6 Reasons why you should REALLY study abroad

1. It’s a Paid Vacation! Well sort of, but let’s face it, your student loans are probably going to pay for this program, which is essentially money you don’t have to begin with. What other chance will you have to spend a year in a foreign country without having to come up with the cash in advance? Sure, you will have to pay your loans back later, but if you wait to save up the cash to spend a year studying abroad, it may take you years!

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2. Your self confidence will skyrocket! This is something I never cease to express to my friends and family since returning home. While many people who do go abroad are fairly confident to begin with, there is something unique about living outside of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Living abroad you will constantly be re-adapting to a new environment, rolling with the punches, and you might find that the little things you were too afraid to try in your life back home, such as applying for a promotion at work suddenly seem like no big deal.

3. You get a break from school! Okay, I know what you’re thinking, you are STUDYING abroad, how is this a break from school? Well truthfully, many study abroad programs are set up on a pass/fail basis. Usually your destination school will have a different grading system that does not match-up exactly with your home university, therefore your foreign classes will transfer as pass or fail, with no letter grade. This means none of the classes you take abroad will impact your gpa in anyway. Not only that, but when all there is to focus on is passing or failing, it is hard not to skimp a little on the effort you put into your assignments, especially when some overseas schools actually give out fewer assignments than what you may be accustomed to. Now, this doesn’t mean you should go abroad and expect to do absolutely nothing, your schools may ask for fewer assignments but will expect higher quality, and if you plan to apply to professional schools later such as medical school, they may want to know how well you studied overseas. Essentially, you will have a little wiggle room to relax in your studies, and if you are going away in your second or third year, this may help prevent you from burning out back home.

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4. Form Internationl Friendships! In your time overseas you will probably, if you’re doing it right, make friends with some students who are native to the country you are visiting. This is fairly obvious, but in addition, you may also meet other students studying abroad, from different parts of your home country and from other countries throughout the world. By the time you return home, you will have built up a network of international friends. This will inevitably open the door to more travel opportunities. Also, if you have any interest in working overseas, it is definitely a plus to have connections throughout the world.

5. Master a second language! There is no better way to master a language than to be knees-deep in it. If you are studying a second language back home, you may be getting good practice in it, but you are still using your native language on a regular basis. Living overseas you will be forced to rely on your second language, and to developp your abilities in it to survive. Chances are you may barely use your native language the entire year. Think of it as a crash course! Even if you are visiting a country that primarily uses your native language, you will find that their culture has heavily influenced the way they use it, and their accent, mannerisms, vocabulary and slang will all still be quite new to you. Despite knowing the same language, you may learn new ways of expressing yourself, and you will be more understanding of their culture

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6. Career Prospects! I am sure this is not the first time you are hearing this but studying abroad CAN help you find jobs. Even at the least, it’s a conversation starter. When you sit a graduate school interview, or a job interview, the staff interviewing you are also interviewing thousands of other applicants. It can be hard to stand out! Sharing a story from your time abroad, as a method of answering a question in an interview may peak their lifeless interest once again! It will at least give you something unique to talk about. Also, with modern day technology we are becoming an increasingly globalized economy, and if you are looking for a job in an international field such as business or politics, it will give you a leg up against the competition.

Falling in love abroad: What it’s really like

A couple years ago, I spent a year in the United Kingdom on a study abroad scheme through my University. I went shortly after the royal wedding and many of my friends and family joked about the possibility that I might fall in love with an Englishman and never come home. Admittedly this didn’t sound half bad, and I am sure many people fantasize about falling in love with a foreigner when they go overseas, but the reality is far from a fairytale.

We met during the very first week of classes on a night out, and we hit it off from the very beginning. This was a blessing and a curse, as we had the entire year to enjoy together, and an entire year to become overly attached to one another. The truth was it was great, it was phenomenal! Would I do it again in a heartbeat? For sure! But the reality is, that it was also really painful.

When you meet someone abroad, at least in my experience, you enter into it with this fairytale daze and you think this is lovely, this is adventurous, this is exciting! But as the year goes on and you spend more time together, you start to really realize that there is a set expiration date on this relationship. Typically when you date someone, you look to the future without knowing with certainty whether or not you will break up in a week, a month or a year, or whether you will be in it for the long hall. In this type of relationship you look to the future and you know exactly when it is going to end. In fact, there were many times where we discussed the future with the unaddressed elephant in the room reminding us it would not be a future lived together.

In hindsight, I could have better prepared myself for the nearing end, but I became seriously interested in the guy that I was dating. This was problematic as he had expressed from the beginning that he did not want to attempt a long distance relationship, and frankly this seems to be the norm if you are temporarily residing overseas. What did I expect? We were young, we still are very young (our early twenties) neither of us have a clue where we will be next year, or what we will be doing. In addition, going into a long distance relationship puts a serious strain on a relationship, not just the strain of making an effort to see each other and communicate, but it also adds an unavoidable label; that this relationship is serious. I understand now with more clarity, why he did not want a long distance relationship, and I think it was the best for the both of us.

While I think many situations are different, both parties really need to be committed for something to work, and as much as I would have liked to take things further, he clearly did not want to, and that is something I have learned to respect. I know that friends of mine have had similar experiences, but decided to entertain a long distance relationship, and some of them have even gotten married, I think it really depends on how interested the two individuals are in each other, and where they are in their life. Perhaps if this relationship had occured in my mid thirties it would have ended differently. Who knows!? I do know however, that there is no point dwelling on what ifs. While we continue to keep in touch, and there clearly appears to be leftover affections, we may never see each other again, and if we are lucky enough to cross paths one day, maybe we will try again. In life there really are no guarantees, and unfortunately there are no fairytales either.