Ask almost any Boston College student and they will tell you that they love it here on The Heights. There is plenty to appreciate. Our campus is so aesthetically pleasing that we have several Instagram accounts dedicated to its buildings, sunsets, and views. And many people will argue that nothing beats the city of Boston. They will crown the architecture, history, food, and sports teams as the best on the East coast. And they are right. But what about all those cities outside of the cushioned bubble we call Boston? And those beyond the United States? Opinions may start to change when cities like Venice or London or Sydney are included in the running for the best place to attend school.
BC, undeniably, is a great place to go to school. The academics and location make for a campus of opportunity. But what if you had the chance to spend a semester somewhere else in the world? Many fortunate students choose to do this, taking a few months away from BC to learn in another country. Not only is this an incredible opportunity to see the world and travel, but it also allows us to experience new people, places, and cultures. In turn, as we gain new perspectives and grow, when it comes time to return stateside, we can implement these ideas into our classes, careers, and lives.
There are a lot of questions to resolve when you decide to study abroad. Where do I want to go? What kind of program do I want to apply for—an internship program, full-time classes, or a combination of both? What classes can I take? Will my credits transfer? Where even is Hovey House? But one of the most important questions—which can easily be overlooked in the midst of all the other choices that have to be made—is the question of when. When do I want to go abroad? Choosing when to study abroad shapes your junior year, so it is important to weigh all your options.
There are some general things that are important to consider when deciding the time of year that you want to go abroad. First and foremost—weather. The climate, temperature, and environment that you will be experiencing everyday can make or break your time abroad. Is there a rainy season somewhere that you want to avoid (or rather, do you want to miss the Boston snow…I know I do)? Maybe you want to see Paris in the spring or Amsterdam in the fall. You also might want to consider the holidays and events happening wherever you plan to go. Has it always been your dream to go to Oktoberfest in Munich? Or would your time in Italy be incomplete if you could not go to the Carnival of Venice?
On the other hand, also consider events at BC or at home that you would want to be here for. If you don’t want to cheer on the Eagles from South America, go abroad during the spring so you can be here for football and hockey games. You might also want to go in the spring if you want to be home for Thanksgiving. But if Marathon Monday and Showdown are BC traditions you cannot bear to miss, then maybe you will be happier going abroad in the fall.
Going abroad in the fall also means you will have the spring semester to prepare plans for graduate school applications and the ill-awaited MCAT, LSAT, or GRE. While accommodations can be made, it can be much harder to apply and interview for jobs and internships when you are on the other side of the world. To boot, the longer spring semester abroad (which can go well into June) may cut into valuable working time during the summer. But keep in mind that if you are returning to BC in January, you are entering late to a school year that has already begun.
If you do not want to miss any time at BC, then your best option might be a summer program. You will get to spend your whole junior year with your friends in Boston. Additionally, being here to take all the classes you need for either your major or the core can reduce a lot of stress. Being able to participate in your favorite clubs and traditions can definitely eliminate the FOMO that comes with being gone during the year, too. You get to spend all holidays and breaks at home with family, and if you are more of a homebody, the shorter programs (usually lasting 4-6 weeks) lessen bouts of homesickness. That being said, going abroad during the summer does not allow for a full internship or job during that time, robbing you of moneymaking and resume building opportunities. Quite possibly, though, the biggest downfall to a summer program is its short stay. With so much material to be squeezed into several weeks, sojourns in small towns and experiences venturing down a coastline may be forgone.
There is no singular best time to go abroad. It is different for everyone; it depends on plans for junior year, post-grad, and personal preferences. But my vote is one with the current: the spring. Going abroad in the spring enables you to experience the excitement of move-in, Boston’s fall, and football season. The spring semester abroad is also slightly longer, allowing for more time to learn and travel in other countries. Nevertheless, the choice to opt for spring versus fall or vice versa is a different process for everyone, and is solely up to the individual. Time abroad is meant for growth and new experiences, and rest assured you will have those regardless of time or place. So good luck and bon voyage, Eagles!