Tips for Studying Abroad: Short- and Long-Term Programs

A Healthcare MBA student puts a bandage on a child’s arm.

Study abroad programs are more popular than ever. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, more than 347,000 students in the U.S. studied abroad during the 2018-2019 school year. That marked a 1.6% year-over-year increase and represented 1.8% of all enrolled students and 10% of all graduates.

As a growing number of students realize, there are many benefits of studying abroad, including but not limited to:

  • Opportunities to take unique elective courses
  • Ability to fulfill degree requirements during academic breaks
  • Immersive environments for honing marketable skills such as adaptability and a foreign language
  • Firsthand exposure to cultures and markets relevant to personal and professional interests

As part of the online Healthcare Master of Business Administration program at George Washington University, the study away program is a prime opportunity to learn more about business environments around the globe while also fulfilling curricular requirements. If you’re interested in studying outside of the U.S., learning some tips for studying abroad can help place you on the path to an international study.

What Is Study Abroad?

For students who are beginning to research international education, defining exactly what is study abroad is a good place to start. The Forum on Education Abroad describes education abroad as certain activities that occur outside of the country where a student is enrolled, the student’s home country, or the country where the student is employed. The specific activities can include:

  • Enrolling in courses
  • Participating in experiential learning
  • Conducting service learning
  • Participating in internships
  • Taking part in other learning activities

The U.S. Department of State encourages students to study abroad and cites numerous benefits that students can enjoy through studying in other countries. For example, students who study abroad can:

  • Become familiar with other perspectives
  • Discover how to maneuver in different cultures
  • Learn how to work with a diverse set of peers
  • Become more competitive in the job market
  • Learn new languages
  • Become more engaged citizens

How to Study Abroad

For academic years 2015-2016 through 2019-2020, the Global and Experiential Education (G&EE) team at the GW School of Business facilitated more than 50 programs and courses that gave more than 1,500 students the opportunity to further their education internationally.

Students interested in how to study abroad should become familiar with short- and long-term study programs and what they have to offer.

Short-Term Study Abroad

There are two main types of short-term study abroad programs for Healthcare MBA students, both of them intensive with most of students’ time occupied by academic work. Short-term programs are held during the winter, spring and summer breaks and allow students to round out their knowledge of business practices through exposure to new topics and regions.


The first type of short-term option for Healthcare MBA students is an exchange program through one of GW’s 21 prestigious partner institutions. These programs are an excellent fit for online students seeking flexible opportunities that:

  • Are completely designed and led by the partner institutions
  • Usually have only minimal pre-class requirements
  • Feature site visits that take students outside the classroom

Examples of GW-affiliated exchange programs include partnerships with the ESSEC Business School in France, the IPADE Business School in Mexico and Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. Some of these programs are also open to MBA students from other U.S. institutions, meaning there are additional chances to network while completing Healthcare MBA requirements.

Faculty Led

The other type of short-term study abroad option is led by School of Business faculty members and typically lasts between one and two weeks, with an average duration of 10 days. For students who work while earning their degrees, this means only a week or so away from their jobs may be necessary.

There are usually two to four class sessions prior to and after traveling. These classes, which provide key background on the country in question and the associated topics of study, are scheduled in the evening or on weekends. Sessions are offered in a variety of formats, some allowing online students to easily participate via webinars or content management systems such as Blackboard, and others requiring in-person engagement on campus in Washington, D.C.

Overall, the design of the faculty-led programs emphasizes rewarding experiences that are practical for working professionals.

Long-Term Study Abroad

A long-term study abroad program for Healthcare MBA students usually lasts from two to four months. Currently, there are 21 partner institutions in countries such as Australia, China, France, Israel, Italy, Mexico, South Africa and Switzerland. All coursework is in English, although language classes may also be available at some institutions for free or a small fee.

These programs provide access to a much broader set of courses and extracurricular opportunities than their short-term counterparts. Hundreds of additional electives not regularly offered at GW are available to Healthcare MBA students who study abroad.

One important tip for studying abroad is to do additional planning and preparation before you commit to a long-term program at a partner institution. While full-time work is likely not feasible while studying abroad long term, some students have maintained part-time employment during their programs.

Transfer Credit Study Abroad

Another option for HCMBA students is to pursue study abroad outside of GW-linked programs. Doing so requires careful coordination with an academic advisor about transferring credits in. A maximum of six credits can be transferred from institutions accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

How HCMBA Students Can Apply to These Study Abroad Programs

For short-term programs, the deadlines to apply are late September for winter and spring break programs and early February for summer programs. For long-term opportunities, the deadlines are March 15 for the fall and September 15 for the spring. The applications will ask for biographic information, a transcript, a resume and a personal statement. Faculty members and/or the G&EE office will review the materials.

After being admitted, a $500 deposit is required via credit card for short-term programs. The deposit can be applied to either the study abroad tuition or the program fee; the latter covers group meals, double-occupancy accommodations, transportation, health insurance and cultural activities while off-campus. Long-term programs require only a nonfinancial official commitment and do not have a program fee.

Study abroad programs are billed to each student’s account, making them eligible for financial aid. Students with preapproved financial aid packages can use those resources for tuition. There will be some out-of-pocket expenses along the way, including for the flights to and from the destination. General cost estimates are available via the GW program websites.

Scholarships are available for both short-term and long-term programs. A scholarship for short-term programs requires an application, which is embedded within the online program application. Any participant in a long-term study abroad program automatically receives a scholarship. Scholarships are applied as a tuition award for the semester in which the program takes place.

Study abroad affords a unique chance for HCMBA students to access classes, instructors and environments that they would not encounter if taking only online or on-campus courses. Moreover, the experience can be a powerful differentiator when searching for jobs. U.S. organizations are constantly seeking personnel who understand international markets, and candidates with both an HCMBA and experience studying abroad can stand out from the pack.

Embark on a Rewarding Experience Studying Abroad

Business students who pursue international study have unique opportunities to expand their horizons and learn more about their place in the world of business. Now that you’re equipped with these tips for studying abroad, are you interested in learning more? Visit George Washington University’s study abroad programs or the online Healthcare MBA program for additional information. Chart a course for an exceptional learning experience today.

Recommended Readings

Exploring the 7 Graduate Certificates as Part of the GW Online Healthcare MBA

What to Know About the GW Online Healthcare MBA Program

What You Can Do with an MBA in Healthcare Administration


The Forum on Education Abroad, “Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad”

Global & Experiential Education, “Annual Report 2020”

NAFSA: Association of International Educators, Trends in U.S. Study Abroad

Study Abroad Opportunities

U.S. Department of State, Why Study Abroad?