Winter and Spring study abroad programs gaining popularity

There has been a shift in the study abroad market. Law students used to flock to summer locales like London, Paris and even Nairobi. But the tough job market has led more students to focus on getting legal experience in their summers. That, in turn, has opened the door for alternative study abroad programs, which are often shorter, cheaper and offered at more convenient times.

“We have had some students forgo the summer programs for that reason, they want to spend the summers doing externships,” said Kristen Cohen, the study abroad & programs manager at Stetson University. “They don’t want to lose any time. That’s certainly valid. Our Cayman Islands program is easy because it’s only two weeks during winter break.”

Such programs have been around for some time and are popular because law continues to become more global.

“People understand that the practice of law, even if you live and work in United States, has a global component no matter what,” said Theresa Kaiser, Director of Global Opportunities at American University. “Our law students will work with people from different cultures, who speak different languages and have a different thought process. An aboard experience will get them on the way towards achieving that goal.”

American University offers the most non-traditional study abroad options, with programs in China, Spain and the Netherlands, to name a few. Studying abroad is even required to complete some courses.

Some law schools encourage students to study abroad even if they plan to work domestically. And more classes than ever have a mandatory travel requirement in order to gain course credit.

“Some courses have an embedded component like course “United Nations Committee Against Torture Project,” in which students learn about it in class in the fall and start doing research on cases,” Kaiser said. “Then in November, students go to Geneva, Switzerland for a week and assist the committee with those cases.”

According to Steven Richman, the associate director of global initiatives at Hofstra University, alternative study abroad programs aren’t entirely new but they’re becoming increasingly popular. Their three-week long winter trip to Curaçao, in the Dutch Caribbean, is in its twelfth year and their one-week long trip to Cuba is in its third year.

“The spring break program to Cuba has been extremely well received by students,” Richman said. “It’s very exciting for students to have the opportunity to travel to a country that has been relatively closed off to Americans for many years. ”

Students can save money by going on a shorter trip, as well. Stetson University’s fall trip to London costs $18,730 in tuition while their trip the Cayman Islands is only $2,472. Although the durations vary, a weeklong trip is often the more logical option for notoriously busy law students. Winter and spring break traditionally ranges from one week to one month. Traveling during these short breaks is less of a time and financial commitment. But a short trip doesn’t mean students will be short changed on their education.

“We want to make sure we have programming that’s applicable to use in their future,” Richman said. “The professors are very conscious of the local environment and make sure we’re teaching courses that are practical for use back home and in a global context, as well.”

Kristen Cohen said Stetson’s Cayman Islands trip often warrants a waitlist due to an overflow of interest in the shorter program. She said studying abroad is beneficial to a student’s character.

“I think there’s a tendency that people see study abroad programs as a setback that takes students away from their legal pursuits, but I don’t see it that way,” Cohen said. “It seems as if they’re enhancing their world view, they’re not so egocentric anymore, there’s a world beyond the town at which they go to school. That only makes them better attorneys in the end.“