How to Make the Most of Summer Study Abroad Programs

December 20, 2017

Summer study abroad programs are wonderful opportunities to enrich your education expand your cultural horizons. Here are a few tips for making your experience memorable, positive and rewarding. Many students dream of spending their summers in exotic, faraway lands, but it is important to select your summer study abroad program strategically. How do you make sure your study abroad program is the right choice for your academic and personal needs? Here are a few tips for making sure your summer study abroad program is the correct fit for your personality and your goals.

Keep an open mind.

You might love “Downton Abbey” and “The Great British Bake Off,” but summer study abroad programs should deliver more than a dream vacation. Think carefully about which program opportunities will give you a significant professional advantage after graduation, and which will help you grow both personally and philosophically. If you want to study abroad in the U.K., it should be because the program offers you the very best opportunities to fulfill your personal, academic and career potential, not because you always wanted to shop on Carnaby Street.

Try to think creatively about which program will suit you. If you’d prefer an English-speaking region, consider New Zealand, which also has a large indigenous community with different customs and rich traditions. You may also consider choosing a region where English is one of several national languages, which will give you the opportunity to comfortably familiarize yourself with a few useful foreign language phrases in a conversational context.

Be prepared to work.

You’ll certainly want to immerse yourself in the culture of your summer study abroad destination, but remember – you only have a few weeks, so you can’t afford to spend as much time at concerts and clubs as you might like. Studying abroad successfully takes a fair amount of discipline – from managing your budget to managing your sleeping schedule – since you won’t necessarily have the same familial or friend network that holds you accountable at home. Keep a schedule so that you can organize your activities and optimize your time. You don’t have to make it completely inflexible, but you should use it to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind.

Be brave.

Spending time abroad takes a bit of bravery for students unused to spending significant amounts of time away from their homes or the communities with which they have formed an intimate familiarity. (It’s also important that you select the summer abroad study program that doesn’t overwhelm you to the point where you don’t feel you can comfortably take advantage of the inherent opportunities.) If you want to immerse yourself in another language, do your best to have conversations with locals in that language. If you want to take a day trip, do your research, and head out! You’ll make mistakes, but it’s all a part of developing the kind of resourcefulness and flexibility that will help expand your worldview and allow you to become a more confident and savvy traveler, student and professional.

Write a journal.

Or a blog. However, if you write a blog, structure it as much like a journal as you’re comfortable with. The point of documenting your experiences as a student abroad isn’t just to log your daily activities; it’s to organize your experiences honestly and unreservedly, and give yourself a platform to learn about how you’ve changed and grown as a result of your time living in a different country. If you find yourself blogging for your potential readers and not yourself, create an alternate journal that is more private, where you can feel safe recording your feelings.


ISEP takes pride in giving students from all socioeconomic backgrounds the tools and support they need to embark upon an international education. For more than four decades, ISEP has been committed to helping students pursue an education without borders, deepening their worldview and promoting diversity of experiences, friendships and opportunities. To learn more about ISEP summer study abroad programs, please visit our program finder page to find the program that’s right for you.

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