How to Choose the Length of Your Study Abroad Program
You’ve committed to studying abroad and you even know where you’re going (watch out Austria!), but you just can’t decide on a program length. We get you, but worry not! We’re here to guide you through the differentiators of studying abroad for a trimester, semester, and an academic year.
First ask yourself, What are your goals and what are some potential barriers?
- Do you want a taste of another culture, but also want to save some money? A trimester might be your jam.
- Really want to hammer out your language skills, but need to be home for soccer season in the spring? Looks like you’re going abroad for a fall semester.
- Maybe you’re ready to take the full leap into cultural immersion. Surround yourself with 10 months of language, culture, as well as host family and friend relationships by signing up for the academic year.
To further break it down, consider these factors…
A Trimester (3 months): The calendar for a school year overseas can vary slightly, so the trimester might match up better for your school. Take a high school abroad program in Spain as an example. You’ll arrive in early September, and depart right before December 25th. You’ll have enough exposure to your host culture to be life changing, but you’ll easily transition back into your life at home.
Three months also goes by the alias; “90 days.” On those days when you might feel particularly homesick, just remind yourself that you only have ‘X’ amount of days left. Time seems so much more manageable when you’re thinking in days versus months.
If money is on your mind, it’ll be good to know that trimesters are on average $2,000-$4,000 cheaper than the semester or academic year. Take into account that you can purchase your own flight (especially if you have airline points), you can make your college application stand out, and you can have a super fun, life-changing experience for less than $7500 – school, housing, and food costs included!
Now, let’s move on…
A Semester (5-6 months): If you’re really focused on sharpening your language skills, it helps to stay longer – say 2 months longer. All the great experiences you can have during a trimester, you can extend on a semester program. This option grants you the opportunity to get a solid footing in your local host culture and language, but be back home for the fall musical or the spring tennis season. Depending on your school calendar, this might actually be a better fit for you. Some host schools begin in August and wrap it up in mid January. You’ll start to understand what’s being said in the classroom, and why it’s best if you take your shoes off when you enter someone’s home in Japan.
And last, but definitely not least…
Academic Year (10 months): This is the most well-known and popular program length. After spending 10 months overseas, you’ll have a better understanding of certain cultural aspects of your host country than you do your home country. You’ll wake up and realize that you just dreamt in your host country’s language. You’ll try to figure out how to incorporate Finnish licorice/Japanese Mochi/German pretzels/Tortilla Espanola into your daily diet back home. You’ll be able to get around anywhere with breeze and ease, because you were able to navigate in a different country!. You’ll realize that you don’t just have a host family – you have a second family and a place across the ocean to always call home. If any or all of these things sound appealing, congrats! You’ve found your desired program length.