One week, 10 days, a month, a semester, a full academic year: there’s no “right” time limit for how long you spend abroad. Studying abroad is a very flexible experience, and each experience looks completely different for each person. The first time I went abroad, I spent a full semester studying. My time in my host country was immersive, in-depth, and incredibly culturally fulfilling, but I would also use those same three adjectives to describe my second experience abroad, which came a year later in the form of a spring break trip. This trip was more than 2 ½ months shorter than the former experience, but in no way was it less exciting or enriching. Time doesn’t determine the type of study abroad experience you have. You do.
Tips for short-term study abroad experiences:
Keep the out-of-town getaways to a minimum (or cut them out completely)
- If you’re staying in a spot for two weeks or less, you’re just barely going to have enough time to fully acclimate yourself to your host city. Worry less about seeing all the cool towns that are a train ride away and instead focus on the interesting spots that are right down the block from you.
Do your research
- Make a plan for what you want to do while in-country. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you don’t want to spend precious time googling the best museums and attractions when you could spend that time actually going to the best museums and attractions. Know what you want to do and make a mental plan for when and how you’re going to do it.
Download the appropriate apps
- Your phone is often your savior while in a new place, and that’s no different when you’re in an entirely new country. Come prepared with apps like Trip Advisor (look here for the best restaurant recommendations) and a public transit app with downloadable maps of your city. This will help you circumnavigate the “getting lost” rite of passage most people encounter.
Don’t be afraid to go off plan
- It’s best to come prepared for a short-term trip. But if your guide suggests a cool street market you’ve never heard of or recommends a unique tapas restaurant, take the local advice and go try something just because. Not everything needs to be built into your itinerary.
Talk to locals as much as possible
- In every location I’ve travelled to, the most memorable moments have come from engaging with and listening to the people living in the community. On short-term trips, it can sometimes be hard to connect with and meet local people. But in every instance I’ve encountered, people are always willing to talk, especially if you want to hear more from them about their beautiful country that you’ve decided to visit. Strike up conversation with the woman selling you a painting at the farmer’s market, or ask a bar owner how long their place has been around. There are stories and connections waiting to be made everywhere. The more you talk to people, the more you’ll get a taste of what makes a place tick.
By OGO Peer Advisor Marianne Dodson