Choosing a time frame for your adventure abroad may be one of the most difficult decisions of the entire process! Financial, academic, and cultural factors must be considered. The following information will hopefully ease this stress and outline the benefits (and some of the disadvantages) of studying during fall semester.
You can select a program depending on the type of experience you wish to have during your time abroad. Is more independence your style? Would you rather pay more up front and have everything organized for you? Do you want to go with your school peers or meet a bunch of other folks?
Here's a good starting point for you to jump off of when choosing a program:
Your University: Most universities offer abroad programs. This is beneficial because they are easily accessible, make sure you will have the right courses to stay on track, and will guarantee that credits transfer. You can expect to enjoy your classes and learning alongside people from your university, which is a neat bond to make for when you return to your home campus.
Third Party: If your home university does not coordinate with the country or university you are interested in, third party organizations are available to study abroad through. Many times your university will already have established partnerships with these organizations to ensure an ease of credit transfer. Other times, you may have to fight a little harder - but hey, if you've found THE PERFECT study abroad program, there's no sense in not trying hard to make it happen.
Subject Oriented: Do you have a specific goal you're hoping to achieve while studying abroad? Do you want to focus on foreign language learning, or prefer to combine service projects and learning? For students with particular aims, find a program that is less cookie-cutter. Sometimes these can be found through your university, third party providers, or through other universities. Get your Go Overseas search muscles a-workin'!
Be cognizant of the important things to consider before choosing your fall semester program.
Cost: Fall semester is cheaper than choosing a year abroad because you will have a shorter housing contract, fewer travels, and fewer flights (compared to those who choose to travel home during winter break).
Travel and Immersion: Fall semester offers plenty of travel time as you have weekend opportunities and fall (sometimes) & winter breaks. However, this does mean there is less immersion time, and you will have less time to explore your city/country if many surrounding areas also capture your interest. This also means you will interact less with the locals and more with students who are also studying abroad. It is important to research your travel interests before you go to optimize your time. Luckily, many programs allow you to extend your stay past fall semester, if you decide.
Courses: Fall semester offers you the chance to study abroad while not missing necessary classes that are only offered during spring semester. Also, if you are interested in home activities such as student government or sports, fall abroad will allow you to have both the home and abroad experiences.
Culture Shock: Every student will feel culture shock in one form or another. If being away from home is a particular problem for you, only spending a semester abroad will aid that issue. However, it should be noted that around the time you leave, you will most likely be entirely comfortable abroad, and then will have to endure the effects of reverse culture shock. The short term of fall will also allow a student who is questioning his ability to thrive in a city with a different language/culture to see how well he adapts. This will open doors for later return trips or serve as a good experience but not one to be repeated.
Cool Worldwide Events Happening During the Fall
Many famous festivals and cultural actives occur during fall semester. The following are a few highlights. Once you choose your country, find out which event interest you and make sure you are abroad during that time. Or, you may explore which events interest you, and choose a country/duration based on that.
- Early September - Ireland: The All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals which “CNN has ranked the All-Ireland Hurling Final second on their ‘10 Sporting Events You Have to See Live’ list calling it the ‘fastest and oldest field game in the world.’”
- September - Malawi: The Lake of Stars, a two day art and cultural event to highlight Malawi culture and attract international attention
- End of September/Beginning of October - Germany: Oktoberfest, a festival paying tribute to Germany's rich and vibrant beer culture.
- End of October/Early November - India: Pushkar Camel Festival, a camel fair with music, markets, and camels. A great time to practice your bargaining skills!
- November 1 & 2 - Mexico: Día de los Muertos, a celebration of deceased family and friends. This holiday may have a dark side but it is a fun holiday to witness.
- End of November - Thailand: Monkey Buffet Festival, an event where tourists feed fruits and veggies to 2,000 monkeys! Yes, 2000! Sounds amazing, right?!
- December 8 - France: Festival of Lights, the entire city of Lyon is aglow as thousands of lights light up across the city. The rivers and reflections look especially beautiful at this time of year.
- December 25 - Australia: Enjoy an alternate to the stereotypical White Christmas as summer is in full swing. Eat cherries on the beach and dine on prawns (not to be confused with shrimp on the barbie, unfortunately).
- New Year’s Eve - Brazil: Enjoy the best NYE party on the beach. Brazil has a rep as one of the wildest countries in the world. See why firsthand!
What better way to learn about a culture than to celebrate a favorite holiday with the locals!?