Today marks 3 months and 20 days of my study abroad experience in Nijmegen, Netherlands. By now, I have fully immersed myself into the Dutch-European culture. To give you a sense of what this means… I ride my bicycle to school, the grocery store, and pubs. I take my coffee strong, as in the size of a shot glass. I navigate the buses, train lines, and metros. I have learned to cook (and rather healthy might I add). In addition, I know how to appreciate the 3-euro wines and rage to the European’s beloved techno music. I have even experienced and participated in King’s Day and Karnival.
Coming into Nijmegen, I had very few expectations, but I can now say that studying abroad stands out to me as the most rewarding experience anyone could possibly have. I hope by sharing what this opportunity has brought me, more will be inspired to study abroad.
Keep reading for 5 great reasons to study abroad!
1. Make Friends From Around The World
The international program at my host university is home to over 500 international students. Just on my floor, I live with 16 people, 8 of which come from other countries. It is surprising to me how welcoming and friendly everyone has been from the start. If you take full advantage of your situation, by going out of your way to make friends, you will find yourself with life-long friends around the world (which is great for future trips)!
2. Learn to Understand Another Culture
Additionally to making friends from around the world, meeting new people allows you to learn about another culture, which includes their mannerisms, food, style, etc. For instance, my Spanish flat-mate taught me how to make a tasty Spanish omelette, while my Italian flat-mate, taught me what cheese goes with what type of food. One of my now best friends from England, taught me new words. I laugh when she calls cute guys “fit”, or when something is funny she is “creasing”. Don’t even get me started on how she pronounces “aluminum foil”. Studying abroad compels you to live differently. In some ways, it will make you appreciate your lifestyle at home. In other ways, it can make you realize you would rather live a different way.
3. Expand The Way You Think
Studying abroad opens up a whole new world…quite literally. Meeting new people and experiencing new cultures empowers you to see things from new perspectives. Just talking with others and hearing about their experiences may prompt you to try something new.
A couple of months ago, during my study abroad experience, I traveled to Malta. There I met a young man in my hostel who is from Canada and shares my same college degree. He explained to me how he has taught English abroad in England, China, and New Zealand. After hearing about his journey, I am now considering doing the same when I graduate college!
4. Become More Decisive
Indecisiveness has always been my worst quality. Without expecting it, studying abroad has forced me to become a better decision-maker. You are no longer home and surrounded by the comfort of friends, family, and familiarity. Because you are in a new environment, you have to adapt and make your own decisions. For me, these decisions started with what groceries I wanted to buy!
While abroad, I was lucky enough to visit 11 neighboring countries. To travel to these places, I needed to plan the details of the trips. When something went wrong, I had to learn to be innovative and overcome the problem. A few examples of these situations included finding last minute travel accommodations, alternate routes for train lines, and new ways to communicate if language was a barrier.
5. Develop Independence and Confidence
Ultimately, you become a more confident and independent person from studying abroad. Just by making new friends, you are putting yourself out there and that builds confidence! Living away from my family and friends has taught me to be responsible with finances, school, and just daily life. I have made myself my number one priority, and in doing so, I am more sure of who I am and who I want to become. This is a benefit that I will proudly carry through my lifetime.
I am a firm believer that everyone should travel and learn from other cultures for personal growth and development.
Making new friends, understanding a new culture, hearing new perspectives, becoming a better decision-maker, and being more independent and confident, only scratch the surface of what studying abroad can give you. Netherlands is the place I was meant to go to find myself. I have become a better version of myself by learning to love myself, depend on myself, and appreciate everything around me. I know that I have transformed from this experience. If you are young and and have yet to find yourself, I highly recommend you take the leap and go abroad!