The Underrated Value Of Fall Study Abroad Programs
There’s something that’s perfect about Autumn/Fall that just brings a smile to my face. As someone who is not a big fan of extremely warm weather, the cooler crispier air might be what makes my heart skip a beat. It could also be that it’s one of the only times of the year where it feels like you can start anew.
The crazy days of summer have gone, but you’re not quite in the rush of the mid-Winter holidays. When you take a vacation, there will be fewer people (insert Introvert swoon), and the sights and scenes are something to be wowed at.
For students seeking a study abroad opportunity, Fall semesters can be underrated. They are not as glamorized as Spring semesters or Summer Semesters for starters. Think back to any recent advertisements you may have seen for studying abroad.
You’ll find lots of marketing and communications materials that discuss how to ‘Soak Up The Sun in X location this Summer while you learn a new language’ and how fun it will be as the stock photos show students enjoying gelato in the brightly glazed piazza.
Admittedly, as a marketer myself, there is so much more to “sell” about warmer weather, however as a dedicated study abroad advisor and form multi-fall study abroad student, I know the value of spending a semester (or in my case, LOTS of semesters) away in the more ‘off peak’ time of overseas study travel.
Personalized, Smaller Study Abroad Programs
Specifically for students on the semester program track (full degree programs can vary), Fall Study Abroad Programs are an outstanding option if you are searching for personalized attention and the chance to gain more opportunities.
Most fall semester programs have 25-30 percent fewer students than the Spring or Summer, which means there’s an opportunity for instructors to truly focus their work. You may also find that if you are interning while abroad that you may be given more (and sometimes more exciting) responsibilities than you would during other parts of the year.
The smaller group of students in the selection pool provides temporary employers with the ability to not only choose the best without pressure but also find a way to utilize your talents and skills to help with projects that would be spread much thinner in the Spring or Summer.
One of my favorite parts of a fall program I completed in London was how instead of lecture-style classes, our teachers would allow those of us in the course (there were only 20 of us for my particular program, although, on average for the Fall, 75 students is considered large), to take turns coming up with our own lectures that were closely related to the topic of the class. We would outline as a class and then each person would take their own “subject area” to lead in an upcoming week.
During busier months, instructions would have been far less flexible and focused on getting the information to students in a timely manner since there are not only more during this period, but depending on your program, Spring and Summer semesters abroad may also be shorter in length.
While student led-seminar is just one example, there are so many others to choose from including being able to travel with ease when you’re out of class, making quick day trips without congestion, and being able to build more genuine relationships with locals, etc.
Creating a Space for Obligations Back Home
Now, this is one that surprises people or that is often overlooked as a value (underrated!) of Fall Study Abroad Semesters. As a student, you are no doubt very busy all the time with many obligations from a part-time job, potentially social activities on and off-campus, and also just existing as a human that has to function in society.
A golden benefit of Fall Study Abroad Programs is that it helps you build in additional space to complete anything that is required for your degree program (or other commitments) within the second half of the school year.
For example, I worked with a student in 2017 who was studying at Tulane University in New Orleans. She had already decided that she wanted to study abroad via an organized independent program during the Fall Semester of her undergraduate sophomore year because, in her last years of college, she would be busy, preparing in advance for a nursing degree and potentially searching for internships, so this was the only time it could fit.
One of her required core classes (that you MUST have to graduate) was also only offered every Spring. So while it would have been easier for her to go during a semester when many more of her classmates and friends were attending, she made the choice to go during the autumn semester to Spain.
During one of our follow-up conversations, she told me that she ‘could not believe she had been hesitant about studying abroad in the fall semester because it has been one of the best decisions she’d ever made.
Throughout her semester away, not only was she able to work on and earn elective credits that would transfer over to help her degree, BUT she also was able to make connections with some of the local hospitals in Spain and received an unofficial ‘walk-on’ internship (essentially she was allowed to shadow nurse and doctors, although she did not have much interaction with patients). This introduction had been made by one of her advisors onsite at the study abroad program who found out she was the only student that semester interested in nursing.
He thought she might find it helpful down the road to be able to see up close how a different healthcare system works and that this might help further encourage and reaffirm her interest in Nursing – and it most certainly did!
Now can I guarantee that the same opportunity would not have been available in a Spring or Summer semester? I can’t, but what I will say is that it is not uncommon to have additional benefit add-ons in off peak study abroad semesters.
I have not only heard about it but experienced it in many ways myself, which is why I want to encourage you to explore these options and consider a Fall Study Abroad Program for your own potential luck in the making.
Interested in hearing about the other underrated values of Fall Study Abroad Programs that you’ll likely LOVE? Click the video below, to begin with, #3.
Where are you in your study abroad search process? Still on the hunt for a program, or simply trying to determine if you should go in the Fall or Spring?
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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.