So, do you know how you’re going to spend next summer? If you’ve never been to the U.S., maybe you can consider a short, summer school programme so that you can experience living there, while also enriching your mind.
Before you start packing your bags and shopping for a plane ticket, there are a few things to keep in mind before you pursue a study abroad programme. To make sure that your study experience is both successful and worthwhile, you will want to remember a few things that you must know about attending U.S. summer schools before you start your study abroad programme.
1. Summer schools are perfect for international students
International and foreign students will find the perfect environment at summer schools. Universities and institutions like Stanford University, Harvard University, and University of California, Berkeley each tailor their programmes specifically to the needs of foreign and international students who are pursuing a brief summer course in the U.S.
This means that they will often provide additional language-skills training and offer plenty of orientations and events for foreign students to get to know their instructors. Foreign students will also find plenty of events to help you get to know the U.S. student culture, including social gatherings and meet-up opportunities. Most of all, though, these programmes are designed perfectly to give students a taste of what university life is like in the U.S., finding ways to help international students adjust – even if they are only there for a short time. You will be among students from all over the world, all of whom are hoping to experience a short, but exhilarating programme at a U.S. summer school.
2. Summer schools are different from exchange programmes
While you may be using summer school programmes to satisfy course credits at your home university, they are still quite different from exchange programmes. Exchange programmes are, quite literally, a substitute enrolment at a foreign university, where you will be attending courses during the regular semester that you would normally spend at your home university. These programmes negotiate relationships with foreign schools so that students can have easy mobility to attend courses abroad. In a summer school programme are short programmes run through separate organizations within the university (rather than part of an official exchange programme).
This means that you are given a lot of flexibility – you are not bound to any official specific courses or schedules for your summer school programme. Rather, if you are interested in taking a few short courses outside of your degree programme (merely because you are curious about them), then you are almost always welcome to do so. Only if a student chooses to then apply these courses to their degree at their home institution do they have to stick within their own field. But, summer schools are opportunities to take on new opportunities and try different things while you are living abroad!
3. You may need to obtain the J-1 Visa
Before going to the U.S. for your summer school programme, check whether you will need to obtain a student visa. Chances are, if you are arriving from a foreign country for the purpose of studying in a summer school programme that you will then use as credits towards (or preparation for) your degree programme, you will have to obtain one of these visas. Before you apply though, you must first select an institution or university where you would like to enroll for a summer school.
If the university is an accredited or certified organisation approved by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the school should be able to provide you with the necessary form (the I-20 form) to apply for the visa. Since summer schools are typically shorter in duration, it is not necessary to apply for the residence visa (or F-1). Rather, for a summer school course where you will take shorter classes that you will then use for your degree or courses in your home country, the J-1 visa will be sufficient. Learn more information on how to apply for the J-1 visa, what the requirements are, and what your restrictions are as a foreign student studying in the U.S.
4. Summer Schools aren’t vacations, but they are a lot of fun
There is a widespread stereotype about studying abroad that shows students who study abroad just to enjoy parties and travel, without doing academic work. While your summer school programme will be a lot of fun, and you will be guaranteed to make plenty of friends, enjoy various parties, and go to several pubs, you are still expected to commit to your courses and successfully complete your assignments. Students who do short-term summer school programmes are scored and evaluated for their work, and are then able to use their credits toward a degree at their home university. So, do keep in mind that you will have to manage your studies and assignments around the fun and exciting social activities.
On the other hand, students can expect a more relaxed environment in their classrooms. The classes are smaller in size, and are generally less intensive for students. In fact, many summer school courses are treated as 'introductory' courses, to give students a more general idea on a particular topic. You are not expected to no everything, nor are you always expected to join in a discussion. Enrolling in a summer school can be perfect to have a more relaxed approach to a specific topic.