I know a lot of people who decided to back out of their study abroad experience, just weeks before they were scheduled to leave home. They remember many reasons why you should study abroad… and then there are the excuses they use to justify their choice not go to abroad after all.
- “I can’t leave my family and friends.”
- “It’s just too expensive for me to go after all.”
- “I have too many responsibilities on campus this semester to go!”
You know what I see those excuses as? People are too scared to leave home and back out. Studying abroad is one of the pivotal experiences you can have as a college student. Unless you choose to work abroad, how often will you get the chance to actually live in another country ever again? To truly get a first hand experience to test the generalizations we make of foreigners or vice versa? To prove my point, here are 10 reasons why you should study abroad.
1. You can learn a language faster than you ever could in a classroom.
This is of course, if you allow yourself to be immersed in the language learning experience. You’re going to be surrounded by the language on a daily basis, seeing, hearing, and trying to speak it in the proper context. Being forced to order food, call a cab, even ask for a bus to stop in your host country will help you retain life saving phrases that can impress later on.
2. You can make lifelong friends from all around the world.
You can meet local students whom you can connect with in a new way, as well as make friends with other international students who have been thrown into the same shocking cultural experience as you. Because you will be experiencing all these new things together, you become close friends, fast. It’s a wonderful feeling.
3. You will get the opportunity to travel, for cheap!
I studied abroad in Hong Kong which, as the international hub of all plane layovers, gave me a chance to travel throughout Southeast Asia for the same price as a domestic plane ticket in the US. It was great! I have a lot of friends who traveled through a lot of Europe when they lived in the UK or Spain or Italy as well. How often can you pay for super cheap tickets to travel to Europe or Asia or South America?
4. You can learn about another culture first-hand.
What did you learn in your culture classes that are actually true? You can challenge stereotypes and misunderstood observations during your extended stay in this foreign country. Remember, culture doesn’t only come from the food and songs and clothing of a foreign nation–it is the deeply held beliefs and opinions that are shaped in that person while he grows up in his native country. Only after a few months of debating with locals can you possibly understand why they prefer one political view over the other.
5. You can gain new perspective on your own country.
We know that there are stereotypes about foreigners, but what is it exactly that they think of us? You can get the world’s view on what your nation really looks like to the outsider, both positive and negative. And perhaps, this will give you a chance to properly represent your country and counter their generalizations about you.
6. You get the opportunity to break free of your own routine.
If you are that super involved type of student on campus or just typically very busy, it’s a tough schedule. Club meetings, full time classes, group projects, work, internships, etc. There’s a reason why you would feel the whole system would fall apart without you there. But you have to keep in mind: someone can always pick up where you left off. You don’t need to give up your life just because you are afraid of that. You can truly experience a worry-free semester, free of obligations.
7. You get the chance to learn about yourself.
When you are in a world completely different from your own, you get a chance to rethink all of your beliefs and points of view, as well as reconsider your own values. You can choose to embrace new concepts and perceptions because you will definitely get the chance to learn about many, if not all, of them.
8. You can explore your heritage.
Many of us have parents or grandparents from the various countries we inevitably get to study in. When you actually experience the culture in which your relatives were raised, it gives you a whole new understanding of why they are the way they are, for lack of a better phrase. It might help you appreciate why your parents are as concerned as they are about your study habits or your social habits. You get to explore what has always been an inherent part of you, which can further develop your own identity.
9. You can boost your own resume.
The number of American students who have decided to study abroad has grown significantly in the last decade, but it is still a marginally low number, considering the large recruiting efforts universities have been putting in to send their students abroad. So not only is having an additional university on your resume impressive, it shows recruiters and people considering you for jobs that you have experience interacting with others in a foreign experience. That is especially apparent in this increasingly globalized world.
10. You can enhance your degree’s value.
You can really learn how a different cultural setting can affect how your concentration is studied, discussed, and taught. Oftentimes, your host university will offer classes you never would have had the chance to take at your home university. You can truly add an international perspective on your studies, whether you are a linguistics, literature, business, or engineering major.
There are a lot of concerns you may have when you decide to live in a different setting for an extended period of time. But remember the benefits of this study abroad experience can far outweigh any concern you may have.
Photo courtesy of Angelo Juan Ramos via Flickr (licensed under CC BY 2.0).
check out the video below on researching study abroad and all of the benefits!