While some people go to college knowing they want to spend time abroad, many people labor over the decision. Leaving all of your friends for an entire semester, living in an entirely different country, and simply leaving behind a campus you love can all sound intimidating. However, spending time abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, especially if you go in trying to make the most of it. Here are some of the long-lasting benefits of studying abroad.
1. Getting Out Of Your College Bubble
Four years at a university can fly by and being told you should spend even less time there may sound ridiculous. However, many campuses (especially small or rural schools) truly suffer from the college bubble phenomenon. Four years is a long time to only be exposed to the same groups of people, restaurants, and study spots. It might be uncomfortable, but getting out of that bubble can really be a breath of fresh air and reopen your eyes to different people’s perspectives. Find new coffee shops, museums, trails, and people to interact with while abroad and you just might find that you get a little bit more out of your college experience.
2. Understanding New Cultures
Living in a foreign country for an extended period of time forces you to try and understand their customs, political struggles, and cultural ideals. This exposure can help solidify your understanding of global and historic conflicts, empathize with political phenomenons that mirror your own country’s struggles, and have conversations with people who were raised differently from you. The result? A better understanding of the ways in which countries interact, a new appreciation for a different culture’s ways of life, and, likely, more empathy for certain groups of people. Whether you walk away with a better understanding of the refugee crisis in the UK, the yellow vest riots in France, or the environmental issues of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, your cultural awareness is bound to expand.
3. Learning or Perfecting a Second Language
From interacting with new communities and having increased job opportunities to challenging your brain and being forced to think in creative ways, there are endless benefits to learning a second language. If you are studying a language at university for a major or minor (or just for fun), there is no better way to increase your fluency and confidence than living in a country that speaks the language you’re trying to learn. Constantly trying to communicate will ultimately reward you with higher proficiency and a wonderful sense of confidence. Between figuring out how to order a panini to trying to explain your opinions to your endearing host family, every day will be a fun new challenge.
4. Meeting New People
Leaving behind your friends can be daunting, but there’s nothing better than expanding your friend group. The friends you make abroad can last a lifetime simply because of the bizarre experiences you may share together. Whether you got drinks outside of a castle in the middle of the night, got an A in your history class simply by exploring an ancient city, or missed your midnight bus and had to find last minute accommodation while in Brussels for the weekend, the memories make for unforgettable friendships and lasting international bffs.
5. Fostering Independent Thinking
Traveling abroad forces you to do a lot of independent thinking and problem solving. From figuring out if you need to get a new phone plan and where the best grocery store to shop from is to arranging your travel, you completely take over the happenings of your life. There often isn’t a dining hall or tiny campus to navigate, but a sprawling city with signs in a foreign language and a routine you have to build from the ground up. All of this independence can feel overwhelming at times, but it will also make you far more capable at handling your own problems and establishing yourself somewhere new.
6. Taking Advantage of Networking Opportunities
Going to another country can help you make connections that may prove helpful later in life. Whether you want to work in the publishing industry and think a semester abroad in England will give you access to London’s publishing scene or a semester abroad in Sweden allows you to explore new artists and pushes you to pursue a career in the music industry, you never know what kind of industries you might be exposed to. Make the most of your time abroad and consider potential career moves that could come out of it.
7. Accessing Countries Around The World
The best part about studying abroad is not necessarily the country you move to — it’s often everywhere else you get to see along the way. If you go to any European country, buses and flights to neighboring nations are plentiful, cheap, and easy to access. This same principle applies to Northern African countries in that it’s not difficult to hop from Tunisia to Morocco. If you go to Southeast Asia there are many different countries that are easily accessible and they often have completely different cultures to learn about and explore. Going somewhere new gives you the opportunity to establish a new homeland, but it also gives you access to wonderful new travel opportunities nearby.
8. Boosting Your Resume
At the bare minimum, studying abroad will look good on a resume. It shows that you’re willing to tackle new situations, live independently, and have at least some sense of adventure. Additionally, if you look for programs that work specifically well for your major or courses you can’t take at your own university, studying abroad can actually help you become better equipt for your future career. Getting an education abroad isn’t just about sightseeing and appreciating Europe’s drinking age — it can also be a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of another university’s incredible professors or niche programs.