It’s back to school season, which also means it’s the season to start thinking about studying abroad! If you’re on the fence—or maybe you haven’t considered it before—now’s a good time to start thinking about if it’s something you want to do (spoiler: you probably do). Not ready to apply just yet? No worries. The process of deciding what programs to apply for, applying, adjusting your schedule accordingly, saving and budgeting for your time abroad and so on can take several semesters, so it’s best to plan ahead.
Not sure if studying abroad is right for you? Here’s nine reasons why every college student should consider studying abroad.
1. Experience new cultures
One of the best parts of studying abroad is the unique opportunity you get to immerse yourself in a new culture. Seeing how people live in another part of the world can really give you a new perspective and challenge your understanding of the world—in a good way! It’s an amazing learning and growing experience, and it’s also just really fun. Making new friends from another culture will give you insight into what people believe and why, and give you some insights on your own beliefs and culture as well.
2. Gain confidence & adaptability
If moving to a new city and having to adjust to new… well, everything, for a few months doesn’t help you become more adaptable, we’re not sure what will! But in all seriousness, studying abroad will push you out of your comfort zone. That’s good though, because it’ll help you develop lots of skills that’ll serve you well in the future. Students who study abroad tend to be more adaptable and resourceful, better communicators, more independent, stronger problem-solvers, more self-aware and more! And you’ll gain so much confidence too. The first time you get lost in a new city, take the wrong train or have to shop in a market without knowing the local language can be scary—but you’ll find your way through it and feel so much more confident realizing how much you’re able to overcome!
3. Take new classes & unique opportunities for your major
While you definitely want to make sure the classes you take abroad will transfer to your home university, studying abroad will give you access to a lot of unique classes or research opportunities for your major that you wouldn’t have had otherwise! Humanities and social science majors who study abroad in somewhere like Europe will find tons of specialized classes. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to study art, history, literature and more in some of the most significant areas of the world for those subjects. Or study ecology in Costa Rica, engineering in Singapore or environmental sciences in Tanzania or South Africa. The options are honestly endless!
4. Make new friends
The friends you make while traveling are some of the most unique friendships you can have. You’ll bond quickly and have plenty of fun things to do and see together. From sightseeing to taking weekend trips to getting lost in a new city and discovering the best cafes together, you’ll make memories that you’ll be reminiscing over for years. Depending on the program you choose, you’ll probably find a mix of friends from your school, from other schools around the US or who attend your host school full-time and live locally. Meeting people from so many different places and backgrounds is definitely one of the highlights of a study abroad experience!
5. Learn what it’s like to live abroad
As you might imagine, taking a vacation for a few weeks and living somewhere for a few months is a completely different experience. In one, you spend a few weeks somewhere new, enjoying a flurry of activity and new foods. In the other, you have to really stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone, learning new customs, languages, foods and even ways of transportation. Ever wondered what it might be like to live in Italy or New Zealand or just about anywhere? Studying abroad is a great way to experience it firsthand.
6. Practice a foreign language
Make no mistake: studying abroad won’t instantly unlock the secret keys to learning a foreign language for you. However, immersing yourself in a country that speaks that language is an easy way to get more practice! Whether you want to immerse yourself in a language you’ve been studying for a few years or dive headfirst into a totally new language, with a little time and effort, you’d be surprised how much you can pick up in just a few months!
7. You’ll get to travel more!
Many study abroad students budget in advance for plenty of weekend trips—and that’s just as it should be, because you’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel for cheap once you’re abroad! Whether it’s taking weekend trips around Europe or hitting up Bali while you have a break from your studies in Australia, studying abroad gives you the chance to more easily travel to places you might not have otherwise explored. If you’d rather spend your weekends taking a quick trip to Prague or Croatia than hitting up the same coffee shop in your college town (again), then you should definitely start thinking about studying abroad.
8. Become more independent
Studying abroad will definitely boost your independence, which is a super valuable skill to have as you navigate college life (and beyond!). While you’ll have a network of support before and during your study abroad experience, you’ll also gain a lot of independence. After all, you’ll be exploring a new place on your own, or with new people, for probably the first time!
9. Gain work experience (or a resume boost)
Many study abroad programs allow for the opportunity to take on an international internship or part-time work during your semester. While this can provide some funding for weekend trips, it can also provide a serious resume boost. This is because employers tend to favor candidates with international experience. According to the Erasmus Student Network (a study abroad program in Europe), 64% of employers value international experience (even if it’s just a study abroad trip!) and consider it important when recruiting.
Is studying abroad ever a bad idea?
It can definitely be harder for some majors or concentrations to study abroad. Or you might have an athletic or extracurricular schedule that makes it difficult to move to the other side of the world for a semester. However, while there are things that may make studying abroad trickier, there’s almost always a way to work around them if you’re excited about studying abroad! Some of the hardest parts of studying abroad can be:
Studying abroad is obviously not free. As a college student, money isn’t exactly growing on the trees around campus, so cost can be a real factor in why studying abroad is not always an easy choice. However, that being said, there’s a lot you can do to make studying abroad more affordable! Your university likely has a study abroad office that can help you explore programs and costs. They’ll also be able to work with you to help you understand what parts of your financial aid could be used for different programs. There’s plenty of study abroad scholarships and grants available as well that can help ease the costs. It may be helpful to consider your study abroad destination as well. Some destinations will have higher costs of living than others, so where you go can help you save!
The culture shock & homesickness
Culture shock is very real! You’ll notice that after a few weeks, the excitement of your new home starts to wear off and the realization that you’ve committed several months to living in a new culture will set in. This can be totally overwhelming at times, but it’s super normal! While culture shock and homesickness can make for some hard nights, it’s also a growing experience. In time, you’ll grow more accustomed to your new environment while also probably gaining a deeper appreciation of your home. And it won’t last forever!
No doubt about it, there’s a lot of logistics involved in studying abroad. From program applications to finding a cheap study abroad flight, figuring out accommodations, scheduling your classes, getting a visa, budgeting for your trip and so on, the process can be overwhelming. You may feel like you don’t even know where to start! While there is a lot to plan, there’s also plenty of people who can help! Connect with your school’s study abroad office and an academic advisor to help figure out programs, scheduling and financial aid. Whichever program you choose will have tons of support in place to make sure that you aren’t forgetting anything important as you plan your trip.
All in all, studying abroad is an incredible opportunity that is really unique to college students. After all, when else are you going to have the chance to move to another country for a few months? The planning may not be easy, but it’ll be an amazing experience that’ll not only give you memories to last a lifetime, but new skills and independence, too.