Your college probably promotes its students studying internationally. You'll see fairs from the study abroad office and posters all over campus. You might also have friends who have studied abroad in a past semester, and likely, they can't shut up about it. Ever since they got back, all they talk about is their time in India or Australia or France. They lament about missing the friends they made while abroad. They also probably talk about how much they miss whatever sort of food they had in their host country. Well, there's good reason for all of this talk of missing the place they went to. Study abroad is an extremely valuable and important experience, and not one that many people get. There are many benefits to international travel. Here are just a few:
1. A greater sense of independence
While you might be fairly independent before international study, that independence increases exponentially when you get to your host country. You are on your own, in the most complete sense of the phrase. You are completely surrounded by all of these new people and experiences. It's sort of like starting all over again.
You have to relearn how to get around your campus and the city you're in. Potentially, you will also have to adjust to another language and stark culture differences. All of this change forces you to become independent. You don't have your family or friends around to guide you through everything. You have to do it by yourself, and learn how to cope without help from familiar faces. Study abroad is an excellent means of becoming more independent, because you don't really have another choice.
2. Becoming a master of airports
Yes, you'll travel to the country you're studying in, but you'll also wind up traveling to a lot more places. This is particularly true if you choose to study in Europe. The countries are so small and close together that travel throughout Europe is extremely easy and often inexpensive. Because of you, you'll most likely find yourself flying to a bunch of different places. When I was abroad, I flew nearly 20 times during the course of the semester. This caused me to become excellent at maneuvering my way through airports.
They're quite simple, when you deal with them enough. You check in beforehand. You get to the airport two hours before your flight. You go through security, passport and boarding pass ready. No boots or complicated garment pieces, because you'll have to take those off. Then you're on your way to the gate. Airports seem like scary places initially, but study abroad really helps to take that fear away.
3. Understanding a different culture
You may go to a country where the country isn't terribly different, like England. Or, you might go to a place like Morocco where the culture is extremely different. Either way, you're going to experience life differently. England may not be astronomically varying from the United States, but it's different enough to notice. Obviously, in a place like Morocco, the difference is quite obvious.
It's all part of adjusting to a different way of life. You'll end up eating different food, calling common words by something else, and just living a life that isn't really like your life back home. Study abroad helps make this process less scary. You've already lived somewhere very different from home, so when you wind up doing that later in your life, it's something you've done before. Studying abroad helps you prepare for the future.
4. Making friends from all over the place
The wildest thing for me when I studied abroad was just getting to know people who lived very different lives from me. Some of them had never been to the United States before. Others were also studying abroad from the U.S. and lived in states far away from my own. It was so interesting to meet so many people from so many different places.
International study casts you a wider net in the people you communicate with. You'll meet people you never dreamed of meeting before, from all walks of life. And you'll experience being together in a foreign country. The students you meet in your host country will ask you about the United States and what it's like. Studying internationally gives you connections you wouldn't have otherwise.
5. Engaging in something that will be one of the most memorable parts of your life
For me, international study was undoubtedly the best part of my entire college career. I returned from England over six months ago and I still miss it so terribly. I miss the food, the accents and the landscape. I miss the people and the architecture. I miss everything about it. Honestly, I could go on for days about how much I miss studying abroad.
If you ask other former study abroad students if they miss the experience, they'll probably have a similar reaction. It is without question one of the best things a student can do for themselves. It is something you will remember for the rest of your life as a time of freedom and adventure. You experience so much while you're abroad, and you can't really have that experience at any other time. Studying abroad stays with you forever.