There are many compelling reasons why you should study abroad during college, such as learning a new language, seeing the world, or even boosting your job prospects post-graduation.
An abroad experience bestows many lasting effects on participants, and the above are some of the most commonly cited. However, there are many subtler effects that aren’t often discussed but are just as formative.
1. New friends near and far
Especially if you’ll stay with a host family during your semester abroad, you’ll be spending a lot of time getting to know the locals. Though you’ll only be abroad for a semester, the bonds you form can transcend the distance and years after you return home.
Studying abroad also helps you form strong bonds with your classmates — the people who are studying abroad with you. Whether these classmates are from another university or your own, chances are you won’t know them before your trip. Traveling and embracing new cultures together provides a wealth of bonding experiences that you’ll always have in common after returning to campus.
2. Lessons and stories you’ll never forget
Learning a new culture, not to mention a new language, is awkward, and if you’re going to study abroad, prepare for a few mishaps and occasionally putting your foot in your mouth (especially if it’s the local custom). This is nothing to be feared!
Mistakes and what gets lost in translation provide some of the most important, and sometimes humorous, lessons you’ll learn while away from home. Like so many travelers before you, you may be astonished at how nice and accommodating strangers can be toward visitors.
3. A gateway to more travel
Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to travel more — this is one of the most overlooked benefits of going abroad. Your abroad location can become your home base for further travel, which you should take advantage of. You never know when you’ll be only a short train, bus, or plane ride away from dozens of other countries and sights again. Take this opportunity to get out and explore. If you study abroad in the spring, you may even be able to bookend your trip with more extensive travel.
4. A larger, more complex world
You’ll likely read up on your new city or country’s history, society, and culture before your abroad program. It’s easy to take this literal understanding of your temporary new home with you, which spells out its subject matter in such definite terms. But once you’re on the ground, living in the culture and meeting locals, you’ll discover that things aren’t as clear cut as they are in your books, and many locals may challenge you on what you thought were facts about their customs, culture, and history.
Studying abroad will teach you that the world is larger, more complex, and more nuanced than you ever imagined. Talking with and befriending locals will help you understand other ways of seeing the world and appreciate that few things are ever black and white.
5. Meeting a new you
Living in an unfamiliar country and immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture and language is intimidating. And even though you may have a cadre of classmates to hangout with, many of them will likely be new faces. Studying abroad shakes you out of your comfort zone, but in doing so, it allows you to escape the confines of your well-worn identity back home.
While at school you likely have a familiar routine, hang out with the same people, and do the same things week to week. There is nothing wrong with this, but being abroad takes you out of this familiar life and gives you the opportunity to learn things about yourself that you may have never discovered otherwise. This inward exploration could inform the rest of your time at college and beyond.
Thinking of going abroad? Where would you love to study? Leave your thoughts by commenting below.