Updated: September 2020
The most important thing I ever did in college? Hands down, it was studying abroad.
No matter what your major is or what you want to do in the future, I 100% percent believe that studying abroad is one of the most enriching and educational things you can do.
For some, studying abroad may seem quite frightening. I was nervous going into it, too! But the amount I learned about myself, the world, and life made it all worth it.
Here are 10 reasons why you should take your education around the world.
First thing’s first! Why did I initially decide to study abroad? To travel!
I had never been out of the country (with the exception of Southern California’s neighboring “state” Mexico). Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to see the world, without compromising my education, all while I was still in school.
To be perfectly honest I was really just looking for a reason to travel, but couldn’t find a way to justify taking a break from school to wander off somewhere in the world.
Solution: Study abroad, see the world, and get college credits! I decided to go to Spain.
While there, I would attend my Advanced Spanish Language class Monday-Friday and each weekend we had excursions organized to take us to other cities in Spain. I ended up earning something like 9 college units in one month. (In case you’re wondering, that’s more than half the units I would earn each semester!)
The education not only came from my Intensive Spanish Language Program but through experiencing the culture.
3. Cultural Enrichment
The whole experience was so much more than I had bargained for. Not only were the cultural excursions eye-opening, but I had the opportunity to live with Spanish families.
Living with a family from another culture truly opened my eyes. The son of my host family in El Puerto was deaf. My Spanish was terrible but ultimately it didn’t matter. We still found a way to communicate.
My own misconceptions melted away as I realized that language didn’t create a barrier between cultures.
After living in Spain and then backpacking around Europe (at times alone), I realized just how capable I truly was on my own.
Before studying abroad I was still living at home and attending a community college. I spent 18 YEARS in the same small town in Southern California. I needed to experience something bigger than my own backyard.
I saved all my pennies and paid my own way for the study abroad program.
Not only was I financially responsible, but I was learning how to navigate my life without the constraints and comfortability of home. At times, it can be scary—but this is such a great way to grow and truly get to know yourself.
5. Lifelong Friendships
Living with them, studying with them, partying with them, and ultimately sharing the entire experience with them. Regardless of your differences, you come together and it makes everything so much sweeter.
6. The Ultimate Test
Is long-term travel right for you? I think the biggest hurdle for some people to overcome is homesickness or even culture shock. While a life of travel sounds appealing it isn’t for everyone!
I know that, even now, after all of my travels there can be loneliness with travel (or it can be the best way to cure a broken heart). Studying abroad is the perfect way to get your first taste for independent travel and see if you’d like to continue solo traveling elsewhere.
After my first trip abroad, I didn’t want to go home…obviously.
7. Diversity in Programs
I was working full time while in college so I couldn’t take off for a full year, or even a semester, to study abroad. Instead, I was able to take a summer off and enroll in an accelerated month-long program in Spain.
After the program, I was able to spend another month backpacking around Europe. Talk to your school’s Study Abroad Program to see what they have to offer! And even if your university doesn’t offer the program you want, do what I did and see what a Community College has to offer.
There really is a program for everyone.
Here are some alternative Study Abroad ideas:
- Semester at Sea: I SO wish I had done this. I may have to go back to college just for this experience!
- Teach English Overseas: More of a work abroad option, but educational nonetheless! There are many programs and different country options for this!
- College Volunteer Opportunities: I volunteered with Global Water Brigades in Honduras too!
8. Learn a New Language
If you are interested in learning a second language, studying abroad is a must. The best way to learn a language is to fully immerse yourself in it!
After a month in Spain, countless hours in a Spanish class, a non-English speaking teacher, and living with a Spanish speaking host family… I had no choice but to learn the language!
I learned more in one month in Spain than I had in for years of high school and college Spanish classes.
This is obviously debatable but, speaking from personal experience, I firmly believe that by studying abroad you have a leg up on other students who haven’t.
Employers want to see that you are well rounded and have the capacity to do more than just study hard and get good grades.
Plus, if you’re adding a second language to your skill-set your “hire-ability” becomes leaps and bounds greater! In every interview, I’ve ever had the topic of the conversation always turns to my study abroad and Spanish language experience.
10. Job Opportunities
Ultimately, studying abroad will not hurt your chances of getting a job. Like the effect it has on your resume, the end result is that it gives you a competitive advantage over other students who didn’t study abroad.
If you have any interest in working for a major corporation, a global brand, or maybe even becoming a travel writer, cultural experience is essential. Your competition includes people from all over the world, not just your community.