I’m close to my halfway point in my study abroad experience, and I think I’ve gained enough experience and expertise to let other people know exactly why they should be doing exactly what I’m doing (but in their own way)! If I can convince at least one person to go through with a study abroad experience, I think I would be happy. There are a million reasons why people should study abroad, or travel in general, but here are a few that I came up with that I think are pretty convincing arguments.
1. Because I wanted something different
Do you ever spend a whole week doing the exact same thing? Wake up, go to class, come home, watch Food Network, maybe study, sleep. Routines are wonderful, they make the world go ’round, but I can’t stand them. I caught myself doing a lot of routines when I got to college because they kept me on track (most of the time). But I needed something more, something to break the monotony of simply being a student because, hey, I’ve been doing it for the past 15 years of my life. Also, spending all 20 years in Iowa can cause a case of ants in the pants. I needed a change. A change of my choosing because goodness knows how much change I’ve been through since starting college. My solution was to head across an ocean and plop myself in a different culture for a whole semester. It takes gumption and courage to study abroad, and for me that courage came from an insane need to switch it up in my life.
2. To learn a language (new or otherwise)
I grew up with Spanish. I started learning it as soon as I was in school, through the absolutely wonderful dual language program. I am so ridiculously grateful for that program every day that I’m here (and every day before and after that). But I have a confession: I still kind of suck at Spanish. I think being able to speak more than one language is a beautiful thing. Becoming bilingual is a huge life goal for me (learning French is next on the list). Knowing a different language connects you to people across the world, and gives you common ground with complete strangers. I could go on and on about this topic, because growing up in a town with a ton of Spanish speakers and having a bilingual mother taught me to really appreciate the power of language. So what better way to learn a language than to throw yourself into a country that speaks it? I looked into all of the study abroad programs in Spanish-speaking countries, but really there is an infinite amount of options when it comes to finding a place where you can learn the language you want to learn (except for maybe the alien language). I almost immediately fell in love with this program I am in in Sevilla. While my Spanish is not improving as fast as I want it to, it is still improving every day. It is also a matter of how much effort you put into learning it (I am admittedly slacking a bit). If you have absolutely any desire to improve a language (hey, maybe even improve your English), do yourself a favor and study abroad. Or get a significant other that speaks the language, I’ve heard that yields great results.
3. Because you love to travel
I have traveled to Europe before, so I caught the travel bug at an early age. Due to my ants-in-my-pants nature, I also like to travel around within the vicinity of home. Sometimes I just feel the need to go somewhere just to go. Whether it’s to my parent’s house (but that’s usually for food too), to the mall, or downtown for some coffee. I like driving places. Planes, not so much, but Dramamine saves me a lot of trouble. This is extremely obvious, but if you love to travel, you will absolutely love to study abroad. Not only do I get to explore Sevilla all the time, I also get a ton of chances to explore the rest of Andalucia, Spain, and other countries in Europe. Granted, if you go to China or South America, you probably won’t be taking a weekend trip to Venice or Amsterdam, but you’ll get your chances to explore the places around you.
If you don’t like traveling, fear not! I have three more reasons for you.
4. To get “out there”
That phrase is a little vague and wishy-washy, but it works. Studying abroad is all about putting yourself out into the world, literally and figuratively. You will have to make new friends, meet new people, talk in a language that is not your own (sometimes), get put in situations that will really challenge you. Sounds scary? Well, I just described the rest of your life once you get out of college (maybe minus the language part). Why not start practicing your “getting out there” skills now? I’ve been here for almost two months and I am less and less afraid about talking to people, going to new places, and just doing things in general. I know that getting rid of those fears will help me in the long run.
5. To learn more about yourself
Going along with the putting yourself out there, you will also learn a lot about yourself during your time abroad. I was pretty confident that I knew myself before this trip–how I react to situations, how I deal with problems, whether or not I’m a morning person. I’m still not a morning person, but I’m learning more about who I am without the comforts of home and the confidence boost I get being in a place where people actually know me. College is already in and of itself, but studying abroad is a whole new beast. I promise it will leave you better off, and all the situations when you get back home will seem so trivial because you’ve dealt with worse (I mean, dealing with anything in a different language is already a challenge) while abroad. Except maybe trying to graduate on time.
6. Because now is the time
I’ve read a hundred and one articles about ten reasons why it’s good to travel in your twenties, blah blah blah. I’m going to tell you why it’s better to travel while you’re in college: because when else are you going to be able to leave for four months, or an entire year, to study in a different country and travel around on the weekends? You get the experience of being a student in another country, instead of a tourist or a worker or a whatever. That’s an experience in and of itself that’s really hard to do once you graduate. It’s okay to leave the world behind, because once you get back it’ll be almost exactly how you left it, and you can pick up right where you left off. I think it would be a little different after graduating.
Also! I know that everyone reading this now is a smart, spectacular person, which means there are a million and one scholarships just waiting for you to snatch them up, and lessen the burden (or completely diminish the burden). When you are in college, there are ways of paying to study abroad. Once you leave, it gets a little more difficult. I am not a financial adviser, or any kind of expert, but I know I would not have gotten this chance after I graduate.
7. Because it’ll enhance your studies/perspective on life in general
No matter what your major is, I can guarantee that you will benefit from studying abroad. Studying abroad gives you a bigger view of the world. I am a journalism major, and right now I am taking journalism classes in Spanish, and I get a first hand look into what it’s like to be a journalist in Spain. There are so many ways to improve your craft, and I think learning about how the system works in a different culture or country–whether it’s nursing, politics, journalism, or any other major–would give a different perspective on your passion/future career. Why not switch it up a bit and learn what you love in a country you have an interest in (or know nothing about!)?
Similarly, studying abroad has given me a different perspective on where I come from, about Spain, and about a lot of things in my life. I have a new appreciation for my good ol’ Iowa, my university, and the United States in general. I have also gained a lot of knowledge on my host country, and Europe in general, just from living here and being aware of what’s going on around me. There is so much more out there in the world, different ways of doing things, different ways of being, and I think anyone who doesn’t get to experience that is really missing out.
There! All seven. Convinced yet?
As I said before, there are a million and one reasons to study abroad, but there are also a lot of reasons that hold people back from doing so. I can only hope people overcome those obstacles, because studying abroad has been an experience of a lifetime, and I’m only halfway through. As my good friend Aesop said, “Adventure is worthwhile.” I keep that quote in my head every day and every day it gets more and more true.
Adventure is worthwhile.