Though you have just arrived on campus, I am sure you and the rest of the freshman class have already become aware of the fact that study abroad opportunities are one of Wake Forest’s selling points. If you have not heard yet, prepare to be inundated with posters, signs, emails and fairs urging you to join the ranks of more than half of the student body who will study abroad during their time here.
Of course, you will not be going abroad soon. The majority of students do so during their junior year, but that should not preclude you from reading the literature. Even if you haven’t the slightest inkling of where you would like to go, browsing the options can help reveal the plethora of options Wake Forest has to offer.
Luckily, there are few locations worldwide that Wake Forest cannot help you travel to in some way —barring, say, North Korea. Though not every program is led by Wake Forest you have access to an array of affiliate programs, run by other universities and companies, which offer an abroad experience in nearly every location.
Once you have determined that you are indeed interested in enrolling in a program, one of the most difficult choices students make is between an abridged summer session or a full-length semester, either in the fall or the spring of the academic year. There are strong cases to be made for any of these choices, but each one has its share of drawbacks.
Going abroad in the summer allows students to experience eight full semesters on campus, which is perhaps the most appealing part of studying abroad during the summer. Not having to miss a semester of fun with friends is the most obvious reason to choose a summer program, but it also allows you to accumulate credits outside the academic year, potentially placing you ahead in your classes. Limited course offerings in certain fall or spring programs could set you back or keep you stagnant, depending on your major.
Summer programs, however, are often shorter than their counterparts in the spring and fall. They usually last around two months as opposed to four. Furthermore, students who choose to study abroad in the summer also take a larger financial hit. If you are not awarded a scholarship, which most of you already know are rare at Wake Forest, you will exit the summer several thousand dollars lighter than you entered it.
In the spring or fall — fall being the more popular choice — students often spend less money on their program than they would on room, board and tuition during a semester at Wake Forest. One of the perks of having chosen a prohibitively expensive university is that a $25,000 study abroad program can save you up to $10,000 during that semester.
Fall and spring programs also allow you to immerse yourself in the culture of your home city or country more than the shorter summer programs do, and you will have far more weekends to visit neighboring nations, diversifying your experience and slowing what could be a frenetic pace of travel forced by a summer program.
In short, the bottom line is that, no matter where you go or when you go, just be sure to go.
Imagine yourself 25 years from now for a moment. You could have children, an incredibly taxing job, limited vacation and bills up to your eyes. Full of regret, you may utter an oft-heard lamentation about wishing you had taken your lone shot to study abroad. It will almost surely be decades before you find another tailor-made opportunity to drop everything to study and to live in a foreign country. So, go live a lot and study a little before the real world rears its ugly head.