Study abroad opportunities are one of the greatest advantages available at university. Whether these come in the form of a full year that doesn’t or only partially counts toward your overall grade, or a semester that does, the attraction should not be ignored.
Currently international, cultural exchange is widely encouraged by institutions worldwide, creating countless exchange programmes across a variety of destinations and courses.
Aside from the amelioration of a CV and envious weekly postings on Instagram, there are a whole host of other benefits gained by students who have studied abroad, that their peers simply cannot rival.
One of the drawbacks that scares a lot of students away is the fear of a new country. We all remember the nervous feelings of first year moving-in-day where you know no one and are forced to quickly settle in. However, the knowledge that your stay is temporary and your visa expires in a matter of months actually has a positive effect on how you spend your time abroad. For example, instead of only getting to know the location of the best clubs, kebab shops and discount stores, studying abroad motivates you to make the most of every weekend and spare afternoon exploring new places. Many students become more open-minded, often living by an ‘exchange YOLO’ motto, that may find you paying $200 for a vegetarian music and yoga festival in a desert that was sold to you as ‘Coachella but with a lake’, or tagging along to a 12K nude footrace where you’re the odd one out by wearing anything more than trainers.
So apart from the amazing opportunity to get an extended visa somewhere outside of Europe, often with work opportunities, and the obvious chances to travel around your chosen country, why study abroad?
You will return barely ever needing to book a hotel worldwide. By this I mean surprisingly, a lot of the people you’ll get to know best and probably live with, are other international students just like you! So upon your return, you are left with a huge network of international, lifelong friends – hopefully providing the perfect travel route for your postgrad gap ‘YAH’ and future hols.
You will learn so much! Not only at your new university, but what that song lyric refers to, why something is called something, that Zinfandel is not primarily a wine but a place. You’ll gain a wider cultural understanding and different perspective of the world by viewing things from a new place and constantly mixing with people completely different to you.
Limited to one suitcase and a student loan that has disappeared with your house security deposit means one thing – you need to source as much free stuff as you can in your new country and surprisingly, there is a lot more help on offer than you might expect. Bootsales or ‘yard sales’ on street corners will draw you in more than a Topshop flash sale, websites such as nextdoor.com are fantastic neighbourhood sites for connecting with your local community and you’ll be amazed how kind some people are and really want to donate their spare hoover, dining table and cutlery that means you no longer have to steal a fistful from the campus canteen each week. Furthering your shoestring budget, because although you may need a few extra grand to keep you afloat abroad in expensive countries and cities, you want to make it go as far as possible. Therefore tourist information websites and simply googling on a Friday afternoon ‘host city + fun and cheap’ is likely to turn up some gems to keep you visiting new places every weekend.
Do different! All the things you never signed up to in Freshers’ Fair, things you were too afraid of back home, or foods you’ve just always avoided. Going along with a local and seeing how they spend their Saturday night, because maybe you’re under the legal drinking age, or there is no LCR. Being forced to seek out alternatives reminds us that whilst weekends may be lived for, they’re also for remembering!
Your bravery will pay dividends. You’re making it alone, abroad and having the most fun of your life and best of all, the attitude that got you there and made you cherish every moment of this opportunity will show when you return. You took a risk leaving your home university, friends and family but this is exactly the mentality you have to retain whilst abroad. Dodgy deals pay off! – taking risks is the best way to make the most of studying abroad, starting with your education and doing a module you wouldn’t normally pick or would not be on offer at home. Alternatively you could find yourself optimistically checking in to a hostel on day one, resulting in future housemates met over breakfast and putting a deposit on an unfurnished house because it’s houseparty heaven. Or perhaps buying a solo ticket to Coachella before you’ve booked your flights and tagging along with people you hardly know – essentially alone, only to find a holiday romance that follows you home. It sounds absurd but there’s truly something in the air when studying abroad, it just all works out!
Beware: losing things is 10 times worse out there – spilling water on your passport, losing your phone or bank card is probably as close to the end of the world as it can get. But hey iPhones are cheaper out there right… ($750 plus tax?!), you might break laws you never knew existed (speed limits /smoking in parks), and most of all ££££££££ – it’s going to cost way more than you think. But despite that, you will never truly be the same person as when you left and most certain of all you will not want to come home.
Truly, studying abroad is one of the best things a student can do, it allows them to see the world in all its glory.