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The Best Kept Secret: The Summer Study Abroad and Five Reasons Why You Should do it

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

With nearly half of the second semester over, summer plans are in the minds of many university students, with many people currently undergoing application processes for internships and graduate jobs and wondering how to productively spend their summers. What if I were to tell you if there was a way to spend your summer that was not joining the rat race of summer internships or lounging at home—an experience that would allow you to go abroad, immerse yourself in a new culture, boost your CV and potentially learn a new (or develop your skills in) a language? What is this magical opportunity, you may ask? It’s the Summer Study Abroad programme!

The Summer Study Abroad programme is run by the Global Office (and occasionally co-run by the School of Modern Languages) and allows eligible students to study abroad for three weeks to three months, depending on the programme you take. Find out more about the ins and outs of the different summer study abroad programmes that St Andrews have to offer this summer here. Please note that some of these programmes may be restricted to those on a specific degree pathway or who are taking specific modules during the academic year. Amidst the hubbub of internship applications, people often forget about the other ways there are to productively spend your summer vacation. It is also a great way to experience a study abroad without going abroad for an entire semester or academic year. 

Last summer, I enrolled in the Chinese Language Division (CLD) Programme for three months at National Taiwan University in Taipei to take intensive Mandarin classes and immerse myself in what was pretty much an exclusively Mandarin-speaking environment. During this programme, I attended Mandarin classes for three hours a day from Monday to Friday, where I was only allowed to speak Mandarin. While this programme definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone and was incredibly difficult, I loved my experience, both in terms of learning and in exploring Taipei.

As such, I’m listing five reasons you should consider studying abroad this summer! 

Travel opportunities!

Many people in St Andrews have the travel bug and often travel at some point in the semester. A summer study abroad programme would allow you to travel to other places you would otherwise perhaps not visit,because of their distance from home or from university. During my summer study abroad in Taiwan, I met many Americans, who often took the opportunity to take weekend trips both within and outside of Taiwan, as many of them had never left America, let alone been to Asia. Since it was my first time in Taiwan, I made sure to explore Taipei and all the things it had to offer. I also took various day trips to Jiufen and Shifen (the former of which inspired Spirited Away), and I travelled to Kaohsiung in my last weekend in Taiwan. All of these trips were highly exciting, especially considering that I was visiting places I otherwise would not have.

Eating new foods and experiencing new cultures

Following on from my first point, doing a summer Study Abroad will allow you to experience new cultures and try different food that you otherwise would not have been exposed to. This was something I very much took advantage of. If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I love food. Since I am of Chinese heritage and only lived in Asia prior to university, one of my favourite restaurants back home is Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese chain restaurant, which has the most wonderful beef noodles, and I made sure to eat there often when I was in Taipei. But that wasn’t the only type of food and cultural exposure I got! Throughout the summer, I made sure to go to the famous Taiwanese night markets. These markets are both a shopping and food heaven, and where I got to learn a lot about life in Taiwan. I also got to meet and become friends with both locals and expats, and learn about their upbringings and cultures. Having grown up meeting people from all over the world, this was definitely one of the highlights of my summer Study Abroad. It was also really lovely to learn various Taiwanese cultural experiences and rituals, such as the Dragon Boat Festival. 

Talk about a great, unconventional and unique CV booster

In the competition of internships, job applications and postgraduate applications, it can seem difficult to find a way (or ways) for you to stand out amongst the thousands of other applicants looking to achieve the same thing as you. However, a summer Study Abroad is definitely a way for you to stand out from the crowd! Studying abroad not only shows that you’re willing to go out of your comfort zone, but it also proves that you have competencies such as resilience, initiative and cultural awareness, amongst other things. In terms of the job market, these are all skills that are highly transferable and coveted in many industries. Who doesn’t want a headstart like that?

Developing your language skills

This is primarily aimed at those who are hoping to do a summer Study Abroad in countries where English is not the main language, but many summer Study Abroad programmes either integrate language learning in some form or are solely language programmes. Since the summer programme I enrolled in was a language programme in Taiwan, I was immersed in an environment where I mainly spoke Mandarin. Though my Mandarin skills were good enough to have basic conversations with others, I lacked the confidence to actually practice and converse with native speakers. I felt embarrassed about my language skills, especially since most of my relatives were native speakers. While the summer did not make me fluent in Mandarin, it allowed me to improve at a level where I felt much more confident to use Mandarin and have faith in my understanding of it. Despite not studying Mandarin as part of my degree, this programme has pushed me to continue learning Mandarin in my own time to make sure I don’t lose the vast progress that I made.

The various financial benefits

Despite the various benefits of studying abroad, the reality of the matter is that studying abroad can be expensive, especially if you’re doing a semester or a year abroad; it is not necessarily financially feasible for everyone. However, a summer Study Abroad allows you to reap the benefits of a regular Study Abroad, while being cheaper. Some summer Study Abroad programmes could include room and board (i.e. on university campuses), which would also allow you to save more money. During my summer Study Abroad, I was actually granted a scholarship by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education that covered all my living fees. While it did not cover costs such as tuition fees, I found this scholarship to be extremely helpful when I was out and about in Taiwan. However, this may not be found in all summer Study Abroad programmes, so I would definitely look into the financial details of the specific programme(s) you are interested in!

So there you have it: five reasons you should study abroad this summer! While these summer Study Abroad programmes do exist, they are often not publicised, meaning that many students can miss out. Despite my summer Study Abroad not always being easy, it was definitely a highly rewarding experience that I would recommend to anyone considering it. For those of you who have applied for Summer Abroad opportunities already, prepare to get excited! And for those of you who haven’t applied, what are you waiting for? Fill out that application form now!

Taasia Thong

St. Andrews '25

I'm a third-year Malaysian-Singaporean studying Modern History and IR (I use she/her/hers pronouns). I've lived in six countries, so I'm passionate about multiculturalism and diversity, and love meeting and interacting with new people and cultures! My other interests include legal affairs, East Asian history, global politics, literature, journalism and fashion. You can often find me drinking unreasonable amounts of green tea, (struggling) to solve the NYT crossword and trying to make the perfect chicken katsu.