If you’re deliberating over whether or not you should study abroad, then you’ve come to the right place!
In this article I’m going to breakdown the main reasons why you should embark on the epic journey that a study abroad experience can be.
Having studied abroad myself in Verona, Italy, and spending the past 3 years teaching English in Spain, I’ve been immersed in the study abroad lifestyle for enough time to know the main pros and cons. The universities and countries you can choose from can seem endless, and the possibilities don’t end there.
As you might imagine, a study abroad experience can be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, with plenty of memorable moments along the way.
However, I’m here to argue that the majority of those moments will be positive, if you go into the experience with a positive mindset.
If you are prepared to embrace the local culture, with all that entails, then you’ll be in for one of the most exciting years yet. Read on for all the important info for studying abroad.
Without further ado, let’s address the pressing question: why study abroad?
It makes you more employable
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that one of the first things that came to your mind when considering studying abroad was how it can help your career.
Before we tackle this issue, I want to preface by saying that anything that forces you out of your comfort zone and into situations where you are presented with new challenges, is beneficial for your development (both personal and professional.)
An opportunity to be in a completely foreign environment where you have to solve real-life problems - like negotiating rent in a second language - is something which will read very well on any CV.
Be that as it may, you’ll probably want more reassurance that studying abroad is actually something company's revere and value, and not just something nice to add to your CV.
What do employers think of studying abroad?
Generally speaking, employers look favourably upon candidates who have undertaken a year/term studying abroad.
Primarily because of the ability studying abroad shows to adapt to other cultures, and navigate all of the communication issues that going abroad may bring with it.
You will develop great communication skills
If you have experience successfully dealing with people of different cultures, and with different native languages to your own, then you demonstrate that you are a great communicator.
After all, what sounds better, that you can work in a team of people who share your native language and core values, or as part of a diverse team which is made up of people from different walks of life and cultures?
Travel is not only great for creating long-lasting memories (and epic Instagrams), but also for its ability to open the mind.
You will gain an understanding of cultural issues
One example of how you may have your mind opened to new ideas, is the bureaucracy processes of another country. This is an example of cultural awareness, if you’re wondering what this would go down as on your CV.
Speaking from experience, moving to a different country can be surprising in a lot of ways, not least in how people get things done. If you learn about the mentality and the way in which people from another culture operate in their day to day, then you are better able to work in an international context for prospective employers.
You will build Independence and self-discipline
One of the other things that employers will undoubtedly look favourably upon, is the self-sufficiency required to live and thrive in another country.
This is a skill that will likely set you out from your peers, as you have put yourself in an unknown environment, and relied on yourself alone to navigate it.
This kind of initiative is what drives businesses forward, and can develop into smart risk-taking and innovation.
Self-discipline goes hand in hand with this growing independence, since you will have to motivate yourself to get up each day, and study the required amount to pass your exams.
While this is something that university in your home country already asks of you, doing it abroad takes extra energy, since you will also be dealing with the challenges of life abroad and being thrown completely out of your regular routines and habits.
This skill will also come in handy if you decide to apply for graduate school. Just like employers, graduate schools will appreciate these qualities and skills that you will inevitably pick up on your study abroad experience.
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It encourages personal development
Aside from boosting your career prospects and employability, what other benefits are there of studying abroad?
Well, as well as helping you to develop professionally, studying abroad helps you by providing a fantastic opportunity to grow personally.
University makes up some of the most important formative years of our lives, and as such, it’s wise to seize every opportunity that comes up. The more you try, the more you’ll know about your preferences, what you want to do with your life, and the more likely you are to develop in the following important ways.
Expand your comfort zone
In daily life, we can become quite predictable with our actions and the risks we are willing to take.
If you turn your world upside down by making the bold decision to study abroad, then you are flipping that idea on its head, and allowing an escape from the mundanity of routine.
Say you’ve always imagined yourself surfing some waves at the beach, but you can’t seem to find the time, or don’t live close enough to a beach in your normal life. Moving abroad will reduce the impact of these factors, as you will be able to justify travelling to surf, since you can redefine yourself in this new environment.
The same goes for hobbies and activities. You might decide upon moving abroad that you enjoy flamenco dancing, or making pasta from scratch.
In which case, you can take up these hobbies, and enjoy the fact that you are engaging with the local culture. Who knows, you might even end up liking these new activities so much that you integrate them into your life upon your return to your home country.
Expanding your comfort zone also means building your confidence when you’re out in the real world. Small exchanges like those you have at a bar, or even supermarket, take on more significance when you introduce a foreign language into the equation.
Studying abroad can seem like switching the audio of your life to a foreign language. This can prove rewarding each and every day, since in all likelihood you will go from struggling to get by, to thriving in a second language.
The language element is an important part of any study abroad experience, and even if you don’t consider yourself to be someone who excels at language learning, you will be able to greatly benefit from immersing yourself in a second language.
One thing that I really enjoy about living life in a second language, is that you are made to feel that each day you are pushing yourself and achieving something, even just by leaving the house to go to the post office and ask for your parcel.
Not only will your communication skills benefit you in a professional environment, but also in a personal one.
Studying abroad, just like the first year of university, presents all of the social opportunities you can imagine.
Enrolling in a foreign university will likely give you access to all of the same sports facilities and clubs that the local students enjoy.
With that in mind, you can go into the experience safe in the knowledge that you will be able to up your social game, and potentially meet friends for life.
Meeting people from the country you’re in is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the culture, improve your language skills, and have a useful contact if you decide to visit the country again in the future.
Speaking regularly with native speakers in your second language is a surefire way to fast track your progress, and especially if your degree at home is language-based, you’re going to want to be doing this as much as possible to get the most of the experience.
Even if you don’t manage to mingle with the locals, or are struggling to seek them out, chances are you will be in good company, since many like minded people will also be doing a study abroad experience in your city.
There are also usually Erasmus groups in the cities which organise trips to various places, as well as host social nights and activity tryouts. This is like having a university union, only everyone in it will likely be motivated to have new experiences, and have as many adventures as possible.
If you’re worried about not being able to fund a term studying abroad, don’t worry, you can get financial help, and there are study abroad scholarships that you might qualify for if you’re lucky.