We’ve all heard the sage advice to wait until our junior year of college to study abroad. But what makes junior year so magical when it comes to traveling overseas? Whether you’re thinking of studying a summer, a semester, or a year, make sure you know the pros and cons that come with each academic year.
Freshman year is a good year to start researching study abroad, but an odd year to actually do it. College is already a foreign environment, and you’ll miss the chance to get familiar with the campus and its inner workings if you’re not there. You’ll also miss out on making valuable friendships with other freshmen. Stephanie, a senior at the University of Georgia, recommended using these years to “get involved on campus.” If you don’t make a name for yourself now, it’ll be tougher to do so when you get back.
If you’re utterly dying for the study abroad experience before you start school, consider a gap year with a program like Global Citizen Year.
Priyoshi, a junior at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago said, “Your first two years should be spent taking core classes.” It’s sound advice. If you get your core classes out of the way, you won’t have to worry about that PE class you were supposed to take but didn’t when you spent your sophomore fall semester abroad. Emma, a sophomore at Tulane University, said “sophomore year you’ll want to enjoy being familiar with your campus and your friends and live it up at college without all that freshman awkwardness.” You probably don’t want to leave when you’re just getting comfortable.
According to Columbia University’s Office of Global Programs, sometimes students with intense or technical majors, like engineering, choose to study abroad their sophomore spring. This is a good option if you want to study abroad but you’re unsure if you’ll have time as an upperclassman.
The golden year. You’re smack dab in the middle of your college career, and you’ve probably taken four semesters of the the language of your target country. You have a solid transcript under your belt, and you’ve created a reputation on campus that’ll be handy for recommendations and scholarships. Hopefully you’ve saved a little money in the past two years if study abroad isn’t already covered in your tuition.
This year might not be best if your major is intense and has many required classes. Studying abroad could add stress to an already stressful schedule or cause you to fall behind your required classes goal. Some schools don’t accept study abroad credit from certain programs. Make sure you review your school’s policy before making any plans.
Senior year is the light at the end of the tunnel. You should definitely start preparing to exit the tunnel. Priyoshi recommended using senior year to “focus on graduation and prepare for life after college.” Emma echoed this thought. “Senior year you have to worry about graduating and finding a job and a living situation.” It’s a little harder to do that if you’re in a different country. Some schools, like the Georgia Institute of Technology, require a certain number of final credit hours be taken on their campus. You should check to see if your school has a policy like this one, and if study abroad exempts you from it.
Summers are a popular time to study abroad. An immersive homestay in Argentina can be just as fun (or more!) than a Netflix binge. One of the downsides of studying abroad in summer is the length of your stay. You’ll only get a taste of the culture you’re studying before it’s time to go home. Also, it might be harder to find scholarships for summers abroad since most target longer periods of study.
It’s never too early to start planning for study abroad. Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, make sure you know the intricacies of the process beforehand so you don’t miss out on the experience of a lifetime.