Study abroad is more goal directed, shorter in duration, and less about just learning a language.
When I was in college, I didn't take advantage of study abroad programs. Today, most every top school makes study abroad an integral part of their college "pitch".
A recent article from the NY Times, written by Laura Pappano captures the current state of the term abroad:
"Study abroad now — like nearly everything else — is more structured, brief and undertaken with a goal in mind. It has become a must-get college experience, a coveted résumé credential and a way to test independence for a generation that does so carefully."
"...improvisation — having to operate in a strange culture and make changes on the fly — is what provides the career boost that everyone talks about. "
"The experience, they said, figured prominently in their job searches. “Companies want to know how you perform under pressure,”