The Benefits of Studying Abroad for a Year

Studying abroad, for any length of time, is one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime.

Not only can studying abroad have a huge effect on how you approach and view the world, but most students share personal growth and life-changing moments as well.

The one thing we always hear from students upon returning from abroad is “I wish I had stayed longer.”

The longer you can immerse yourself in another culture, the more comfortable you’ll become, the more you’ll grow, the more you’ll learn, and the more you’ll fall in love with what will quickly become your second home.

Study Abroad in Madrid
Madrid, Spain

Finding a study abroad term that works for you

We understand that finding a study abroad term and location that works best for your academic goals is important.

One of the first questions we see from inquiring students is how their study abroad experience can be worked into their academic schedules.

At USAC, we offer yearlong study abroad terms in nearly every one of our program countries. You can work with a program advisor to determine which locations offer classes that will enable you to stay a year while staying on track with school.

Stirling, Scotland
Stirling, Scotland

Aside from academics, the most hesitation we see from students doing a yearlong term come from fear.

  • Fear of being away from home for a year
  • Fear of falling behind in classes at their home university
  • Uncertainty on how to work out the details of studying abroad for a year, especially when they went abroad for a semester
  • Financial worries of paying to study abroad for a year

We do realize that yearlong terms are not for everyone, which is why we also offer summer, spring and fall terms. You can even decide to start on a shorter term and extend your stay to a semester or yearlong, or even go back for a second term.

To help you make your decision, we spoke with four USAC alum that studied abroad for a year. Their insight is not only inspiring but helps face some of the most common yearlong fear we hear.

Why did you decide to study abroad for a year?

“Way back in the day, my mom studied abroad for a summer. She always told me that her biggest regret was that she didn’t go for a whole year. So when I signed up to study abroad, it wasn’t even a question of how long to go for. I knew I needed to go for the whole year.” Justine Toro, Dublin, Ireland 2010-2011.

“I had been told that people always wish they could stay abroad longer, and if I could make it work to stay for a year I should just go for it. I had wanted to study abroad since around my sophomore year in high school, so I made sure to save and budget appropriately when selecting a college to ensure that I would have the funds to stay for a year.” Kayla Pennington, Viterbo, Italy 2015-2016.


Dublin, Ireland – Photo by Kayla Pennington

How do you feel your experience abroad differed from those who only studied a summer or semester?

“Around ¾ of the way through a program, everyone starts to realize that they’re really not ready to go home yet.  It takes time to adjust when you study abroad — you have to go through the stages of culture shock and acclimation before you really feel comfortable. Even on a semester program, it seems like the program ends right as you’re starting to feel like you have things figured out.  Personally, I think the first semester was necessary for me to get used to being so far outside of my comfort zone.

It wasn’t until the second semester that I really started to fully take advantage of my time abroad. In fact, even in my third and fourth semesters, I was still figuring out new ways to get the most of my time abroad.  Also, since so much of a culture is hidden below the surface, you stand to learn a lot by staying longer.

Finally, there is so much you can see and do while you’re abroad on top of what your own host city has to offer. You’ll never be able to do it all, but it’s nice to have the time to hit the priorities on your list during a yearlong program.  A short summer or semester program just isn’t long enough!” Sarah Maier, Pau France/Lüneburg, Germany 2012-2013; Lüneburg, Germany 2015-2016

Pau Basque Country
Pau, France

What advice/tips would you give to students who are determining whether to study a summer, semester or year?

“Every student’s situation is different, so finding the term and location that works best for them and their academic goals is important. I do recommend being abroad for as long as possible not only to travel, but also because there is so much that can be learned and experienced first-hand while abroad.” Jake Longero, Lyon, France 2015-2016

“I always advise other students to go for a year. It’s one of the only times in your life, and certainly the easiest time in your life, when you can do something like that. Cost is a big sticking point for most students, but it’s not like it wouldn’t cost you to keep on living where you’re currently living! Think of it like this: you’re either paying for a bus pass in Ireland or paying for gas and car insurance living in California. You’re either paying rent in Ireland, or paying rent in California. That goes for everything: groceries, personal expenses, etc. A lot of times, you could even save money depending on where you study, and what cost of living you’re used to in the US. I went to school in the bay area, and Dublin is a more pricey city, so for me it was pretty equal. However, some places in Africa, Asia, Latin America, or even Eastern Europe, have a cheaper cost of living compared to what you’re used to in the US. Also, financial aid applies to the majority of study abroad programs, there’s a lot of scholarships offered so everyone should be taking full advantage of those!” Justine Toro

“I would suggest that students not base their decisions solely on the costs of different terms. Obviously individual finances will always play a part in the choice you make, but I truly believe that it is worth every penny to accomplish your goals and take the amount of time you need to do so.  Regardless of the length, you choose to study abroad. I can guarantee that it will be a wonderful experience that you will treasure for the rest of your life.” Sarah Maier


Study Abroad for a year