College is fun. Or so I’ve heard. It's the “best four years of your life” where you make friends for life, further your education, and prepare yourself for the rest of your life. But for some college students, that isn’t ambitious enough.
They desire to challenge themselves in a whole new way. They want to take the road less travelled and enter a place that probably does not speak their native language, nor practice the same American customs that they have been raised with. Studying abroad is one without a doubt one of the best decisions I’ve made in college. For a semester I had the time of my life, learned so much about culture, language, and most importantly, I learned about myself. I highly recommend every college student to consider studying abroad, and wanted to provide all of you with 9 reasons why you should think about it too!
1.) It's an adventure of a lifetime.
Just picture this: Packing up and getting on a plane to a destination that you’ve only seen in pictures, tasting new flavors, hearing new music, seeing works of art, architecture and countryside that can bring you to your knees with its beauty and contrast to what you’ve grown up with.
2. It makes you more proficient in your chosen foreign language
What better way to practice the language you study than to have to speak it on an everyday basis? You’re exposed to new vocabulary that serves a practical purpose in your life.
Suddenly, the word for “bakery” or learning how to ask for and give directions is important for your life! By the end of your semester, you’ll be miles ahead of your peers back at your home school at your level and will have improved so much.
3. You’ll probably be able to travel and see more countries than just your host nation.
During my semester in Paris, I was able to visit Dublin, London, Brugge (Belgium), Prague and visited several cities in France. I was exposed to so many cultures, foods, drinks, people and wonderful cities. Travel can be quite affordable if you are willing to do your research and plan far enough in advance!
4. You’ll make awesome friends
During my time abroad I made a few special friends I hope I will keep in contact with for the rest of my life. We all took on this new challenge together and bonded over the trials and tribulations that come with studying in a foreign nation. We traveled together, would cook and eat dinner at each others houses and go out and have a blast as Americans trying to get by in a new city.
5. You’ll learn to deal with stressful situations in a whole new way!
Life as a college student is hard enough, especially if you live independently at a big college. But imagine all of the struggles you have multiplied when you have a language and culture barrier to deal with! I remember during my first few days in Paris, just being terrified of anyone coming up to me and speaking French. By the end, I openly embraced challenges with language and culture.
6. The time away from your school will make you appreciate it more.
Going to a military college where my everyday life is rougher than most college students and is spartan, as far as comfort is concerned, I did not expect to miss my school. But I most certainly did. I found myself FaceTiming my roommates and loved hearing all about life back at VMI. Now that I’m back at school, I feel much better about it and the reunion I had with my friends was amazing. I have never loved my school so much before I left it for eight months.
7. You’ll receive a surprisingly excellent education
I went into my stay expecting the educational aspect to be lacking in difficulty and rigor. While the classes were not quite at the same level as the ones that I’m used to at VMI, I learned so much from the semester of classes I took in Paris. Not only did my formal language instruction pay off, but I took classes that were directly applicable in my major at VMI. I also was able to take some more fun classes like oenology, which is the study of wine! I came back home with the knowledge that I had not fallen behind in my studies, but was launched forward by it.
8. You’ll love the local culture
No matter where you are considering studying, you will come to love the culture you are immersed in. You’ll find yourself eating the local cuisine the way the locals do, rooting for the local sports teams, and taking pride in where you are. You strive to transition from “tourist” to being a local and the results are quite rewarding. Your friends or family will be so impressed with your knowledge of your new city and changed outlook if they come to visit you!
9. You’ll find a new place to call home
After spending four months (or more) in a new city and new culture, you’ll get more and more comfortable with your environment and will miss home less. In fact, when you return you may miss your host nation and all of the memories associated with it. When you look back, you’ll realize that it's your second home and that if you ever got the opportunity to visit it again, you would in a heartbeat. You love your city, or nation just as much as your own home, and wouldn’t change this experience for the world.
So get out there, there's a huge world out there to explore! Meet with your school's study abroad councelor today!