Studying abroad was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I will always be grateful that I was able to do so. If I could study abroad again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
But the thing is–I almost didn’t go! I had gotten so comfortable in college, with my friends and my courses and the campus culture, that I thought to myself, “What if I just stayed here?”
I’m glad I didn’t.
I knew I wanted to study abroad when I was still in high school, and within my first two weeks of college, I was sitting in my study abroad advisor’s office. I didn’t go until my junior year, but it never hurts to start early!
You’ll likely have heard that people who studied abroad never shut up about it. We’re annoying, but there’s a reason why!
If you have the chance to study abroad, do it! You’ll learn and grow so much as a person.
Here are 5 reasons you have to study abroad.
It’s no secret. A huge reason many students choose to study abroad in the first place is for the travel.
I was abroad for six months, and I got to visit seven countries. I got lucky because I was studying abroad in London, which meant that traveling to other countries in the EU (Brexit hadn’t happened yet) was cheap and easy. It was around $30 for a round-trip flight to Paris!
Take advantage of your weekends and your holidays. Group up with friends who are also interested in traveling to those same destinations, and have fun! There are so many different cultures to learn about.
2. Learn Outside the Classroom
I didn’t anticipate this when I first went abroad. But by traveling, you’ll encounter so many learning opportunities that simply can’t happen when you’re sitting in the classroom.
If you get the chance, visit museums, see historical sites, and join tours (there are many free ones, depending on the city you’re in!). Almost all the museums in the United Kingdom are free entry!
The great thing about this is that you’ll be able to reflect on your own culture and your own country’s practices. I believe it’s important to take all these perspectives into account, and realize that there isn’t a correct way to do any single thing.
And get this–learning is your purpose. You’re a student, after all. Our responsibilities only grow as we grow older.
This is the chance for you to focus on yourself, and figure out who you are when you’ve left almost everything familiar to you.
3. Live In A Different Country, And Not Be A Tourist
One of the greatest things about studying abroad is that you’ll get the chance to live in a different country. You’ll become like a “local,” and know all the ins-and-outs of the city.
It’s an amazing opportunity to relax and take things slow.
Sure, you’ll still get the chance to see all the tourist hot-spots, but you can also spend your nights walking through the city with your friends, and seeing where your steps take you.
Everyone comes to London and sees Buckingham Palace, but what about a small dinner at Nando’s, or a stroll through Carnaby Street? Or Brixton? Or Camden market?
4. Challenge Yourself
When someone asks me how my study abroad experience was, I’ll always say it was both one of the most rewarding and most challenging months of my life.
On social media, studying abroad is painted as this fun, grand adventure. That’s only partially true.
When you’re alone in a new country, you’ll come across a lot of challenges–especially in the beginning. It’s almost like starting college all over again. You have to make new friends, go to parties where you don’t know anyone, and run through all the icebreakers again.
In my first week, I got lost in London. My phone was dead, I was alone in a new part of the city, and I had to figure out how to make it back to my flat. Spoilers: I made it! It wasn’t fun being lost, but by getting through it, I realized that I was more capable than I had thought.
You get the chance to figure out who you are, away from everything familiar to you.
You might have to deal with loneliness, culture shock, arguments with your travel buddies, the educational system of a different country, and so much more.
You’ll have to navigate through these ups and downs, but you’ll come out smarter and stronger.
5. Make New Friends From All Over the World
You’ll never know who you will come across. While most of my friends from my study abroad experience were American, like me, I did make so many friends from countries all over the world.
Some of my best friends from my time abroad are from Singapore and Canada. I met others from Japan, Spain, Turkey, and Germany. It was such an amazing experience being able to speak with them about how we grew up, and what we want to do in the future.
Here’s something I think back to and laugh about: I respond to a lot of stuff with, “Oh, cool!” It’s always been natural, and it’s something my friends in the U.S. do as well. But when I was speaking with some friends from Japan, they thought it was the funniest thing ever. It’s so interesting to learn about how responses and reactions vary in conversations around the world.
This is a special opportunity to meet people from all over the world and exchange cultural views with one another. And now, if I were to ever visit Singapore, I know that I’d have a friend there.