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Why Two Week Study Abroad Programs are a Waste of Time

Studying abroad for two weeks

There are so many reasons that students should absolutely consider studying abroad for a year rather than just a semester… Oh wait, what? You want to just study abroad for two weeks? TWO WEEKS?! Have you lost your mind?

Two weeks is barely enough time to whet your appetite for all that a study abroad experience can offer.

Take a moment to reconsider this monumental decision, which is sure to leave you filled with regret. Two weeks is barely enough time to whet your appetite for all that a study abroad experience can offer. Just when things start to get good… poof, you’re on a plane back home, missing out on so many amazing lessons and experiences.

Studying Abroad for Two Weeks Means…

British tea and cookies

You'll just start to make friends... and then you'll leave.

Assuming you interact with locals at all -- which is part of the point of going abroad isn’t it? -- you won’t have much time to get to know them. And if you do find that you like each other, you will probably warm up to each other just in time to say adieu.

Sure, maybe you’ll keep in touch through email or Facebook, but is that really the point of going abroad? To build a virtual international friendship you could have done from home?

You'll just feel like you're starting to grasp the language and learn new things... and then you'll leave.

Just because you find yourself saying “gracias” at the airport Starbucks when you arrive back home doesn’t mean you've really picked up the language. Two weeks is hardly time to become immersed in another language and culture, let alone pick up many new words or cultural nuances.

You’ll get past the stereotypes and gain insight into the culture... and then you'll leave.

Maybe you’ll realize that your host parents do come home from work for a “siesta” -- wow, they really do that! But broad cultural observations, especially those that just reinforce stereotypes of what you were expecting, are easy to come by in a couple weeks and are rarely accurate.

Two weeks abroad isn’t enough to really change your life... But a year? You better believe it!

It takes a whole lot more than two weeks to become immersed in a culture and observe the unique realities that make a country, a culture, a city, a town what it is and the people what they are.

You'll just get comfortable enough to try a new dish or two... and then you'll leave.

Local food is SO. GOOD. But chances are, if you’re not adventurous enough to spend more than two weeks abroad you probably aren’t adventurous enough to try tons of new crazy dishes either. And when you finally get up the courage, and realize how incredible it is, you are going to be disappointed you don’t have time to try more.

Food culture is a huge part of the personality of a place, and it is something you need lots of time to explore (after all, there are only so many meals in a day…). You learn a whole new aspect of the local culture, and once you change your palette, you might be surprised at what other changes you experience in yourself and your life as well!

You won't learn the nuances of your city, study abroad

You’ll be caught in the bliss of the honeymoon period... and then you'll leave.

Maybe that sounds good to you, but it’s not. You’ll be back home before you’re ever challenged enough to learn something or change your perspective.

Sure, the part right after honeymoon is usually the tough part, but it’s also the time when you actually learn and change. And that part that comes later -- adaption, acceptance, integration, mastery, whatever you want to call it -- is pretty awesome.

Getting to feel like you really understand a place, like you actually fit in and belong, is a remarkable thing.

You won’t learn any of the nuances of your host city.

(If you even have a host city!) You won’t have a local supermarket or bakery or cafe that you frequent where the owners know your name and usual order. You won’t know the coolest bars or the best places to people-watch or get a good view of the city. You’ll only have grazed the surface of what that city has to offer.

The city won’t be “yours” and you won’t have the chance to be a part of it, or leave your mark.

One day when you have a friend who’s going on a trip to the city where you studied abroad, you won’t be able to offer much advice or insight that they couldn’t find with a Google search.

The city won’t be “yours” and you won’t have the chance to be a part of it, or leave your mark. You won’t know its secrets, and you’ll quickly forget its unique heartbeat -- the sounds, the smells, the feel of it. You won’t be a resident, an honorary citizen. You'll just be another visitor.

You won't celebrate different holidays or experience lots of local customs.

These are key things to understanding another place, culture, people. How do they celebrate holidays? What songs do they sing? How do they dress? What do families do when they gather together? What local sayings do they have, and what are the weird stories behind them? You’ll never have the chance to find out.

You won't have any extra time to travel.

Or that’s all you’ll do, and you won’t accomplish anything else! Which pretty much means...

Are you sure you're even REALLY studying abroad?

How much can you really study in two weeks? There’s a reason most classes are months long. In fact, if you’re spending just two weeks studying abroad, there’s a good chance you aren’t studying abroad at all.

You might just be a tourist. (*gasp!*)

The Real Question: How Long Will You Study Abroad?

Girls, study abroad, Greece

A semester is a good start, but even that can be too short to really immerse yourself in another culture. A year abroad is practically perfect in every way.

So brush aside your FOMO while abroad and anxiousness about homesickness… you won’t regret it! Many students who go abroad for just a semester regret not staying longer, and few that go for a year regret staying longer.

Give yourself a chance to really learn and understand another culture and way of living, and you will be amazed at the changes you will discover in yourself once you return home. Two weeks abroad probably isn’t enough to really change your life (despite what some may say). But a year? You better believe it!

Now c'mon, why don't you take another look at your options for study abroad?

Photo Credits: Omer Unlu, Ellie Taylor, Laura Brond and Amanda Dean

Rachael Taft

Growing up in the Midwest, Rachael couldn't wait to get out and see the world. She's studied abroad in Italy and Thailand, interned abroad in Sydney, worked abroad in Australia and Fiji, and traveled to 30+ countries, including backpacking solo across South America. In addition to working in international exchange, Rachael obsesses over all things her blog Girl, Unmapped.