Should You Do a Summer Study Abroad Program?

Summer is a great time to travel. Learn more about the pros and cons of summer study abroad and which programs offer the most bang for your buck.

portrait of Anne Dennon
by Anne Dennon

Published on June 1, 2022 · Updated on June 3, 2022

Edited by Hannah Muniz
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Should You Do a Summer Study Abroad Program?
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According to government data, around 162,630 U.S.-based college students studied abroad for academic credit sometime during the 2019-20 school year.

Students study abroad for all kinds of reasons, including to experience a new culture firsthand, to learn a language, and to make friends from around the world.

While most students study abroad during the fall and spring semesters, summer is a wonderful time of year for global escapades, especially if you plan to visit a popular northern-hemisphere destination like China, the UK, France, or Japan.

But is summer study abroad right for you?

What Are the Benefits of Summer Study Abroad?

Students have tons of options when it comes to studying abroad. The world is your oyster — you can visit any continent and practically any country.

You can go through your home university or strike out on your own. You can take courses in your major, or you can explore ideas well outside your degree. And you can spend a summer, a semester, or an entire academic year doing all this.

So should you choose summer study abroad? Here are the two biggest benefits.

They're Short and Convenient

No matter where in the world you yearn to go, summer study abroad doesn't interfere with normal campus life and course progression. Summer sessions, which are nearly always shorter than a typical semester, can last as little as five weeks.

And the shorter timeline doesn't necessarily mean fewer credits. Studying abroad in the summer typically provides an enjoyable shortcut to earning credits and knocking out college language requirements.

They're Less Expensive

Because of their shorter duration, summer study abroad programs are generally cheaper than those that take place in the fall or spring. Fewer weeks of instruction mean a lower cost of tuition and lower expenses for things like room, board, and travel.

Though you can spend less time on summer study abroad, you don't have to. Most programs offer two summer sessions, which means you could sign up for two sessions in different parts of the country or world.

What Are the Drawbacks of Summer Study Abroad?

Anxiety about homesickness or culture shock could make the commitment of a semester or academic year too daunting for some students, while a short summer term is more like packing up for Camp Dudley. But the lower bar can also mean lower student outcomes.

Research suggests that "the longer students go abroad, the higher their learning benefits" are in things like language proficiency and intercultural awareness. Shorter programs like summer study abroad, albeit popular, may not produce the same results.

That said, even eight-week programs have been shown to boost students' open-mindedness, attentiveness to diversity, and historical perspective.

Perhaps best of all, participating in a summer study abroad program could whet your appetite for another longer stint.

Once you get the hang of things and build confidence in your ability to navigate the paperwork and personal responsibility of life abroad, you may be eager to immerse yourself in a new culture for a few months, rather than just a few weeks.

Best Summer Study Abroad Programs for College Students

Popular summer study abroad programs combine enviable locations, engaging courses, field trip opportunities, and wraparound support to help participants with the logistics of living abroad, like health insurance and housing.

Students may participate in study abroad through a program facilitated by their home university. Alternatively, you could sign up for a third-party program that appeals to you or even directly enroll in a foreign university and get the credits transferred.

Here are some of the best summer study abroad programs to choose from.

Top Summer Study Abroad Programs at U.S. Universities

According to BestColleges' latest rankings, some of the best study abroad programs come out of popular institutions like New York University, Texas A&M University, the University of Texas at Austin, San Diego State University, and Indiana University Bloomington.

NYU's Summer Study Away programs enable students to explore the islands, tombs, and theaters of Greece; the museums and tropical beaches of Brazil; and the history and literature of Ireland at Dublin's renowned Trinity College.

Texas A&M's Education Abroad department sends Aggies to Chile, China, and the Czech Republic.

San Diego State's Aztecs Abroad programs teach business in Barcelona and advanced Spanish for medical professions in Costa Rica. The university also runs an ethnographic field school in Oaxaca, Mexico, and an archaeological field school in Tuscany, Italy.

As you can see, many U.S. colleges offer a host of rich study abroad experiences. Whether or not you attend a university with nationally ranked study abroad programs, it's worth your time to explore the summer study abroad options at your institution by making an appointment at your campus's study abroad office.

Top Summer Study Abroad Programs Open to All

Going through your home university can make the credit transfer process easier, but you can also sign up for a third-party summer study abroad program through organizations like the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), CIS Abroad, and IES Abroad.

Frequently Asked Questions About Summer Study Abroad

Can nontraditional students do summer study abroad programs? true

Universities are placing greater emphasis than ever on getting diverse students involved in programs. Nontraditional students are not only eligible for study abroad, but they may also find they qualify for special scholarships and assistance designed to diversify the pool of study abroad participants.

How much does summer study abroad typically cost? true

Summer study abroad programs cost about half the price of a typical semester abroad. While a semester abroad cost an average of $14,295 as of 2019 according to analysis from GoAbroad.com, it's easy to find summer sessions for much less.

Less time spent abroad (around 10 weeks compared to around 20 weeks) means less money for housing, food, and excursions. However, traveling during the summer can increase costs due to the influx of tourists.

What should you consider before choosing a summer study abroad program? true

Aside from the perks and pluses of various study abroad programs, transferability of credits is one of the most important considerations. The best summer study abroad programs will be accredited by your home institution.

Speak to your academic advisor or campus study abroad office. Confirm that the credits you'll earn abroad will count in some capacity, whether as a major requirement, a language requirement, or an elective.

How universities award credit for study abroad varies, but typically students are "enrolled" at their home university through some kind of placeholder course, which is updated to reflect your courses and grade equivalents upon your return.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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