Now that you’re in college, you’ve probably tried a ton of new things that you never thought you would have. Some of those things are probably embarrassing and even cringe worthy to think about! But I want you to ask yourself, do you regret doing them? Maybe, but most likely you came out of these experiences with a new-found interest, new friends, or one heck of a good story to tell your kids one day. These are just some of the benefits of studying abroad. And while it may seem intimidating at first, you may regret NOT doing it. I certainly do!
How I Missed out on the Benefits of Studying Abroad
College is intended to be a breeding ground for education, ideas and experiences, all with the intention of you graduating as more empathetic, educated and well-rounded individual. Most of the things that I learned in college came from outside the classroom. Moving a few hundred miles away from my friends and family compelled me to change. Opening myself to others was one of the most enriching and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. Making countless friends and memories along the way…
Fast forward four of the quickest years ever and I’m in my apartment performing a mental checklist of all the great experiences that I had in college. I concluded that there were some missed opportunities. When going through college it feels as though we have reached the peak of all that can be experienced at such a young age. But sometimes by “sowing our wild oats”, we’re simply ticking the boxes for what is a “successful” college career.
But what I missed was studying abroad. During my Junior year in school I had bounced around the idea of studying abroad in Australia for a semester. At the time, it sounded like the most awesome adventure ever! (And it still does!) I had even gotten so far as discussing it with my parents and university advisors. All at that point was squared away and looking good. In comes a moment of small mindedness and misplaced fear. I had become complacent during my time at school and wasn’t willing to complete what I had set out to do in the first place. And that was to open myself up to new experiences, cultures and people. Oh, and of course studying mixed in there somewhere.
Why Study Abroad
Looking back, I realize that there may be no better way to spend some of those four, six or eight years in school than studying abroad. Among the benefits of studying abroad I should note that you’d certainly be the envy of everyone’s Snapchat & Instagram feeds. Once you graduate your time comes at a premium and going overseas is put on the back burner. You’re trying to build your career…and a bank account that’s just spent the past few years surviving on birthday cards from family.
Two years after graduation, I’m now working at StudyAbroad.com, a site that promotes study abroad programs. I must admit that the irony is comical. I’m now in a unique position to help others avoid the same mistake I made. If you have your heart set on studying abroad in France, Italy, Spain, China, or anywhere for that matter, then I want you to consider committing to that goal in way that I didn’t.
The fear of missing out on a semester or year with your friends and family shouldn’t even be a factor in your decision to study abroad. (That’s the mistake I made!) Each student who studies abroad has their own reasons for doing so, whether it be to gain professional experience, learn a language or maybe even to just travel while you study. Regardless of what that reason is, I want you to ask yourself, “Five years from now, will I regret not taking that opportunity to study abroad?” If the answer is “no” then you can close out this article and get back to finishing up your ramen noodles. If that answer is “yes” then go for it!
There’s a quote that I’ve always liked that seems to put things in perspective, specifically the things we may be “on the fence” about going for. “In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were too afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” I must say I wish that quote meant more to me back in my Junior year when I was “on the fence” about studying abroad.
If you made it this far then perhaps you’re willing to go a little further! Here are some tips on how to get started and maybe even the inside scoop on studying abroad. (After all I do work a study abroad site!)
How to Study Abroad
1. Speak With Your Advisors and Parents
This should come as a no brainer but speaking to your academic advisors and parents is a crucial first step on the path to studying abroad. By sitting down with your advisor, you can create a plan to ensure that you’re enrolling in a program that compliments both your major and future goals, all while making sure you stay on track to graduate on time.
Sitting down with your parents to discuss your plans to study abroad is also important. They will want to weigh in on drawbacks and benefits of studying abroad. I suggest doing this after speaking with your academic advisor! Why? Mainly because their largest concerns will likely be centered around you graduating on time. After speaking with your advisor, you may already have answers to address their concerns.
2. Choose What You Want to Study Abroad
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen emails from students, who just say, “I want to study abroad, tell me how.” This is a perfect example of what NOT to do. Studying abroad requires a fair amount of commitment from the student. Before considering studying abroad you should have both completed step 1 and answered a few questions. You need to narrow down where you want to study and how you want to study, whether it be a gap year, language course, internship, or volunteering. Having a list of predetermined locations and program types makes the task of applying to programs seem much less daunting. And it will save you A LOT of time. Plus, you could save a bit of cash as some program providers charge fees just to apply, like a fee you might get when applying to college.
3. Finance Your Trip Abroad
Financing a study abroad program can seem like an insurmountable task to some students and parents, but it’s important to know that it doesn’t have to be! Some qualified students may even be able to use current financial aid to fund a study abroad program Who would have guessed? Finally, there may be opportunities for scholarships to eligible students.
Be that as it may it’s still incredibly important that you get started early and apply often to as many scholarship opportunities as you can. Of course, there are other financing options, like crowdfunding where you can enlist relatives and friends to donate to your adventure. Just promise to send some postcards back! You should also be sure not to overlook the cost of daily living in your destination country. This is a good time to research what it costs for food, travel, entertainment etc. and to create a budget prior to your departure.
Still Want More Information?
Be sure to visit our Student Guide for more tips and advice from former students on how to study abroad, there’s also great advice on how to make sure you have all the proper travel documentation and even some tips on how to pack your bags!
I hope my personal story has stirred something in you to continue on your pursuit to study abroad. In closing I’d like to wish you safe travels and to congratulate you on making it this far. As I said before…if you’ve came this far then perhaps you’re willing to go a little further. Get out there and see the world today!