By David White
In recent years, the ways in which students can pursue a degree from an American college or university have expanded greatly. Between online programs, satellite campuses, and other “off-campus” options, international students have more choices than ever before. But if you are seeking the traditional on-campus experience, there are still two primary ways of going about it: studying abroad or enrolling full-time.
Whether it is for a semester or a full four years, studying in the United States can be a very enriching and rewarding experience. However, when it comes to choosing between these options, it is important to understand that they are very different from one another. Before you decide which is right for you, consider how the following aspects could affect your education and your future:
There is a limit to what any student can accomplish in a single semester, particularly when he or she hails from a foreign country. Many study abroad programs are structured to allow international students to make the most of their time in America, but they may not be as rigorous as a four-year degree program. For example, study abroad students may enroll in fewer major-specific courses, or they may complete fewer large-scale projects, in order to focus on cultural exploration.
Unlike study abroad students, four-year students typically follow a trajectory—the classes they complete in one semester prepare them for what they will take in the following term. This type of course schedule allows students to build their knowledge over time, as well as to fully immerse themselves in a “traditional” program over the course of several years.
Cultural and social experiences
Study abroad students can gain considerable insight into American culture and society in a single semester. They can also form new friendships during their time in the United States. Nevertheless, like their studies, there is only so much one can do in a four-month period, and certain aims must take priority.
Those students in a full-time program, on the other hand, have four years to immerse themselves in their new environment. This is similar to the difference between being a tourist for an extended period and living in a city or town for several years. As a four-year student, you have the opportunity to greatly expand your language skills, to take advantage of many unfamiliar experiences, and to learn how to live in a foreign country--without having to worry about leaving in a month or two.
For many students, attending college is the first step in building a career for themselves. The involved classes, internships, and social connections can aid them long after they graduate. When it comes to choosing between studying abroad and enrolling in a full four-year program at an international university, this might be the most important item to consider.
If, after you graduate, you hope to work for an American company or to stay in the United States for other reasons, an American degree could be a tremendous benefit. It suggests that you are familiar with American approaches and systems that could be essential in a particular field.
Studying abroad in the United States also looks great on a resume, but it might not be as influential as being a four-year student. It may suggest limited experience with American culture, education, and companies. For business owners, this can mean an additional investment to bring an international employee into the company.
There are many different reasons why individuals may choose to study abroad for a semester, or to immerse themselves in a four-year program. In the end, it is truly about what you hope to gain. If you are simply looking for experience in a different culture and to meet new people, studying abroad could easily achieve those ends. However, if you hope to establish a life for yourself in the United States and to work for an American company, enrolling full-time at an American school may be the best option.
David White is a contributing writer for UniversityTutor.com, the world's largest global marketplace for finding independent tutors.