You’ve been studying abroad for a semester now, and you’ve fell in love with your host country’s culture, language, people, and, of course, food. It’s the fall semester, and you’re missing your friends back home–but, you feel as though leaving at the end of the year is impossible. It would be too difficult to leave behind your new lifestyle. The lessons you’ve learned, both in your studies and as a result of deep cultural immersion, are invaluable to you. Fortunately, there is a solution. If you feel like you’re up to it, extend your semester abroad to an entire academic year. This seems rigorous and can certainly be challenging. There are three important factors to consider before calling your university’s Study Abroad office to make what could be one of the best decisions of your life.
Do you feel emotionally prepared to be away from family and friends for five and a half more months? This change can be difficult for many students, as adjusting to life abroad means occasional homesickness. Bear in mind that you will miss holidays and birthdays back home; that you will be prolonging your emotional homecoming. Some students find these emotional components to extending a semester abroad to be too daunting, but remember that this chance is once in a lifetime. On the upside, if you’ve truly fallen in love with your host country, think of this as an opportunity to fortify the emotional ties with the people you’ve met. If you have a host family, also be sure that your staying is no hindrance to their lives. It is certainly a host family’s job to make you feel welcome and open their home, but you must make sure that your housing situation is stable to remain abroad for nearly six more months. An entire year abroad means that you will truly become one with the natives who have welcomed you into their vibrant culture.
Academically, there are definitely a couple of things to consider when attempting to extend your semester abroad. Does your university allow you to do so? Think about your core curriculum and all of your graduation requirements. Will this abroad adventure hinder your progress? If there are courses for, say, a business or accounting major that you must take during the course of the year while you’re abroad. If you can swing this, then go for it! If upon your return to campus, however, you find that scheduling conflicts and curriculum completion difficulties will arise, then try to weigh the pros and cons of prolonging academic issues. Map out your next few semesters until graduation, and think about what you have left to complete before then. Can you fit all necessary courses in?This is an excellent conversation to have with your Study Abroad advisor. If there are courses that you can take on your program abroad that can satisfy these requirements, then you may be in the clear.
Delaying your graduation may be an unwanted consequence of studying abroad. For some, this is a deal breaker, especially if scholarships or financial grants will not pay for an extra semester outside of the allotted, usual four years of undergrad. For others, though, the benefits of extending a semester abroad (and possibly delaying graduation)–cultural immersion, etcetera–outweigh the financial aspects that may arise. See if your family can afford to support your hopes to spend a year in your host country. This is both a matter of financial security and personal preference. Even if your graduation will not be delayed by extending your stay, you still may be on a program that requires extra costs for housing, food, and amenities. Be sure that you think this decision through before potentially unleashing a financial burden that will, down the road, be very unwanted.
Extending your semester abroad is only challenging if you want it to be. Weigh the pros and cons of the potential emotional, academic, and financial repercussions that can result from it. Keep in mind that this opportunity, to study and live in a foreign country and receive an invaluable education while doing so, is beyond exciting. If you feel like you’re willing to take the leap–and can do so on all fronts–then go for it!