Is there a time that's best to study abroad? Does anyone have any recommendations on which year or semester worked (or didn't work) for them?

4 Answers
I think the best time to study abroad is during your sophomore year or the first semester of junior year. This is when you are still taking gen ed classes and electives and not your capstone classes or advanced classes in your major. It also allows you to find internships the last few semesters of college and work towards landing a full time job after you graduate.
I studied abroad the spring semester of my junior year, and I think that this was the best decision for me. A lot of my friends were going at the same time, and because most of them were in Europe, we were able to meet up and do some traveling together. I also had a couple of friends who studied abroad the last semester of their senior year. Though this is very unusual, they both enjoyed having study abroad as their "last hurrah" in college. It gave them the opportunity to look for jobs abroad and meant that they could stay after the program ended to travel for as long as they wanted. However, it did mean that they missed out on their last semester with the rest of their class, so I think there are more sacrifices involved if you go senior year.
I would either do the summer after freshman year, the summer after sophomore year, or one of the semesters of your junior year! There are also internship opportunities abroad that would be great for the summer after junior year! Some people like to spend the summer traveling after they finish their senior year, which is something to consider depending on finances, job opportunities, etc.
In our study abroad department, we usually recommend studying abroad during your sophomore or junior years. This way, you will be used to living alone in a college environment, and still have elective credits left to use. You can save the intense upper level courses for your senior year at your home university. As for semester, I don't think it makes too much of a difference. If you're set on a certain location, I would check out the weather there in the spring/fall and see which sounds better to you!

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