country there's just so much to do! You may feel overwhelmed as you try to prioritize which restaurants to sample or which exhibits to hit. Add in trips in the surrounding region and it's likely you'll be rushed to get it all in. Use a guidebook to help decide what you just can't miss in the city. Enjoy your time and remember you can always come back!

You'll have little time to adjust

If you find yourself struggling with culture shock, a short term study abroad program will allow little time for you to overcome homesickness and really enjoy life abroad. By the time you feel comfortable exploring the city and trying new things, it might be time to go home.

But Really...

Regardless of your decision, any experience abroad will open you up to different cultures. Both short term and long term programs provide students with the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone. And if your summer study abroad experience changed your life and you're itching to get back out there, here are some tips on how to study abroad more than once!

Lindsay Denny

Having studied abroad in Florence in college, Lindsay caught the travel bug. During a year off, she volunteered at in a hospital in Ghana and traveled to Argentina. She also spent 6 months studying and interning in the Philippines in grad school. She now lives in Cambodia, running an NGO and exploring Southeast Asia.