Study Abroad: Short-Term, Semester, or Academic Year – How do I Choose?

Study abroad students posing at the SSA Center in Seville.
Study abroad students posing at the SSA Center in Seville.

Study Abroad: Short-Term, Semester, or Academic Year – How do I Choose?

You recently decided to study abroad, but now you are stuck deciding between studying for a short-term, semester, or academic year program. There are pros and cons to all three, though we are here to help you seamlessly finalize your decision.

To begin with, you should ask yourself, What are my goals or potential barriers?

  • Unable to miss any part of the school year? We have short-term programs available!
  • Do you want to improve your language skills and get a taste of another culture but need to be back at your home institution for a specific semester seminar? Then a semester program is for you.
  • Ready to take the full leap into cultural immersion and experience life as a local? Apply for an academic year in any of our six locations. 

Study Abroad Short-Term Programs

For students who cannot take a semester program, Spanish Studies Abroad offers a variety of short-term programs: January TermMay Term, Summer Term I and II, and Internships/Service Learning. There is also the opportunity to complete a Summer Practicum in Education in our Seville location. 

SSA summer term students at UPF in Barcelona.
SSA summer term students at UPF in Barcelona.

A short-term program is perfect if your academic calendar and studies require you to remain at your home institution throughout the school year. Spend a month or two in the destination of your choice and dip your toes into an international experience. You’ll still have the opportunity to improve your language skills, stay with a host family, and make friends and memories to last a lifetime! A short-term program is also a great option if you’re hoping to keep costs to a minimum. You have to admit, a European summer sounds like a dream!

Check your school´s calendar to see which options could work for you.

Study Abroad Semester Programs

Semester programs typically range from three to five months, depending on the location. You will gain the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture and have a life-changing experience. Semester programs stand out on your resume when you start to look for a job because future employers know that immersing yourself in a different culture for a semester is challenging. It often helps you grow as a person.

Students and our past Barcelona Resident Director enjoying an included semester excursion. 

Learn the ins and outs of Spanish culture — siesta, por favor — or Puerto Rican lingo, become an expert in Cuban history or even develop an Argentinian accent. You can enroll in classes that go toward your degree while taking a couple of fun electives. A semester term is typically the most popular among Spanish Studies students, and they see huge improvements in their Spanish proficiency.

We also recommend looking into visa requirements; for example, an International Program semester in Seville is less than 90 days, meaning you won’t need to go through the extensive visa process. 

Plan ahead with your academic advisor to fit a semester into your schedule. We promise you that a semester abroad will be the most memorable one of your undergraduate years. 

SSA students with our past Barcelona Resident Director enjoying an included semester excursion.
SSA students with our past Barcelona Resident Director enjoying an included semester excursion.

Study Abroad Academic Year Programs

Living abroad for an extended period is not for the faint of heart. There will be times when you will miss home and want nothing more than to be with family and friends, but there will also be times when you can’t see life any other way and look forward to each day in your host country. 

Córdoba, SSA Argentina alum during a hike.
Córdoba, SSA Argentina alum during a hike.

Studying abroad for an academic year is a completely immersive experience. Throughout the first semester, you will be able to conquer obstacles like housing, language barriers, or just becoming comfortable with culture shock. 

As the year continues, you will reap the benefits of being comfortable and confident in your surroundings and the opportunity to spend more time with new friends and excel academically. Additionally, you may find a new hobby or discover a new internship opportunity. Some extra planning might be involved in spending a full academic year abroad. However, the experience is well within reach. 

Studying abroad is often quoted as the most memorable experience of a student’s undergraduate degree. The experience broadens your cultural horizons to appreciate traditions, lifestyles, and foods that may differ from yours. Many students create new friendships to last a lifetime while building a global network for future employment opportunities. 

There are endless positives to adding a study abroad opportunity to your educational career. We know that whichever option you choose, you will love every aspect of your time abroad. Make sure to meet with an advisor at your college’s education abroad office, as they will also be able to direct you toward the right length of time for your degree path.

Check out our website or email [email protected] with any questions you may have. We’re more than happy to help! 

Best wishes from SSA.

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beth tyler

Beth Tyler


Beth is your go-to contact for navigating the complex process of study abroad. 

She aims to respond to all inquiries within one business day.

Don’t hesitate to drop a message. No question is too small!

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