Cole Caswell: Short Term vs Full Term Study Abroad Programs

I am now at the tail end of my time in Bordeaux and am less than a week from finishing my exchange. School is finished and now my time is spent preparing to leave and saying good bye’s to lots of amazing people I’ve had the chance to meet since arriving on New Year’s Eve. It is a sad thing to finish, as this was such a great time. But it does mean that I am just about finished my study abroad experiences through Capilano. Bordeaux was my second time doing study abroad. I also went to Vietnam last February through a 10-day field study. Taking part in both types of study abroad has been an awesome experience and it gives me the opportunity to make comparisons between the two different options.

Soooo, here are my thoughts on what the pros and cons are of each option. Some of you readers may be considering study abroad and may not know whether you want to do a field study or a 4-month exchange or both! If this is you, I hope this helps.

Short Term Programs

  • Field Studies are obviously through our school so you are with other Capilano students traveling in a foreign country for 10 days-3 weeks. This level of interaction is so much greater than that of a regular class at Capilano. So, this is a great opportunity to meet people from Capilano and to form friendships with likeminded people.

  • Going to a foreign country for four months by yourself or a couple other Capilano students can seem like a daunting task. A field study may be much less intimidating to students who think four months may be a little bit too much
  • It also requires less planning than an exchange so they can be decided upon closer to the date than exchanges
  • Travelling with instructors is a unique experience as they show and teach the students things that the normal traveller would not get to experience. References may be easier to find after a field study as well.
  • Studying over reading break or right after exams in May are both good ways to get ahead or catch up on a course or two as they do not interfere with the two main semesters.
  • It is also cheaper than an exchange as the duration is so much less.

Vietnam Field School 2013

  • Reading break is no longer a time to relax and catch up. The field study is at a fast pace because of the short period of time. I was exhausted after returning from Vietnam and had to get back into studying.

  • Although it was a great start for me with study abroad, it wasn’t enough. Ten days was only an appetizer and not a main course. I was left hungry.
  • It is simply not an exchange. The gains received from both experiences are greater with study abroad because it is for so much longer and you are left to be more independent.

Full Term Exchange

  • It is a great first step in getting true international experience. Living for 4ish months in another country will be a good indicator if it is something that interests you and may help you stand out on a resumé.

  • An exchange SHOULD help you with improving a 2nd, 3rd, 4th or whatever language. When I came to France I had taken courses in French in high school and university. I thought I spoke a little bit of French. When I arrived I realized I really didn’t. Since the first few days I really have improved, as I should’ve because I’m always able to practice the language when I desire.

  • After an exchange you’ll have friends not just from the country you studied in, but everywhere around the world. I will be travelling for approximately 6 weeks after leaving Bordeaux and for those 6 weeks I will pay for accommodation for maybe 7 nights. The rest of the nights will be spent at friend’s places I’ve met since January. For me this had been one of the true highlights.

  • Your knowledge of the country and the world will be much better after the exchange as putting yourself in a different country will typically do that.

  • An exchange is like going on a vacation that is more interesting and fulfilling. Amazingly, it can also help the participant progress in their career development. I truly believe it was the best time of my life and I’ve come out of it with contacts throughout Europe, an improved 2nd language, and much more knowledge. It creates an opportunity where you have the possibility of having a truly amazing experience while gaining things you can not while sitting in class at home.

Champagne on our balcony after the 2014 Men and Women's Hockey Gold

There is also many opportunities to do short weekend trips or for a vacation if you have a break in your studies. At home the average person has been to all the places they would like to go within a couple hours of traveling for example. When you’re in a new city, all those destinations a few hours away are new an exciting.

  • There is a fair amount of effort and planning that goes into it before. There’s applications, visas, meetings before etc. Probably the most important and strenuous is trying to save up as much money as humanly possible. It takes some discipline before the actual exchange begins but it is worth it.

  • It’s expensive. The cost of school is not more expensive, but there is many other costs including rent, airfare, and so on. Many of us still live at home so paying for rent and groceries may be expenses you are not used to.

  • It’s possible that it can be a little nerve racking. Some people may have personal doubts before arriving. I was uneasy before I left as my Dad was in and out of the hospital after an accident 5 days before leaving at Christmas dinner. The second I said goodbye though I was ok. There may be times where doubts may find their way into our brains but the challenges we face on an exchange are far from impossible tasks. They are fun challenges and only build confidence.
Cole is a third year Bachelor of Business Administration student studying abroad at INSEEC in Bordeaux, France.  Cole also participated in the 2013 Vietnam Field School. 


Popular posts from this blog

London Field School 2018 - Maryam, Larissa, and Lauren

Studying Abroad: Fastest Five Months!

Diana Do: MCI Summer School in Innsbruck, Austria