Leaving It All Behind: 9 Reasons to Study Abroad
The myOptions Team
College is a unique time in your life, a period where you can really test yourself and explore a number of new social and academic opportunities. While you might come to view your time on campus as invaluable, you’d be cray if you ignored the possibilities that undergraduate life holds off-campus as well. And perhaps, above all, the most thrilling is the chance to study abroad. Here are just a handful of benefits to spending a summer, a semester, or even a year abroad.
1. Immerse yourself in another culture.
When you live and study abroad, you’ll find that you experience your host country in a way that is profound and worthwhile. Beyond sampling the food and seeing some famous landmarks, you will participate in their traditions, holidays and celebrations. You will witness the day-to-day lives of the locals, gleaning more about their customs through shopping at a grocery store than a museum visit or textbook could provide. You’ll drink up their history, their philosophy, their sense of humor. And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll begin to really understand how they see the world. By observing a different way of life, your perceptions will open up to all sorts of new possibilities.
2. Become proficient in another language.
If you have a goal to be multilingual, there is no better way to learn a language than through living abroad. By immersing yourself in a country and culture that speaks a foreign tongue, you’ll find that you’re constantly exposed to that language. From buying lunch to taking public transportation, you will be forced to converse and to interact. Moreover, you’ll have the opportunity (and the luxury) of hearing the language spoken within its natural, cultural context. Experiencing foreign language every single day will force you to adapt and you’ll be progressing to fluency faster than you ever expected! And, as an added bonus, you’ll also come to find a greater understanding and appreciation of the nuances in your own native language.
3. Get out of your comfort zone.
If the thought of leaving the country scares you, don’t fret! You aren’t alone! Many students that study abroad have never left their home country before. You also may be worried that you might miss out on too much back home. However, your life will be there when you get back, and study abroad is completely worth the risk of missing a few birthday parties.
4. See the world.
Study abroad and travel often go hand in hand. Many students are quick to take full advantage of living in a country (and on a continent) that’s so new to them. Living abroad means a multitude of countries are more accessible, not just your host country. The world can truly open up to you and you can quickly be exposed to a variety of adventures, viewpoints, friends, and more!
5. Gain a new perspective.
Leaving your own familiar surroundings inevitably leads to self-reflection and insight. When you live in another country, you’re likely to begin examining and questioning your own biases, value system, and cultural identity. You’ll come to recognize how other people view (and perhaps stereotype) your homeland. And you might discover which personal traditions and beliefs are important to you and which you might want to discard.
6. Make lifelong friends.
Traveling to a different country provides a special bonding experience that will allow you to connect with people you may never have met otherwise. Depending on the program you choose, you could be meeting students from different majors within your school or from completely different universities around the world. You will also have the opportunity to forge relationships with the people from your host country. (Giving you a reason to come back and visit again!)
7. Increase independence.
Studying abroad allows you to really challenge yourself in terms of personal development. Discover your inner curiosity! As soon as you walk off the plane, you are going to be in a completely different space, and that will be the perfect opportunity to channel your inner explorer. Finding yourself in a foreign country will give you a new sense of confidence. By the time you go back home, you will feel like you can take on the world.
8. Shake up your academic routine.
There’s no doubt that you will find studying abroad a refreshing (if at times challenging) change of pace. By studying in a different country, you expose yourself to a different kind of learning. You might study at a foreign university that offers a different classroom experience and education system altogether. Perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to enroll in unique courses that your home institution doesn’t offer. You’re also likely to study with undergrads from a variety of American universities as well students from all over the world. It is also likely that you will study your host country in a hands-on experiential way. Access to the landmarks, artifacts and historic sites of your host country will enhance your classroom studies and perhaps make your coursework more tangible.
9. Strengthen your resume.
The skill-sets you acquire (and sharpen) while studying abroad are likely attributes that future/potential employers will value. As the world becomes more and more connected, companies look for candidates who understand how to communicate across different cultures. They also look for employees who aren’t afraid to challenge themselves, are independent, demonstrate resilience and flexibility, and are able to cope when new situations arise. And you’re likely to have these all of these characteristics after you complete your study abroad program.
As you figure out what you like and who you want to be, college is a prime time to broaden your horizons. Take advantage of your university’s programs and experience as much of the world as you can, for there is great value in exploring someplace new. You may just discover that you were meant to wander and that some of the best moments occur on your biggest adventures.