Sunday, June 22, 2014

Study Abroad Series: 1. Why the answer to "Should I study abroad?" is always "Yes!"

(This is Part One of an eventual five part series on studying abroad. Check back later for tips on overcoming roadblocks to studying abroad, packing for your semester abroad, and how to craft the perfect study abroad experience!)
Photo I took at a Tuscan vineyard

Not everyone wants to study abroad. A lot of people don’t ever even consider it. So, first things first, this post is my answer to the simple question: Why should I study abroad? 
Not only does studying abroad look great on a resume (Michelle Obama agrees with me on this!), but it is a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I say this with a grain of salt because I myself studied abroad twice, which is rare at my school but perhaps not at yours. And not studying abroad in college doesn’t necessarily mean you will never get to study abroad again, and definitely doesn’t mean you will never get to work or live abroad on your own.
         That being said, I cringe when people tell me that the reason they choose not to study abroad is because they know they will have the chance to see the world in the future. To those who think studying abroad in college is an opportunity they can afford to pass up, here are my two reasons to think twice:
1. Traveling somewhere is one thing, living there is another.
I didn't travel much growing up. I think I had been on a plane around four times in the first 15 years of my life, and never internationally. It all changed when I was selected as an exchange participant through my town's Sister City program and got to spend a month of my summer living with a family in Taiwan.
Since then, I've been to China, Korea, Thailand, and various countries throughout Europe, all in the past 6 years. What I learned from those experiences is that there is a huge difference between traveling to a country and living in a country. And that's why I am writing this article. 
You might have the chance to travel the world but I promise you that being a tourist and being a resident, even if only for four months, yield entirely different experiences.
Living in a foreign city means you get to know the area really well. You see the beautiful backstreets that you wouldn't typically see as a tourist!
2. Studying abroad might be better than working abroad.
            Waiting to graduate from college and hoping to work in another country to get your ‘abroad experience’ is not a bad idea by any means. In fact, I plan to move abroad after I finish up my last year of college. But working abroad and studying abroad are two different ball games.
         While this isn’t true for every academic institution, in general, study abroad programs tend to be a bit easier than your typical home institution coursework. In Korea, where academics are taken really seriously, I was both integrated into normal university classes as well as enrolled in courses specifically for exchange students. In Italy, I took classes at an institution that was designed specifically for study abroad students. In both cases, although in different ways, my semesters abroad were less intense than my semesters at my home university.

         For this reason, studying abroad allows you more time to travel, to explore the town or city you live in, to meet up with friends, to have fun. You have fall break, or spring break, and you are surrounded by other students who want to go out drinking and traveling, too. When you move abroad to work, a lot of those things disappear.
Also, college is one of the easiest times to get to experience living like a local in a foreign country. You have the support of your school, it's easier to get a student visa than a work visa, and you have a built in social circuit in your fellow classmates. Plus, you likely don't have to/can't worry about working while abroad so you have much more time to travel and enjoy the country. 
Just something to consider before you decide to save “living abroad” until later in life.

Studying abroad also means great new food!
(Gusta Pizza in Florence, Italy...they made mine into a heart! Awww :') )

If you can't tell already, I have strong bias on this matter. If you're considering studying abroad, my advice to you is to do it. Will everyone enjoy studying abroad? No. But will you learn something that you would never have the chance to by staying at home? Yes. Without a doubt. 
The choice is up to you, but just remember that being a student learner living in a foreign country is something different from other abroad experiences. A lot of the hesitations that people have about studying abroad are also solvable/avoidable, so don’t let one road block (cost, fear of being away from home, language barrier) deter you.
If you think you can’t study abroad but want to, read my next post. I’ll try to address some of people’s greatest hesitations about studying abroad.

Thanks for reading and happy travels! ;)

P.S. If you have any hesitations about studying abroad that you want addressed in my next post, leave a comment below and I’ll try to help!

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I've nominated you for the Liebster Award :)


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