Summer is traditionally a time when college students work to pay off their bills or take a break after a hard year of studying. But summer can also be a great time to study abroad. You have three or four months at your disposal to see a new place, learn a new language, or get ahead in your studies with hands-on experiences in your field somewhere abroad. If you’re interested in finding a summer study abroad program, here are some ways you can go about doing so.
- Decide on the kind of program you want. Studying abroad can be an amazing experience, but to maximize the experience, you need to put some time in beforehand figuring out important elements of your trip. Figure out exactly where you want to go, how much you can spend, how long you want to be gone, and what opportunities you want to access. Things like location, cost, curriculum, and out-of-class experiences will make or break your experience, so know what you want before you look for a program.
- Ask your school study abroad program for help. Once you know what you’re looking for, talk to some study abroad professionals at your home college or university. If your school has its own study abroad program, the advisors there are a good first place to seek program information. Even if you don’t want to go with that specific program, these advisors will likely be able to provide avenues for further research.
- Talk to faculty. If your school doesn’t have a specific study abroad program office, check with faculty you trust. This could be your advisor or your department chair. Many times, professors will have connections abroad or know the good programs that exist for your field of interest. You’re not the first person who’s studied abroad, after all, and they’ve likely advised other students with similar goals. Professors in your department can also be very helpful when it comes to figuring out what courses you may want to take in the summer.
- Check for information through your foreign college of choice. If you already know the college or university abroad where you’d love to study, go ahead and contact them about summer study opportunities. Some schools may not offer these opportunities, while others may have just the program you’re looking for. There will likely be someone on staff whose job it is to advise inquiring foreign students. And keep in mind, American summer is likely to coincide with the start of a school year somewhere else. (I started my semester in Australia in July, when they were just beginning their semester…) That may work to your advantage.
- Look to local civic organizations. Plenty of civic organizations have study abroad programs for students of varying ages. The Rotary Club, for example, may pay to send students abroad. Maybe the local chapter of an ethnic society has programs sending exchange students to another country. Or, religious organizations may send students to study and live in other countries over the summer months. Consider some of the organizations you know in your town or city and contact them. If they don’t offer programs themselves, they may be able to direct you to their national headquarters for more information.
- Query at your place of work. Some larger corporations may have programs for students to intern abroad. This is maybe not the same as an actual “study abroad” program, but you will still get the great experience of travel and cultural immersion, and it would likely look very good on your future resume. If you have a job, ask your supervisor or human resources coordinator about foreign internship opportunities.
- Contact students who have gone before you. Another great source of study abroad program information is the pool of students who have already made the summer journey and lived to tell. If you know such students, or can find them on your campus, ask them how they found the program in which they were involved and see if they will tell you more about their trip and how everything worked out. They can be a great source of firsthand facts.
- Surf the net. And of course, if you want to do a general search for information, the Internet is always there to help. Type in your country, school, and program of choice, and see what comes up. An initial general search may not provide all the answers you need, but it can be a good starting point. It may also unveil sites you’ve never heard of before like Summer Study Abroad (see link), which is, in fact, an excellent database of programs that might be of interest.