I just got back from my study abroad reunion in Rome. A week spent in Rome with people I met a decade ago during my first experience abroad, in one of my favorite cities in the world. It was more than enough motivation for me to create an ode to studying abroad, and reminded me to continue to work daily to convince the young people I know to experience this incredible opportunity. So here goes:
- Studying abroad allows you to experience international travel in a way that is safe and supported. Especially if it’s your first time abroad, this creates a level of comfort for you (and likely your parents) that will make the unknown a little less threatening.
- You’ll discover more about yourself in that time period than you would imagine is possible. Not only more about your personal likes and dislikes, tolerances and intolerances, but your travel habits, communication style, friendship-building capacities, how you spend and budget money, what is important to take from your travels, and lots of other abilities you didn’t know you had or could develop.
- Integrating yourself into a different language and culture is the best way to learn either; choose to really engage in the place, and the benefits are limitless.
- You can make friends from all over the world who will love for you to come back and visit for decades to come.
- Your (adopted) home city will likely be a great jumping-off point for other travels around the region or continent you’re in–independent or group travel is much easier with budget airlines and rail systems that are much more extensive than at home.
- Adapting to daily routines outside of your own helps you become more flexible and tolerant, not only when you’re traveling, but when you get home also.
- You’ll likely experience a wide variety of new foods, and you may gain some new favorites to take home with you as go-to comfort food that will evoke instant memories of your trip abroad. It’ll also give you a reason to go try new ethnic restaurants at home, if you’ve discovered a love for moussaka, arepas, or shawarma while you were abroad, and want to expand your gastronomic experiences.
- You’ll gain skills that will help you post-college. You’re more marketable as a prospective employee with language skills, a proven track-record of taking on new challenges, or the worldliness that comes with experiences outside of the US.
- You’ll wow your friends and family with the skills you’ve gained while abroad. The first time I traveled with my parents after my study abroad trip, they couldn’t believe how assertive and proactive I was, and how easily I could navigate new cities and public transportation. I certainly wouldn’t have been equipped to help them travel more easily, if I hadn’t been given the chance to figure it all out during my semester abroad.
- If you choose to “disconnect” from technology to some degree while you’re abroad (by choice or necessity), you’ll discover that life without smartphones, though more difficult, can be more fulfilling. I studied abroad before smart phones existed, and I’m certain I had a better, more adventurous experience as a result. I also rediscover this every time I travel, and rely less on social media when I get home.
- You’ll discover things about your home and home life that you will come to appreciate more when you get back. It’ll help you realize how important some relationships are, and maybe help you understand some that aren’t.
- You’ll think about the world differently; knowing people and places different from your regular help you on your way to becoming a global citizen.
- You may be inspired to attend grad school abroad and continue your international education; especially in central and northern European countries, you may even get to go for free!
- You have time to truly get to know a city; the best discoveries are made when wandering aimlessly or walking to class, not usually when walking from one tourist site to another.
- With the diversity of programs available at many universities, you can continue a more traditional course of study OR take classes unrelated to your major; both will enrich you beyond belief.
- There are SO many places around the world to study, and so many types of programs, there is actually something for everyone. Want to study zoology? Ancient languages? Native cultures? Mechanical engineering? Literature? ALL can be done through one program or another, and through the lens of another language, culture, perspective, etc.
- There are lots of opportunities to study abroad for the same or nearly the same cost as a semester at school would normally cost. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t afford it; there are so many ways to make sure you can!
- You are not likely to have fewer responsibilities, more freedom, or more opportunities than you do in your undergraduate studies. Do it while you can, or you may have to wait until your retire to feel like you have the time again!
- Wanderlust is real, and once the travel bug bites, you’ll be doomed to a life of exploration, expanding your horizons, and experiencing new people and cultures.
- – 1072. You’ll see and do remarkable things, be better prepared for the world post-college, and you’ll make lifelong friends along the way. This is exactly what college should be about.
Take these to heart, and go forth, and set the world on fire!