Studying abroad is a life changing experience, something I personally would have never traded for anything else in my college career. Of course all of us have priorities set differently. But there are things which only look good on your resume, and those which, above all other benefits, contribute to personal growth and develop you as an individual. Studying abroad pushes you to deal with problems and do things you otherwise would have never done, thus inevitably making you more mature and well-rounded. It is exciting, but at the same time a bit frightening – going alone and living on the other side of the globe for half a year or more. As I went on and committed to my decision to study abroad, some of my classmates were giving me a thousand and one reasons why they could never go for this long, although they’d love to. The reasons I’ve received were a plenty and various: money matters, can’t leave a boyfriend/girlfriend, positions in student organizations, need to do an internship this semester or the world will turn around. Thus, I have decided to comprise my own and very personal list of reasons why you should study abroad, and not let anything drag you down.
- Your geography skills improve tremendously. You heard me. I’m not saying they’re not good already, but flying thousands of miles somehow naturally makes you memorize the allocation of countries and rivers on the map. No intense studying for hours in your room will do better than simply leaving it, your town, your state and country to go explore someplace else.
- You get a unique chance to familiarize yourself with a culture, so different and foreign to your native. Depending on where you go, people might have dinner at a time you normally go to bed, or pray 5 times a day – and this will inevitably shock you. But there is nothing quite more fascinating than seeing how humans, seemingly the same kind, can act and behave differently in different parts of the world. At first certain actions might seem bizarre, but after over time, you learn how to justify and accept them.
My shock were the heavy meals Croats eat… Meat & potatoes are everything.
- Friends from all over the world & lifelong friendships. While studying abroad, you not only make friends with the local people, but every so often with the whole international community present at your study abroad destination. It might be others from the program (in my case – it is a bunch or Erasmus students from all around Europe); it might be expats or students on exchange in the neighboring colleges. What a better way to travel without money, than doing it vicariously through other people who come from abroad?
- Learning more about yourself. Being in a new environment results in a shift of values, and shapes the way you think. But only through a series of such changes in your behavior, through the moments of difficulty (for example finding your way in a foreign city when you get lost) do you find the true, real you.
- You gain independence & grow. It is kind of tailored to my previous point. When you are outside of your comfort zone, have to make friends with new people, speak the language you barely understand yet, and make serious decisions regarding the rent, your budget, in-country registration and medical aid… You grow up very, very fast. It is probably the hardest thing about living abroad – suddenly coping with all that responsibility. But once you do, you become a different person, undefeatable by possible unpleasant life surprises.
- It is cheaper than you think (might actually save money). “I’d love to study abroad, but it is so expensive!” – I hear from my friends back in the States every so often. Of course it is, if you’re only considering the big players in Western Europe, such as France or England. The world is so much bigger (Latin America? Eastern Europe? India? Asia?), and there is an option for every budget. In Croatia, I am actually saving a lot of money, as the tuition here is 3 times less expensive, plus the living standard is lower – so rent is pretty cheap too. Having an open mind while choosing your program destination is the key. Also, a hint for Temple owls on a partial merit stipend – you will most likely receive it for your study abroad (at least that was the way it worked out for me).
- Living in a foreign country is different than simply traveling. Because when you are a tourist, you don’t experience the location in the same way as the people who live there. You don’t go grocery shopping, you’re mostly exposed to the touristy rather than residential areas and local hangouts. Finally, you don’t see the city change as the seasons, holidays and important events come and go. Only by living somewhere is it possible to truly feel the place, and let it stay in your heart forever.
- Become a global citizen. Living and studying in a foreign country opens up new horizons. Seriously – through my two relocations (Russia-USA, USA-Croatia), I’ve learned so much about the world around me, have earned professional contacts in all three, and moreover – pursuing an international career and moving yet one more time doesn’t sound as terrifying anymore. I’ve become flexible and adapt easily to new environments. Even if you are not considering working abroad later, getting an international experience in the form of studying abroad is crucial to your future professional success – there is barely any business nowadays that doesn’t work/wouldn’t like to start operating globally.
I’ve lived in 5 apartments in 2 years and I’m loving it!