Breathing in the unfamiliar air, staring at the ocean from a completely different vantage point. The world around me had just opened up, and I felt small.
I was 21 the first time I traveled abroad alone. A dream of mine was to study abroad like my mother, and nailing down a country to do it in was the hardest part. After months of deliberation, I landed on Australia, to this day I still don’t know exactly why. My school (UNCW – Go Seahawks!) participated with a number of international schools, and it was easy to do a semester exchange program. Therefore, I could still pay my home schools tuition charges for the school abroad.
It was not a group program run exchange, everything was individual. You paid for everything separate as you would if you were just traveling, and you were not included into a pre-organized American group – a blessing in disguise that I will touch on later.
Landing in the foreign country alone was daunting. My first thought was
This doesn’t look like the outback…
Exhausted, I settled into my room. It’s cold, July in Australia – winter – I didn’t think it would get cold here. Did I even pack winter clothes? Shit.
So, what now? I’m alone. What do I do?
It didn’t take long before I settled into a group of amazing friends from all over the world. I spent most of my days exploring new territories. I planned my schedule so that I had all my classes on one day a week. I drank goon (boxed wine mixed with juice) like it was water. I had six full months to get my international fill in.
Life was a new, unexplored, and exciting party. The decision to study abroad was the best decision of my life, it has changed my life and molded me into the wanderer I am today. I encourage each student to study abroad at least once, I have met too many graduates that regret not doing it upon graduation. If it is within your means then there are many reasons why you should get moving to another country!
Why You Should Study Abroad At Least Once
College students are generally young and active. On top of having your physical youth, you may not find yourself tied down to a house, kids, and a job quite yet. Before life’s obligations limit you, take time for yourself and enjoy this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Introduction to Travel
Study abroad is the perfect way to learn about traveling internationally. From the logistical processes of visas and passports to learning navigation skills and dealing with long flights, trains, and bus rides. Ultimately, you will be forced to act more independently and enhance your problem-solving skills.
Showcase that international school right on the “Education” section of your resume. You’ve achieved an accomplishment with your new life abroad, now share it! Check with your school when you return, many may need you to be a study abroad ambassador now. Business will continue to be globalized, so having study abroad on your resume may help you land that dream job over other candidates who do not. I was told by my previous employers that my global experiences were part of the reason I got hired.
Engage in new cultures
Study abroad is a great way to get introduced to other cultures. New foods, customs, atmospheres, and traditions are all part of the experience. You will also learn more about the local history and people than any textbook can tell you. Engaging in a new culture will also help you realize what you love about your own countries culture, and also ways you can improve it.
Meet New Friends
I was so thankful that my study abroad program did not place me with a group. Being thrown into a new territory alone forces you to put yourself out there and work to meet new friends. You get to meet people from different parts of the world with contrasting points of view. Friends back at home will always be there and they are great. But to have friends from everywhere is amazing too, and now you get to share homes on future travels. Bonus!
Local vs Tourist
Why visit a country when you can live there? One of my top reasons why you should study abroad is to become a local! Living in a foreign country will give you a real life experience with day to day life.
Learn or Enhance Language
Ever wanted to learn Italian, or put that high school Spanish class to work? The best way to learn a new language is immersion. This will also allow you to interact with the local people and appreciate the different cultures.
Pretty soon you are going to find yourself done with college and pursuing your next life step. The chances are great that you will be close to complete independence by this point. Study abroad gives you a chance to practice your independence and see what it’s like in an unfamiliar land. This will be an exciting and exhilarating change to your daily life!
Take your time exploring a country
Instead of rushing through a week long vacation trying to see everything, study abroad lets you explore at a more leisurely pace. Take your free weekends and breaks and travel to new cities, use your downtime after classes to get to know the area.
Have you studied abroad? Let me know your experiences in the comments section!