Exchange isn’t the be all and end all: try short-term study abroad

March 15, 2016
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We’ve all heard the fantastical stories of enlightenment and debauchery from our friends who’ve come back from exchange. We scroll past their Facebook posts with secret envy as we watch them travel to magical lands, posing in front of famous landmarks and partying with new foreign friends. But for those of us who think going on exchange is an entirely unfeasible idea, I come bearing glad tidings: not all is lost, comrades!

Unbeknownst to many students, most Australian unis offer short-term study abroad programs, which allow for an international learning experience without the long-term commitment. Last year I undertook a month-long study abroad program in Asia and recently completed another one in Central America. Both programs were incredible experiences, and best of all, were both credited towards my degree as electives.

Here are just a few reasons to jump at the opportunity.

Scared of commitment? Your little trip is like a friends with benefits situation

You’re able to combine study and travel in an exciting way without having to commit to an entire semester or year spent overseas, which can be difficult for some students. Whether it’s due to being apart from your family and friends for so long, work or other reasons, sometimes such a large chunk of time is just too much to take on.

For just three to six weeks of overseas study, you’re usually able to gain academic credit for an entire subject. Even for students who are somehow unable to receive credit for their study, it's still a chance for an amazing student experience, broadening your understanding and appreciation for the world outside of the land Down Under.

And once you’re finished making the most of your trip, off you go back to the comfort of your own home (and cat or dog or fish), no strings attached.

No money? No worries!

Going on exchange is often quite expensive, thus making it inaccessible for many students on tighter budgets. Short-term programs are naturally much less costly.

If you still lack sufficient funds, the government also provides students with OS-HELP Loans between $6,500 and $7,700, and this usually covers flights and the cost of the program. Thanks, ‘Straya! Further grants and scholarships are also available, depending on what your uni provides. 

It’s basically a mini holiday

These programs take place over the summer or winter breaks so they don’t interfere with your usual studies. And sure, you’re still going over there to study, but let’s be honest: you’re not going to let all the pretty sights and lights slip from grasp. Apart from a few hours of classes during the day, you’ll have the opportunity to explore and mingle, meet new people from different parts of the earth, and feel like a child of the universe with the world at your fingertips. (Hashtag wanky, hashtag wanderlust.)

Note that these programs may not be advertised all over the place at your uni, so you may have to seek them out. Delve into the depths of your uni website or ask student services, and you’ll no doubt find a few programs that pique your interest. Some unis have whole lists of countries and courses to take, while others may be more limited. Just do your research and take the plunge!

N Jacobs