Students have a lot of choices when it comes to studying abroad. In addition to selecting the perfect location, coursework, and time of year, students must also decide how long to stay. One option that provides several benefits is staying for an entire school year. Although some students may be intimidated by this time-commitment, returned study abroad student Ana Lucia and Academic Advisor Nicole Staab explain why an Academic Year program may be the perfect fit.
There’s so much to do and see while abroad. From iconic monuments to local hangouts, every study abroad location offers tons of activities and mini-adventures. Instead of counting weekends to plan excursions and worrying about fitting in bucket list items, Academic Year students can take things slowly, stop to appreciate the small things, and still not miss out on any must-see attractions.
“One of the key takeaways from going for a whole academic year is that it allowed me time to feel like Paris was truly my home. I was in no rush, I could take everything in, take life slow, and appreciate everything about the city. Museums are free for students, so I could go to a new, iconic museum every weekend. I could walk the city whenever I wanted, have a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, try new French cuisine, go to a park, a concert, an art show, a market; there was just so much to do!”
–Ana Lucia (Paris, France: Academic Year 2019-2020)
Additionally, students who go abroad for a full school year get to experience seasonal changes and holidays or events spread throughout the year.
“I was able to see the whole year of seasons; I arrived in summer, where all of the flowers were in full bloom, the Luxembourg Gardens were beautiful, Versailles, everything. Come Christmas, I could see the beautiful Christmas markets and lights throughout the city. Then I could see it all cycle again. This also allowed me to experience many different events held in different months- in the city, but also in other countries, like Oktoberfest in Germany.”
Studying abroad means furthering one’s independence, self-reliance, and confidence. Going for a full year means practicing these skills over time and turning them into habits.
“My year abroad in South Korea taught me so many life lessons but most importantly it taught me to believe in myself. Being away in a foreign country will undoubtedly bring some fears, but the courage to take the first step into a new adventure will bring so many meaningful life experiences. Studying abroad will help you grow into your true self. Do not let the fear hold you back!”
–Nicole Staab (Study Abroad Alumna and Academic Advisor for Film & Television)
Meeting people from around the world is one of the best ways to broaden one’s perspective and appreciate the global community. Some of the best friends, professors, and mentors can be found while studying abroad, and spending a whole year with them can help strengthen that bond.
“For the friends I made that also were there for both semesters, I was able to grow even closer to them. Additionally, I was able to meet new people each semester, since some people only came for Fall and others only for Spring. I grew even closer to my “host mom”, and she became a really close friend of mine, as well. It was hard having such a tight knit group of friends my first semester, where the majority of them were only there for one semester. It was difficult to transition into making new friends again, and I really missed them. But it also helped me appreciate the friends that did stay for the year, and it allowed me to make new friends, as well.”
Additionally, students abroad can find ways to stay connected with friends and family at home. Through video calls, virtual hangouts, trips home for winter break, or even having people come visit throughout the year, students can avoid feeling like they’re missing out on connections and activities back home.
“It was actually difficult to go home in the end. My life felt so established in Paris, and I fell in love with the city. I was comfortable in my life there, and I wanted to travel more, learn more, and stay with my friends. On the other hand, it was hard not seeing my friends and family—they were not only far away, but it was sometimes difficult to feel connected to them due to the time difference. I went home for Christmas break, and I was really happy I did. It felt like no time had gone by, and it was amazing to get caught up on everyone’s lives at home, share my experiences, and know that I still had a whole other semester to live it up! That return home was like a recharge for me, seeing all of my loved ones together.”
Whether a student takes classes for their major, general education coursework, or for a second language, the University of Arizona’s partner universities abroad offer excellent academic opportunities. Plus, learning through a different culture’s perspective is an eye-opening experience. For example, students might explore astronomy from a different hemisphere, or world history from a different country’s point of view, or ecology in a different ecosystem. Additionally, students studying a language have the opportunity to practice in and outside of the classroom. The longer a student stays abroad, the more incredible classes they can take.
“I was able to get a better hang of French; I saw tremendous improvement in my classes from one semester to the next. I was also able to experience more courses at an amazing university, make more connections with professors, attend more career development events, and overall expand my knowledge.”
Certain majors even create plans for students to study abroad all year. For example, the Chemistry department provides a Global Track for students that allows them to attend UA Tarragona (in Tarragona, Spain) for the entirety of their Junior year. By planning ahead with their academic advisor, Chemistry students can take the following courses in Spain.
Even if a department or major doesn’t provide a Global Track, students can still work with their advisors to plan out an incredible year abroad.
“I encourage students interested in studying abroad for a year to definitely plan ahead by doing research on the program and university abroad they want to attend! Meeting with your academic advisors, as well as your study abroad coordinators, will help you ensure you’re making the most of your academic experience there! Having courses that follow your degree path will alleviate the stress of staying on track for graduation when you return to the University of Arizona. Communication is key! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, your advisors and coordinators are here to help you!”
Although a year-long program may seem like a big expense, scholarships and careful planning can make this experience as affordable as a year on campus. Some programs allow students to use all of their financial aid and scholarships, as discussed in this table.
“It used to be that only up to one semester was covered by scholarships, but it was changed to two! That was all I needed to hear. I was so excited to go; I wanted to have as much time as possible to explore, improve my French, and take everything in. It would not have been possible without the scholarship applicability, and I am beyond lucky and grateful for going two semesters.
Plus, students can spread out their bigger expenses, like any extra travel, throughout the year. Instead of paying to travel each weekend for a few months, students can pinpoint times they already travel in normal years (such as winter break or spring break) and plan their extra trips then. Local airlines or train systems can provide affordable travel across a student’s host country and host continent.
“With two semesters, I was able to budget better, plan my trips and my priorities, and go on more trips! I traveled to Italy, London, Versailles, Germany, and did a Paris countdown with one of my friends, where every weekend, we would go to a new “arrondissement”, or district of Paris, since they’re all so unique with different things to see and do.”
For some final advice:
“Once you’re there, enjoy your time! Travel to other places, eat new foods, take lots of pictures, meet and learn from new people, and delve into opportunities to immerse yourself in the culture. Take the time to research the country you will be visiting, learn some of the language and embrace the differences you will encounter. Whatever you take from this year will last you a lifetime!
One of my favorite quotes from Anthony Bourdain says, ‘Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.’”
Programs Accepting Applications for Academic Year 2022-2023
-University of Nottingham: Nottingham, United Kingdom (applications due 4/8)
-University of East Anglia: Norwich, United Kingdom (applications due 4/15)
-Université Jean Moulin: Lyon, France (applications due 4/15)
-UA Aix-en-Provence: Aix-en-Provence, France (applications due 4/15)
-University of Bristol: Bristol, United Kingdom (applications due 4/15)
-UA Tarragona: Tarragona, Spain (applications due 5/1)
-Mahidol University International College: Bangkok, Thailand (applications due 4/25)
-UA Phnom Penh: Phnom Penh, Cambodia (applications due 5/1)
-UA Lima: Lima, Peru (applications due 5/1)
-Tec de Monterrey: Campuses Throughout Mexico (applications due 5/15)