That One Time, In
Budapest. Amsterdam. London. Over the past year many of my conversations have started out this way, probably much to the annoyance of the people I talk to. I’m fortunate enough to have these stories and experiences to tell about, and it is all because I studied abroad. I’m sure you can guess what I’m about to say next…GO STUDY ABROAD. Seriously, it is an experience like none other, and when better to do it while you’re in college?
As I begin my senior year at West Virginia University, I also begin my second semester serving as the ambassador for the Strasbourg, France semester program. So, it only seems fitting that my first real post on here be me lecturing you on why you should study abroad. Here we go:
You Gain New Skills
At least in my experience. Studying abroad opens your mind and makes you incredibly more aware of what is happening outside your typical scope. I love the United States, but much of what we learn in high school, middle school, or elementary school has had the sugar coated Americanized Western viewpoint. While France is still considered to be part of the Western World, it did not have the Americanized version of things and often times things weren’t sugar coated. The way you thought about certain topics changed and, at least for me, by the end of the experience I found myself with an ability to think a bit more critically, objectively, and just plain differently.
Another skill I undoubtedly enhanced was my language speaking skills. By no means am I fluent in French, but my French improved exponentially just by being constantly surrounded by the language; I guess what they say about the whole emersion thing is true, huh?
Finally, you gain a better sense of independence dealing with being in a situation outside your comfort zone. When I first made the long journey abroad I was nervous, excited, scared, and just a heap of other emotions. Mostly I was nervous about being thrown into a new place where I didn’t know anyone. Honestly, this is probably the most valuable skill set I acquired while abroad. Prior to studying abroad I was not all that great about stepping outside my comfort zone, but studying abroad pretty much forces you outside your comfort zone…in the best way possible. If I had decided to let my fear and anxieties rule my experience over there, I would not have had those very experiences I hinted towards in the opening of this post. Even worse, I would not have made the great friends I did.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” — Jack Canfield
It’s all about who you know, as ‘they’ tend to say. There is great opportunity for you to connect with people who can help you later in life, even if it is just for a letter of recommendation or a reference for a job application. In my case I managed to land the sweet job opportunity to serve as the ambassador back on WVU’s campus, and who knows what this could lead to in the future? Maybe nothing, but maybe something. The point is, you never know. Not only did I get a great job opportunity as a result of studying abroad, I met some amazing people from all over Europe. People who may help me get a job or someone who will just let me crash on their couch for a few days when I make it back over there. In addition to connecting with people abroad, there are often times (depending on your program) that you will form strong connections with people back at your home university; those connections can prove invaluable.
If for no other reason, go because you will get to see the world. Go because you’ve wanted to see Rome, Berlin, Mykonos. Go see those ruins you’ve read about 100 times in history books, go climb that mountain you’ve seen gorgeous photographs from, go to that city with the vivid and interesting culture. Just…go. To me there is little else in this world better than seeing all you can of it.
While this may not be the most convincing piece you’ve ever read on studying abroad, I hope it made you consider it a bit more. Studying abroad is expensive and it may set you back a semester, but you know what I say to that? Worth it. Worth every penny, worth the extra time, 100% worth it. It is undoubtedly the best decision I’ve made in my years as an undergraduate student.
Pro tip: Go for an entire semester. Why go for a week over spring break or for a couple in the summer when you could spend an entire semester seeing the world? But hey, that’s just my preference. You do you.