Nov 28, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Want to get to know a new place? Travel? See the world? Study? Meet new people? Learn about new cultures? Learn a new language?

Studying abroad is a great decision. Now you need to figure out just how long you would like to be away. It's not that simple though. You need to consider quite a few things, like the amount of time you have, language requirements, your desire to interact with the local culture, and of course, how much money you have.

Figure out what's important to you, the type of experience you want, and what you hope to get from it all. Also? Take a look at your pocketbook...

Should you study abroad short- or long-term? We're here to help you figure it out. Let's take a closer look at six questions to ask yourself:

1. What's the difference between short-term and long-term?

It's a complicated question because it's all relative.

For some, short-term means a two-week summer program; for others, it means a whole year. There is also the option of studying for an entire degree abroad. Short-term can also mean a five to ten-week period.

For others, that means long-term. Or long-term may mean a semester or two, or even an entire degree.

What do you need to do? Figure out what short-term and long-term mean to you, and explore your options from there.

2. How much time do you have?

If you only have a few weeks to spare, or time between semesters, or just a summer, look at programs that meet that criteria.

For traditional short-term options, there's the 'summer term' category, typically defined by June and July and the January period, also known as 'J-terms' or 'Winterim'. These are good times for a study abroad 'break', a short-course, or even an internship.

For long-term options, think a full semester or two, or even a full degree.

Whatever you choose, make it fit the amount of time you have...

3. How much time do you want to commit?

This is a big one. Studying abroad is a big adventure, short- or long-term. Think about how much time you want to spend in one place. 

The amount of time you commit will define the type of experience you have. If you study longer, you will have more time to immerse yourself in the culture and feel less like a tourist. If you don't mind feeling like a tourist, a shorter time commitment might work better for you. 

4. How much money do you have?

This sounds like a no-brainer, but you really need to think about your budget -- and whether any financial aid you will receive will cover your costs. 

Consider how you will pay for your program -- scholarships, family loans, or personal savings. Such funding will determine the amount of time you can stay.

The cost of living in your host country is another factor. Some countries in Europe have high costs of living, whereas others in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America cost less money.

Figure out your budget, where your money will come from, and how far you can stretch it. Make your choice from there. 

5. Do you want to learn a new language?

If language learning is at the top of your list, consider a longer study abroad time. The more immersive an experience you have in a new place, the likelier it is that you will learn the language. While you might pick up some of the language with a short-term stay, you will not learn as much. 

6. Do you want to meet locals?

Looking for a more immersive, less touristy feel? Want to meet the locals and maybe even become one? Long-term is better.

While you will get to know your fellow short-term colleagues and have some pre-made groups of friends, you won't take in as much local culture and you're less likely to interact with local students. 

Learn more about studying abroad

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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