Should I stay or should I go?

A look at spring, summer and semester-long study abroad

Xiaoxia Yin

Leaving home for a new adventure: choosing when to study abroad

Washington and Lee offers various study abroad programs for students interested in international studies. As a student who is  keen on exploring the world to study  differences in culture, last year I took the opportunity to go abroad to different places during the  Spring, Summer and Fall semesters. For different needs, studying abroad with different time ranges may have strong impacts on the study abroad experience. Here are some tips I have for choosing the study abroad time according to my own experiences.

Spring Term abroad

For students with very busy majors and tight schedules, Spring Term Abroad (STA) might be the best option. Every year, Washington and Lee organizes many STA programs to different destinations in various  subjects. The best part of the STA programs is that students will focus on one field of study and gain both practical skills of certain subjects and cultural recognition of the country or religion. Another great advantage of STA programs for students who want to save time is that students do not need to learn the languages of their study abroad destination, though previous knowledge of the local language will improve the experience. In addition, if students do not find any ideal STA programs, they can still chose to Spring Option abroad during their sophomore, junior and senior years. Last but not least, Spring Term is in April and May, when most countries in the world (including both northern and southern hemisphere countries) usually are having very good weather. To summarize, for students who are interested in closely experiencing a foreign culture as well as “relaxing” from their busy school years, Spring Term would be a good choice to be abroad.

Summer abroad

There are not as many summer abroad programs provided by Washington and Lee as there are STA programs. However, the university does approve some programs hosted by study abroad institutions. For these study abroad pro-

grams, the school requires students to  take a language course to get their credits transferred back. As a result, students with language majors or who wish to enhance their language skills to jump to a higher-level Washington and Lee course should consider summer abroad. One thing to note is that  summer courses are usually very intensive. Students who are not accustomed to high-pace classes might not want to take a lot of summer courses while simultaneously experiencing culture shock in a different country. Summer abroad is not just for language study students. For students interested in doing an internship as well as learning about a foreign country in the summer, the Williams School offers three 8-week programs in London, Sydney, and Cape Town with both internship opportunities and politics courses.

Full semester or year abroad

For students who are hoping to have an intensive and longer experience exploring a foreign country, or who are “running away” from Lexington, a full semester or a year abroad is the best choice. Usually, students can choose from both special programs for study abroad students or direct enrollment and exchange schools. The best advantage of a longer term abroad is that it is easier to make friends with both local people and people from all over the world with similar interests to you. Academically, students can take more classes to develop their interests in different aspects of the country or region. Meanwhile, during the weekends or breaks, students can travel to other parts of the country or region to enrich their experiences. Again, one thing to note is that students have to take a language course if they are studying in a non-English speaking country.

No matter when and how long you choose to study abroad, the experience will be beneficial to you for your entire life. Let’s explore the world, expand our horizons and enjoy the adventures.