Studying Abroad changed my life. There is no other way to put it. I left the US for the first time the summer going into my Junior year. We traveled to rural Panama to teach basic accounting concepts to an indigenous community and it opened my eyes to a completely different reality. After that, I was hooked. I studied abroad in India, South Africa, and then Panama once again. Each of these experiences were very unique and meaningful. They truly changed my view of the world. I think anyone who has traveled abroad would agree that it is life-changing. If I could give advice to a college student other than the good ol' "study hard & enjoy it", it would be to study abroad
You've read history books and sat in hour long lectures, but witnessing a place and/or culture first hand is the best way to learn about it. Reading about a place could NEVER compare to seeing it. My experience in India was something I could never explain with words or through stories. It's something you have to feel, see, and experience for yourself. You'll especially learn a lot if you visit a place that is rich in history and culture. I got the chanc to visit places that were extremely different than where I reside on a cultural, economic, and social level. The locations that I chose allowed me to step into a completely different world and I was able to learn so much. Often times you'll be placed in situations that you would never be in back home, and you'll learn so much about yourself as you try to navigate through them. I learned more from these experiences than I ever learned in a classroom.
Okay, yes...study abroad can be very expensive. Before ruling it out, stop by your school's study abroad program office to view the options they have available. For example, at my school summer programs were the most expensive. However, semester and year long exchanges turned out to be around the same cost as normal tuition. (longer, YET cheaper? Yes!).
I participated in 3 week long winter programs that ranged from around $1500-$3000(including all costs), because the summer programs($8000 +) were simply not an option since I was funding these trips on my own. I also had the option of doing semester long foreign exchange programs that would have been less expensive than a semester at my school. Heres how that works: Your school and the school overseas have partnerships, so your normal tuition & fees just just transfer over to the partner school. This means you wouldn't be paying any additional fees other than flight costs and excursions. Like I said, don't rule it out before looking into the available options.
While in college, you also have the opportunity to fund your travel through scholarships and/or sponsorships. Once you graduate and start working, I don't think anyone will ever willingly give you money to travel or to do anything else for that matter. Take advantage of that while you can! You can even do a fundraiser on campus or start a gofundme page! If it wasn't for the scholarships/sponsorships that I received for my trips, I probably wouldn't have been able to go.
3. You have the TIME!
Now is the time to go! You might think that you'll have more time and (money) once you graduate. You might have more money, but you definitely will have less time. This is coming from someone who now works a full time job. If you go into a full time position, you will have such a limited amount of time for travel. For the most part, college is the only time that you will be able to go away for 6 months to a year to travel. Don't miss out on that! I promise your friends and family will still be there waiting for you when you get back.
5. Gain a new perspective
Studying abroad will definitely change your world view. You'll see things that you don't normally see in your college town or hometown. You'll be exposed to so much more and this will shift your way of thinking and seeing the world. You'll come back home more informed about what's going on outside of the bubble that you live in. It can be so beautiful and transformative.
Travel itself is such an invaluable experience. I do believe that studying abroad is even more enriching because of the educational aspect of it. Step outside of your comfort zone, learn a new language, build new relationships, increase your job prospects, and so much more. More than anything, have fun! This is a chance to see a new place, meet different people, and learn new things. There will be some things that scare you and there will be some things that you hate. You'll also probably miss home at one point or another, but it's all a part of the experience! Go for it!
Leave a comment below sharing your most memorable study abroad experience. If you haven't studied abroad yet, leave a comment sharing where you'd like to go and why!