What would it be like to study architecture beneath the Eiffel Tower or write your ancient literature essay in the shadow of the Coliseum?
Plenty of people wish they could study abroad, but more often than not those ideas get treated like dreams instead of plans. Many of us would love to do it someday—but too often, “someday” never comes.
I’ve spent two semesters of my college career in Ireland. Because of those experiences, I’d argue that study abroad is more than beneficial—it’s life-changing. It’s kind of like putting those silly paper glasses on in the movie theatre—it takes something that used to be flat and gives it another dimension.
1.) The World Gets Bigger--And Smaller
If you’d only ever stood in the back left corner of a certain room, you’d only understand it from that angle. Going to the front right corner, for example, would give you a totally different view, and you’d have a better idea of what the room looked like as a whole because of it.
Studying abroad works the same way. People all around the globe see the world from their particular angle. The more angles you have the opportunity to look at it from, the bigger your understanding of the world becomes. You’ll become more understanding of different people, different cultures, and different ways of life, which is a huge part of your development into a well-rounded adult.
2.) Differences Become a Part of Life
Along that same vein, the more you come to understand differences abroad, the more you’ll come to understand the differences at home, too.
There’s no where you can live where everyone is exactly the same. Through travel you’ll meet people who seem nothing like you at first glance—and you’ll probably come to learn that you have more in common than you thought. This can be applied when you return, too. There are people different from you right here at home or on your college campus. You’ll be better able to relate to and befriend them once you’ve seen what a beautiful thing difference can be.
So your people skills will be improved—just like your parents always wanted when you were a kid, right?
3.) You Learn Outside of a Classroom
Let’s say you’re doing a research project on World War II. You can read all the books and watch all the documentaries you want at home, and you’ll probably learn quite a bit. More than most of us know, probably.
But what if you were to actually go to Europe and walk the battlefields, touch the walls of ruined buildings, and hear stories from those who lived through it? There are some things you just can’t learn without being there. There are some emotions and memories tied to important events that you’ll never be able to feel unless you become a part of the history yourself.
This isn’t only true with historical events. You can learn everything there is to know about being self-sufficient and taking care of yourself, but until you’ve figured out how to get yourself from one city to another on a college student’s budget, chances are those lessons won’t really set in.
4.) Growing and Maturing are Not the Same
We all grow. That’s just a fact a life. At some point you’ll be the size of an adult, and there’s nothing you can do about it. But when do you truly become an adult?
During my two semesters in Ireland, I’ve spent my breaks in London, Budapest, Vienna, and Paris. All of these trips were planned with a few friends. I believe that planning those details by ourselves gave us a level of maturity we hadn’t had before. There’s just something about living in another country for an extended period of time that teaches you what growing up means. I was able to take those lessons with me back home, and they’ve been invaluable to me on my college campus.
5.) Your Self-Confidence Soars
Last but certainly not least, studying abroad can send your confidence level through the roof. Maybe you used to panic after making a wrong turn and getting lost. Now, with your skills gained from finding the grocery store in China, you take such mishaps in stride. I used to be afraid to order for myself in restaurants. Not after being dropped off on the other side of Ireland with a few others for two nights!
In conclusion, if at all possible try to make studying abroad a goal instead of a dream. Most schools today offer a plethora of programs to do exactly that. If you should find one that’s just right for you, don’t be afraid to step out there and try it! I promise you’ll be glad you did.