As I packed my last bag and emptied my room, I couldn’t help but feel accomplished and relieved. Accomplished because I did something I wasn’t sure I could do and relieved because not only did I do this thing, but I did it well and enjoyed myself. I’m not talking about packing my bags (which I’ll admit was a feat all on its own)—no, I’m talking about studying abroad.
If you’re questioning whether or not to study abroad, don’t. If you’re having any thoughts that are urging you to go, then pick a location and do it. I promise you, the benefits of studying abroad are beyond imaginable. And here are a few good reasons why you should study abroad:
Studying abroad helps you to mature.
Mature is something I liked to believe I was but had no real opportunities to put it to the test. While abroad, that opportunity arose and came hard and fast for me.
Being abroad isn’t the same as being out of state for college or a few hours away from home. When you are abroad, you really don’t have any of your usual comforts. So you need to be able to find new comforts.
Finding the emotional maturity to do so can be hard. I struggled with it the first couple of weeks I was away. This is when my maturity level was really put to the test. Was I going to wallow in my discomfort and go throughout the whole semester feeling less than satisfied? Well, I thought about it. But then I realized I needed to get on my feet and figure things out for myself. That was the maturity kicking in!
Studying abroad teaches you to be in tune with reality.
Being realistic goes hand in hand with this whole maturity thing. It’s funny, when you look at photos from people’s experiences abroad and you see their Instagram posts, all you see are the smiles and the amazing travel destinations. You don’t see what’s behind the scenes.
While abroad, I had a lot more downtime and alone time than I thought I would have, and I was fine with that. But it was getting used to the idea that studying abroad is not just all parties and travel. You have to study too (and develop good study habits) . . . hence the “study” in study abroad. Once I came to that realization, I was much more content with spending a night studying or going out on day trips and exploring by myself.
When I realized my experience abroad did not have to fit into this cookie-cutter mold created by Instagram and blog posts, I became more excited about my own experience. Regardless of your experience abroad, being able to realize that it may not be just like your friend’s experience, and knowing that’s okay will make your experience amazing and unique.
Studying abroad teaches you about budgeting.
Now for the most exciting but also the most frustrating part of being abroad: being on a budget. As mentioned earlier, you see all the Instagram posts with the amazing travel destinations, and you want to go everywhere your friends went and even more. But how do you afford it all? Budget.
I cannot be any more adamant about this point: budgeting is the key to doing everything you want to do and not feeling like you’re on the verge of sinking every time you swipe that plastic. I made a budget for literally everything: groceries, eating out, miscellaneous, and of course, travel. Because I budgeted for everything, it ensured that I didn’t spend money frivolously and that I spent it where it really mattered. In the end, I was able to travel to eight different countries, including the travel around my host country, Ireland.
Studying abroad is more than just going to a foreign country for a semester and traveling around. It requires maturity, being realistic, and the ability to stay on a budget. Possessing all of these qualities is what made my study abroad experience a great one instead of just a headache.
That being said, I did not have all of these qualities when I left. My study abroad experience helped me gain some of these qualities and further develop the ones I already had. And I wouldn’t, for a second, take back the experiences I had, even though at first, I was a little doubtful and naïve about exactly what I would gain from my travels.
In the end . . .
If I hadn’t gone abroad, I wouldn’t have had that experience that led me to test my limits and push myself to a new level of maturity. If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t really understand what it’s like to live completely on your own in a foreign country. And that was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my young life. So don’t sell yourself short because of a little fear; take on any doubts head-on and go.