When it comes time to study abroad, there are a variety of decisions that need to be made; among them is whether to go for one semester or a year. Rigorous academic requirements from your host institution, costs, and lack of time are all factors that may persuade you to choose a semester long program. However, there are several key benefits to staying for that second semester; while many of them can be experienced during any significant time abroad, a year long study abroad program allows you to deepen your understanding even more. Continue reading to find out the benefits of spending a year abroad versus only one semester:
It is likely that one reason you are going abroad is to meet locals and become immersed in their culture, but that can be harder to experience when only going for a semester. During the first few weeks you will be busy adjusting to an exciting new life in a foreign country. It will take time before you begin to really feel comfortable in your new environment. If you are studying abroad for a year, you have much more time to adjust and still get an enriching immersion experience.
Even if you have some prior proficiency, learning a second or third language takes time. You may even find that other study abroad students rely on using English rather than challenging themselves to speak the native language. Having a year abroad will give you enough time to acclimate to native dialect and fully immerse yourself in the language culture.
Different countries have unique holidays, festivals, and other traditions that might vary from your own. Only studying abroad for one semester means you will probably miss the opportunity to participate in some of the biggest celebrations. Maximize your chances to experience as many as possible by studying abroad for two semesters rather than one; while it may mean missing out on your own holidays for a year, consider how much cultural insight you will gain instead. Give yourself the gift of experience.
Does the country you are considering studying in have the same seasons as your own? Chances are there are some differences in climate throughout the year, and the longer you are there, the more variety you will get to experience. Consider staying for that second semester so that you can relax on a beach instead of returning home in the snow; your friends will likely be jealously enjoying the photographs you post online about it too!
Blend In With the Locals
While studying abroad for a full semester does give you the immersion opportunities to become less of a tourist, other locals may not think of you as one of them after only a few months. Staying for an entire year allows you to build authentic relationships with your new community and establishes a bond that shows you are different from some foreigner on vacation. You may find yourself feeling more like a local as well after the two semesters.
A lot can change in just one year. You will be amazed at how independent you will become after navigating your new country on your own. From figuring out subway systems to adapting to diverse situations, there is plenty of time to try new things and push yourself in ways you may not have thought possible before, and maybe would not get the chance to do if you only study for a single semester.
While studying abroad for any length of time can help boost your resume or grad school application, staying for that extra semester helps set you apart from other candidates. The experience shows that you are not afraid to tackle challenges head on and can adapt to any situation. Staying for the year allows for additional opportunities like internships that will really help your application shine.
The people you meet abroad are going to already have a set of shared experiences and interests with you, making it all the easier to build amazing new friendships. They are also probably going to be from a different region or even country from you, meaning you have unique opportunities to make friends from all over the globe. Together you will experience the ups and downs of studying abroad, and friendships forged over an entire year will only grow stronger.
No Time Like the Present
Life happens faster than we realize. Not long after your college days end, you may find yourself with increased responsibilities such as a full time job, student loan payments, or even a mortgage. It can be more difficult to travel abroad as an adult rather than a student, so take advantage of the time you have now to make your international travel dreams come true.
Studying abroad for one semester means you have limited time to explore your new country. Weekends may give you some independent travel time but with homework and other commitments, it can be difficult to experience all the things you want to do in a single semester. If you go for a year, you are likely to have more breaks to explore other parts of the country or even travel to neighboring ones. Traveling between semesters also avoids conflicts with your studies.