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For students who are interested in studying abroad, but feel restricted by time and/or money, a Maymester opportunity might be the perfect solution.
What are Maymester Study Abroad Programs?
Maymester Programs, also known as ‘The Maymester Experience’ or ‘Maymester abroad’ (depending on your school), are short, but intensive study abroad immersion programs that take place for one to three weeks in May each year.
Growing in popularity and availability since the mid-2000s, these programs are the answer to helping students solve the problem of not being able to spend an entire semester abroad in the traditional Autumn, Spring, or even Summer, which itself is less popular than the former, but still more expansive.
Maymester Program Examples
Benefits of Maymester Study Abroad Programs
Focused and Tailored
A large portion of Maymester Study Abroad programs are highly focused on specific topic areas. Similar in this way to Summer Study Abroad programs, even though students spend less time on the ground in a host country, the amount of information covered and ability to deep dive into a variety of sides of an issue will often make it feel as if you have been abroad for months
Maymesters are offered in lots of subjects but are often popular for those entering career paths such as Math, Science, Law, Politics, and other Humanities.
Many Maymester students may find themselves involved in research, case study completion, or even model and solution building based on their field of study. A core pillar and appeal of Maymester, compared to semester programs is the common ‘hands-on’ approach that they take where there’s less emphasis on classroom learning about a topic and actually “bring it to life” out in the world.
Compared to semester-length or full-year study abroad programs, Maymesters tend to be the most affordable overall. For example, while a semester study abroad program could cost anywhere from $15,000-USD 25,000 (baseline, not including flights, visas, etc), the average Maymester Study Abroad Program costs $3400. While this amount is still expensive for some, in the context of how much it would cost to go for a semester, it almost seems like the ultimate bargain.
An All-Inclusive Approach
Briefly referred to above, many semester-length programs may have additional fees for flights to and from the host country as well as out-of-pocket expenses for Visa registrations and even housing.
The majority of Maymester programs factor all basic needs into their fees, creating a more cohesive registration approach and further simplifying the process of study abroad for students.
Small Class Sizes
If you find value in working closely in small groups, building bonds over shared interests, and establishing a professional network of like-minded students before graduation, then a Maymester Study Abroad option may be your best bet. Because of the intensive nature of these programs, most cohorts are small, granted ‘small’ is relative to the individual.
For perspective, most semester programs have 150-200 students, while Maymesters tend to host 20-50 students (varies by home school size and application pool).
Demystifying the Myth about Non-Semester-Length Study Abroad
On an anecdotal note, and from my research, I do know that there is one BIG myth about Maymester programs (and often summer study abroad programs) and it is this:
“My program was only one to three weeks long, so can I consider this ‘studying abroad’?”.
I understand the premise of this doubt fully.
Maymesters, while known in the lexicon of many educators/educationists like myself and students who are researching them to enroll, is still not as widely known as a viable option for study abroad students and families.
For some students that I have advised in the past, they worry about how to effectively make their two-week stint in Bali, doing some awesome and serious research, sounds like more than “just a vacation” compared to their friends who spent five months in France on a traditional program.
This is a perception, not a fact. For study abroad, the “success” of the program is solely based on your output during it and your performance (in class, at your internship, etc), and much less about how long you were there.
Additionally, there are so many tactics that can be used to add color to your experience and tie it into relative points for a future academic program or employer that may be inquiring about your time away (I will cover this in a future blog!).
One of the exciting aspects of a Maymester is that it stands out compared to some of the longer programs many have done. As mentioned earlier, the concept is not as widely known outside of the university community, and based on the fact that your work during your time in May will be more focused, you can use it to show your genuine interest and passion for a topic area.
By now, you know how I feel about comparing yourself to others as well: stop doing it and live YOUR life.
Your Next Steps
Check with your school’s study abroad office (or advisor if they are working alone) and find out if there are any faculty-led/institutionalized Maymesters available that you can apply for. This includes getting basic details on locations, pricing, and structure of the program.
If you want to complete a Maymester program with an organized independent program not affiliated with your current school, check out some of the resources below. These organizations offer Maymester options each year:
Are you considering a Maymester program? If so, where are you looking to go and when? LEAVE A COMMENT!
Until next time,
Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide.
She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy.
In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.