Pros and Cons for Short Term Study Abroad Programs

Pros and Cons of Short Term Study Abroad Programs (worth your money?)

This list points out the pros and cons of short term study abroad programs. It might be helpful if you check out the pros and cons list for full study abroad programs, too. This way, you can see how they compare.

Pros: Reasons to do Short Term Study Abroad Programs

1 - Get a quick and in-depth experience

Short term programs are a great way to get a compact but very much in-depth experience of a country and its culture. Such programs can run from a couple of days up to seven weeks and are usually really well organized by the hosting university. This means that you’d also get the chance to participate in many activities outside the classroom, like guided tours or cultural experiences. As you can tell already, short term study abroad programs are a combination of vacation and education at the same time.

2 - Become an expert on a topic in a short time

You focus on very few subjects (one or two classes) and have the chance to become an expert in an area you are interested in. Some of the shorter programs (one week or less) usually focus on one single subject. What is this good for? Suppose your curriculum back home doesn’t include many free elective courses: taking short term study abroad programs allows you to broaden your skillset significantly. Having that additional expertise can be extremely valuable in the job market later on.

3 - Fewer Cons

All the advantages come with fewer downsides (compared with pros and cons for full study abroad programs). It is unlikely to get homesick or suffer from a reverse culture shock after coming back. It is also very unlikely to lose contact with your friends or partner within a couple of weeks. You can only benefit from going on a short term program.

4 - Exciting way to use the winter or summer break

In some countries, the summer or winter breaks are pretty long. This is convenient for the first year to settle in and find new friends. However, how cool would it be to spend your summer abroad? Going on a short term program is a great way to use your breaks for travel and education at the same time.

5 - Graduate faster

By taking courses in the summer or winter, you can also graduate sooner or slip in another internship before graduating. If this is something you are interested in, short term programs might be the way to go. Needless to say, saving time also saves you money (tuition, rent, etc.). If you do another internship, you will graduate at the same time as your friends. This gives you two advantages. First, you can still celebrate your degree together with your friends and not by yourself. Second, you have more work experience, which is more valuable than anything these days.

6 - Easy to get in

The majority of programs are not selective, and the spots are served on a first-come, first-serve basis. Also, the application is super easy and fast. To get into a winter program at Korea University, all it took was to send a passport copy, transcript, and insurance confirmation via email. At first, I couldn’t believe it since KU is one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea and among the best universities in Asia. But it turned out that this is the way short term programs work. For the last on-campus summer school before the pandemic, even Harvard filled their spots on a first-come, first-serve basis.

7 - Great for people in a relationship

If you are in a relationship, studying abroad can be a real deal-breaker. Even if you have a long-lasting relationship based on mutual trust and respect, going abroad for an extended period is challenging. However, short term programs can be an excellent middle-ground for you and your partner. On the one hand, you get to go abroad and experience a new country in-depth. On the other hand, it only takes a couple of weeks, so you’ll be back soon. Maybe happier than ever. Giving up on that dream of going abroad (just) for your partner might result in huge regret sooner or later.

Cons: Reasons not to go on Short Term Study Abroad Programs

1 - High costs

The advantage of getting in easy comes with a price tag. Short term programs are usually additional income sources for universities, which is why they are relatively pricy. They can rank anywhere from a couple of hundred to several thousand dollars. Taking the short duration into perspective, you have way higher “costs-per-day-spend-abroad” compared to full semesters abroad (costs/days). The costs for flights make this ratio even worse! And your carbon footprint. Suppose you spend $800 for a return flight and stay for only two weeks: this comes down to around $57 per day for your flight tickets alone. On the contrary, if you go abroad for a full semester (five months), the costs decrease to about $5 per day.

2 - Harder to get financial support

Many universities offer financial support or scholarships for full study abroad programs. This seems to be more difficult with short term programs. Most people I talked to paid the program themselves and haven’t received any support from their home universities. However, this might be different at your university. That’s why you should always double-check with your international office.

3 - Too many impressions in a short time

Short term programs can end up being an overwhelming or wrecking experience. There is so much to see and discover in only a couple of weeks! Especially when visiting a new continent, a full semester abroad might be a better idea. Again, ask yourself if you want to fly very far and only stay for a couple of weeks. Connecting short term programs with an additional vacation is an excellent way to make the most out of your trip. For that, you can also consider the neighboring countries.

4 - Well organized (too much?)

As mentioned above, short term programs are well organized. However, if you prefer a lot of freedom and time to explore the country on your own, this might not be the right program for you. There is not much time to settle in either: Short term programs start with classes on day one. Also, they don’t offer any “introduction week”, as most universities do at the start of a semester. If you’d like to travel around and explore, definitely consider arriving earlier or staying longer after the end of the program.

5 - Not comparable with a full semester abroad

Even though short term programs are great, you can’t compare them with full semesters abroad. You connect less with locals, stay more in the “campus-bubble”, don’t have to deal with any of the bureaucracy, and might not settle in at all. There is a reason why many people can join short term programs on tourist visas. Don’t get me wrong: short term study abroad programs are fantastic and a long-lasting experience. Still, I’d always recommend full study abroad programs instead if you had to choose.

Of course, there are more reasons for and against short term programs. However, this list of pros and cons of short term study abroad programs is based on my personal experience and gives you a first impression.

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