Brave New World

Short-term study abroad programs offer long-term benefits


ost people are familiar with the typical study abroad setup: living with a host family and taking classes at a university with local students for a full semester. Area universities offer a plethora of options for students interested in broadening their horizons through such study abroad programs. In addition, short-term immersion programs over spring, winter or summer breaks have become increasingly popular.

Cincinnati native and University of Vermont senior Casey Manning spent four months in Denmark last year.

“Stuffing my ridiculously oversized suitcase the night before I left for Copenhagen was a really nerve-racking experience,” Manning says. “I’d always known I wanted to study abroad since I was young, but I always thought it would be in Paris because I took French in high school. And yet, I was going to Copenhagen. And despite everything I tried to imagine about what the next four months of my life would be like, everything that actually happened was nothing the way I thought it would be, but it was incredible nonetheless.”

Representatives from Northern Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati say there is growing interest in shorter trips abroad. According to NKU Abroad Advisor Beth Lorenz, short-term programs are the most popular choice for students at NKU.

“Many of our students have never really left this area before, so short-term programs allow students to go to a country for a few weeks or less,” she says. “They come back feeling empowered with what they accomplished. They realize, ‘I didn’t think I had it in me.’ ”

According to UC International Programs Director Kurt Olausen, three quarters of the 800 UC students who studied abroad during the 2009-10 schoolyear participated in programs that were eight weeks or less. Olausen says that the typical junior-year study abroad model is diminishing.

One local student, Rachel Berman, has completed two Honors Experiential Learning Trips through UC. As a freshman she went on a weeklong trip to Italy as part of a class called Ancient Roman Art, Architecture and Construction. Then as a junior she traveled to Russia for a class called Tolstoy’s 1812.

“Even one experience can really change your outlook on the world,” Berman says. “I obviously know a lot more about Italy and Russia because of it, but I also learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of.”

Another benefit to the short-term experience is that students are able to sample the study abroad lifestyle without putting a huge dent into their often-limited bank accounts, which Berman notes contributed to her being able to go abroad twice.

“Personally, I financed my trips with money that I had saved up,” she says. “Since I went for only short periods of time with groups it wasn’t too expensive.”

Bizzy Young, a junior at Miami University, went to Peru for 10 days this past spring and studied different lifestyles through cultural immersion. Young spent five days backpacking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and said the experience, though short, had an impact on her life.

“It helped me personally fit in better with those who go to my school, which was a bit of a challenge freshman year,” she says. “It has helped me realize how provincial we tend to be in America, and how vast the world really is.”

Whether you’re going abroad for spring break or a summer option, planning your studies and excursions can be just as important as what you do on the trip itself. Most local schools offer the option of going on school-sponsored programs led by faculty or finding a program sponsored by another university or company. However, for students interested in external programs, most study abroad offices require the student to have the program approved well before their departure date to confirm that proper credit will be earned.

Either way, it is recommended to talk to the school’s study abroad advisor early and often to see how these trips will fit into any given academic schedule.

Ohio State University sophomore Jordan Edelheit is currently on one of the more popular external programs in the country, Semester at Sea. This program, run by the University of Virginia, allows students to visit 10 countries or more during a single month or over a summer or full semester while traveling and taking classes on a cruise liner.

“Semester at Sea is unique to anything else I have ever heard of,” Edelheit says. “One reason is simply because the ‘homebase’ takes place on a ship that becomes your main means of transportation from country to country.”

Edelheit is currently on an 11-week voyage around the Mediterranean Sea, during which she and 675 other students stop at nearly every country along the Mediterranean coastline.

No matter the study abroad program, there is no doubt it will be an enriching experience that will affect your college years for the better.

“I am who I am today because of my time spent abroad and the many people who have been willing to teach me about their lifestyle, culture and traditions,” Edelheit says.