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Planning Your Study Abroad Trip

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Nicole Adams

Embarking on a study abroad or gap year program is an exciting opportunity to expand your academic horizons and pursue personal growth while immersing yourself in a new culture or experience. One of the key factors to consider when planning your study abroad journey is the timing and duration of the program, in addition to the location. Once you understand how these programs work, you can decide the best approach and program for your international education experience. 

How Do Study Abroad and Gap Year Programs Work? 

Determining the when, where and duration of your study abroad or gap year program is a crucial step in planning your international education journey. Whether you choose a short-term program, a summer adventure, a semester-length immersion, an academic year abroad, or a multi-year study experience, each duration provides unique opportunities for academic growth, cultural enrichment, and personal development. 

  • Short-Term Study Abroad Programs (1-4 Weeks): Short-term study abroad programs offer a concentrated and immersive experience in a relatively brief timeframe. These programs are typically designed to complement a specific course or topic and provide a glimpse into a different culture or academic field.
  • Short-Term Gap Programs (1-3 Months): Short-term gap programs are ideal for those looking for a condensed, immersive experience within a specific timeframe, usually spring or fall dates. These programs often focus on specific interests like language learning or outdoor adventures, providing a snapshot of a new culture or a specific area of study.
  • Summer Programs (4-12 Weeks): Summer programs are popular options for students who want to supplement their educational pursuits during the summer break. The advantages of a summer program is the flexibility to explore a new destination or interest while still maintaining your regular academic schedule.
  • Semester-Length Programs (3-6 Months): Semester-length study abroad and gap programs allow for a more in-depth experience while still fitting within a typical semester schedule. These programs often provide a mix of coursework, cultural excursions, independent exploration and the chance to engage with the local community.

Some students choose to do a shorter study abroad program, while others opt for full-year or even multi-year programs. Taken either right after high school or between college years, a gap year is a structured break from formal academics that offers a chance to travel, volunteer, explore and discover yourself as well as consider what type of education and career you want to pursue. The ultimate goal of a gap year is to discover yourself, what you love, what you’re skilled at, what the world needs and what you can make a career of. 

  • Academic Year Programs: Academic year study abroad programs offer the longest and most immersive experience and the ability to fully integrate into the host culture, gain fluency in a foreign language, and form lasting connections with local students and professors. 
  • Full-Year Gap Programs: A full-year gap program allows for a more immersive and comprehensive experience including a deeper understanding of the local culture, increased language proficiency. Full-year programs provide ample time to integrate into the local community, develop meaningful relationships, and engage in in-depth academic or professional pursuits.
  • Multi-Year Study Abroad Experiences: For students seeking an extended international education experience, multi-year study abroad programs provide the opportunity to pursue a degree or complete a significant portion of their academic journey in a foreign country. These longer-term commitments offer a truly transformative academic and cultural experience.
  • Multi-Year Gap Experiences: For those seeking an extended gap year or multiple gap year experiences, multi-year programs offer a transformative journey of exploration and personal growth. These longer-term commitments can provide a more profound impact on personal and professional development.

Ultimately the duration of your program will depend on where and how you’d like to study and explore. Study abroad programs usually have a structured curriculum, with predetermined courses and academic requirements, while gap year programs are more experiential in nature, emphasizing personal growth, self-discovery and exploration. Gap years provide individuals with the opportunity to take a break from formal education to engage in activities such as travel, volunteer work, internships, cultural immersion, or pursuing personal interests.

Four Places to Study Abroad with Where There Be Dragons 

Study abroad and gap year programs offer the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, language and way of life. Through our gap year and study abroad programs, students gain a greater understanding of community, culture, art, nature and politics of the local region. Each program is dedicated to specific concepts, experiences, and education, and all prioritize responsible travel and immersive experiences. 

Amid the backdrop of the Himalayas, Nepal is a remarkable region known for its ancient spirituality and deep-rooted traditions. Students traveling and learning in Nepal will study language, meet with local scholars and activists, retreat to a Buddhist monastery, and more. Based in the Kathmandu Valley, this 3-month program offered in both the spring and fall, also includes the opportunity to trek through the world’s most stunning mountain range backcountry and learn about the evolution and history of the Himalayas. 

Venture along the Central Andes in South America to explore some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Students will learn about the blend of history and culture throughout remote areas of Peru and Bolivia, including Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley town of Urubamba, the twin cities of La Paz and El Alto, and beyond in these 3 month programs offered in the spring and fall. Students engage in daily life amid the Amazon Rainforest and Andes mountains and the people who call this land home.  

Guatemala is an ecologically diverse country just south of Mexico with rich Mesoamerican heritage. Gain a greater understanding of the Spanish language, understand political activism and issues impacting the region, and explore the ancestral lands of the Maya people. Throughout this 3-month program offered in spring and fall, students learn about indigenous cultures through immersive experiences like working on communal farms, rural homestays, and one-on-one language study. 

Experience the beauty and majesty of Indonesia, the world’s most biodiverse region. Learn about the impacts of modernization and tourism, as well as the rich culture and history of this region. Spanning from Malaysia to Australia, the 7,000 equatorial islands all boast unique traits, culture, traditions, and environments. During this 3-month program offered in the spring and fall, students will learn to spearfish with sea nomads, study Javanese arts, visit hidden hot springs in the jungle, and more.

Where There Be Dragons has a wide variety of spring and fall gap year programs and summer programs all over the world. We’d love to answer questions and get you on your way to an incredible adventure. Call 800.982.9203 or contact us today. 

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