For many university students, the idea of studying abroad is simply a lofty fantasy of foreign languages, landscapes and love(s). While the notion of being able to experience these indulgences appeal to many, daily realities of high foreign costs of living and prior commitments to work and family life all too often keep study abroad dreams a flight of imagination. In face of a busy lifestyle, however, a whole range of short-term study abroad programs exists. With these intensive programs, students can obtain a whirlwind study abroad experience in as short as two weeks, while still earning academic credit.

While short-term study abroad programs require significantly less of a time commitment, they often involve a more demanding class schedules, with many offering “crash courses” in languages and cultural activities. While this type of learning may not be for everyone, check out this quick pro/con list before considering a short-term course:

First up: The Pros
  • Less time commitment compared to traditional semesters abroad
  • Lower total trip cost through savings in living expenses and food
  • Earn course credit over a shorter period of time
  • Exotic destinations are less intimidating to visit for shorter periods
  • Wide variety of courses available
In the opposite corner: The Cons
  • Less time to experience the foreign culture
  • Higher cost per day, still paying same price for initial travel expenses
  • Learning won’t be as in depth compared to semester-long classes
  • Not all courses offer academic credit
  • Still need to ensure travel insurance and vaccinations are taken care of

Altogether, short term courses are ideal for people who face time as a strong limitation and aren’t intimidated by intensive schedules. It’s really important for potential study abroad students to fully research a course before selecting it so that they can ensure they’re going to be getting exactly what they want out of it.

Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Program

Altogether, the decision to study abroad, even if only for a short time, is a significant one. To get a good start on the choice, there are 3 main things everyone should consider:

  • Where they want to study abroad: The amount of cultural difference, quality of education, climate and culture all play a factor in this decision. Make sure to look into timing as well to avoid trying to study during a monsoon.
  • What they want to learn about: Language, community development and culture are all popular short term study abroad topics, but certain destinations may offer unique learning experiences, such as calligraphy courses in China
  • Academic credit: Just because a program offers the opportunity to study, it doesn’t guarantee college or university credit. Many of these programs don’t require participants to be enrolled in school and as a result, accreditation is not a priority.
  • Amenities: Virtually all short-term study abroad programs provide accommodations, but the type and quality of these accommodations can vary dramatically. Travelers will have options of taking part in local homestays or staying in hostels or even fully serviced apartments, depending on the program.
  • Activities and Excursions: Most programs won’t have travelers inside a classroom 24/7, so consider different activities and excursions that will happen throughout the study abroad experience. These can range from helping to build schools for the local community to food and wine tasting tours to ziplining through the jungle.

Once the traveler begins to identify exactly what they want to get out of a short-term study abroad experience, it can make the research process significantly easier and less intimidating (no rifling through endless itineraries). With this, study abroad dreams take a bounding step close to reality.

Since short-term study abroad programs cater to a wide variety of travelers, there are many types of programs available.

University-Sponsored: There are many types of short-term study abroad programs available. Some are offered directly through universities like Griffith and Cornell. These programs carry the advantage of guaranteeing academic credit for their completion, but tend to be focused on academic and language learning more than travel and culture.

University Partnerships: Alternatively, third parties like IIEPassport and CEA work with international universities to set up global classes. These classes often combine classroom learning with day or weekend cultural trips.

Language Schools: Finally, many language schools abroad run their own courses. As a result, courses don’t offer college or university credit, but instead offer flexible class schedules and the opportunity to take part in activities like wine tasting, kayaking or ceramics classes while abroad and learning the local language. These study abroad sessions would be ideal for people may not be in school, but are still interested in expanding their global horizons. Many short-term volunteer abroad companies like GVI also fall into this category.

Best Countries to Visit For Short-Term Study Abroad Sessions

While western European countries have traditionally been popular study abroad destinations, more students are choosing increasingly exotic destinations for their studies, especially with short-term trips. While studying in the Amazon Rainforest for an entire year might seem daunting, a shorter, two-week course can be a lot less intimidating

Here’s a list of some of the top short-term study abroad programs across the globe:

Nicaragua with SUNY Geneseo: students have the opportunity to travel to El Sauce, Nicaragua, where they can participate in service learning in the fields of computer and English education, economic, small business and ecotourism development, health services or marketing. They also have the chance to take a weekend trip across the country in order to capture a full Central American experience.

Ghana with This World Music: experience a full immersion in African culture with UMass and This World Music. Trip-goers get the chance to see the country’s rainforests and beaches while learning about traditional African dance and drumming.

Morocco with AHA: this 6-week introduction to Arabic course takes travellers to Fes, the world’s largest functioning medieval Islamic city for a full-blown cultural, linguistic and historical experience.

China with INTO: Take an intensive 4-week language course at a top Chinese University with INTO while experiencing cultural sites like the Great Wall.

There isn’t one “best” study abroad destination for everyone. Each location has something unique to offer and it’s up to the traveller to determine exactly what they want to get out of their study abroad experience.


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