If you’re in college or university, you might have tossed the idea around of studying abroad, or maybe you asked yourself “Why should I study abroad?” if you’re feeling hesitant. The idea of studying abroad can be scary to some. It’s a big leap, often to another continent completely where you know hardly anyone or maybe a couple of people if you’re lucky. Only around 1% of U.S. college students study abroad, which is very sad considering all they’re missing out on!
A study abroad experience, no matter the time length, is completely worthwhile and will transform you as a person, especially if you’ve never been abroad before.
Here are 7 good reasons why you should study abroad!
- You’ll grow as a person. Now I don’t mean this to sound cliche, but it’s true. It’s not just in the sense that it’ll make you a better person, but it will make you more open-minded and aware of cultural differences that you wouldn’t have recognized before. Being taken out of your comfort zone for an extended period of time will also help you to become more self-reliant and independent, which for many college students can be a struggle since many of us still half-rely on our parents for support.
- Opportunity to learn a new language. Yes, it’s true that older people can still learn new languages, but learning pronunciations and perfecting grammar is much easier if you’re still young. Even if you’re not very interested in perfecting another language, being bi or trilingual is an insane advantage in any job market. If you’re studying in a country that doesn’t speak your native tongue, you’ll definitely learn at least a little survival vocabulary. Coming from the United States’ monolingual culture, I’ve found that even knowing a few basics in another language sets a very good impression with people from other countries, like being able to order my food in Portuguese when I went to Brazil. Gaining fluency is a long journey, but for me getting to a conversational level of Spanish that I’m at now has been one of my greatest accomplishments.
- You’re pursuing a career in business. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying finance, economics, marketing, management, or even entrepreneurship. If you’re a business student you should definitely consider going abroad. How many times do we hear in business classes that successful businesses and entrepreneurs take risks? Going abroad shows you’re ambitious enough to leave your comfort zone. With the rise of globalization, being culturally-aware and having some sort of international experience will set you apart from other candidates after graduation and while applying for internships.
- You want to travel. This should be obvious for anyone who has the slightest interest in traveling. What are your interests? What is your definition of adventure? Research the surrounding countries of where you want to go and how expensive it is to travel around. For example, traveling in the European Union is a lot cheaper than most other regions of the world, and you can buy train passes where you get to visit multiple countries. I’m currently in Chile, which is an incredibly beautiful country filled with both icebergs, mountains, and deserts. The neighboring countries in South America are a bit more expensive to travel to than the EU, but I chose Chile because of the natural diversity, as well as the diversity amongst it’s neighboring countries (plus I had already been to Europe and wanted to improve my Spanish).
- Because you have the opportunity to do so. After college, unless you decide to move to another country as an expat or teach English somewhere, the likelihood of you getting time off work to go on a 3-6 month vacation is very slim! Although you still have classes to go to (unfortunately), many professors are a little more lenient with exchange students if you have to miss a couple of classes because they understand and want you to travel and get to know their country. If you do a semester or year abroad, you’re experiencing something you probably will never have the chance to do after graduation simply because life happens. We get married, we have kids, we have full-time jobs. For most people, college will be the only opportunity to have such an experience.
- Financial Aid. There are so many scholarships and grants out there! If you go through an exchange partner with your university, it’s likely your university will have financial aid or scholarships which can cover all or a huge chunk of your study abroad expenses. Two scholarships covered my short-term study abroad in Spain completely, all I paid was the tuition I would normally pay. Because Chile was a full semester, I saved up money myself which was enough to cover the essential living expenses, but ended up receiving over $4,000 in scholarships which has helped me afford to travel. Although you can’t completely rely on scholarships because there’s always the chance you won’t get any (I was denied from several I applied for), if you do get some it can make your trip a lot less expensive. One tip on scholarships is that there are a lot that give preference to students studying in less popular countries, namely those outside of Western Europe, the United States, Australia/New Zealand and Canada. If you want to go to a less popular country, and have a strong interest in the culture or language, you can connect these reasons for going for a stronger application.
- You’ll meet new people from a lot of different countries. In my exchange group in Chile, I am the only person from the United States, and actually the only person from a native English-speaking country. One of the best parts of studying abroad is the diversity of people you meet, and how despite coming from all corners of the world, you are all there in that experience together. Especially in the first month of studying abroad, it’s super easy to make friends because nobody knows each other, and you’re all in the same boat of being in a totally foreign place with nothing that’s familiar to you.