We have all been there, flipping through a friend’s Facebook pictures that were freshly uploaded from some glamorous city.  It isn’t just a few pictures of them on the beach in Cancun while you’re stuck in the snow over winter break, but this time around you have to deal with a whole semester of statuses and picture uploads of a friend studying abroad.  Ever think that person could be you?

There are a million and one reasons a person should pack up all of their things into two 50 pound bags and fly half way around the world.  Studying abroad is more than just exploiting a difference in alcohol legality and taking easier classes (although those reasons could be factored in…).  Studying abroad is so much more than you have heard from movies, television, even your friends.

Gain independence
Remember the day you packed all your stuff and moved to college?  Remember how that freedom felt?  Remember the first time you really felt on your own?  Imagine this scenario but taken to the next level.

New culture
A person experiences a new culture when studying abroad.  Let’s face it: college is the best time in your life, but it can put you into a four-year routine.  Studying abroad can help you relive that excitement of your freshman year of college.  It also breaks up those four years, giving you more motivation and something to look forward to at that halfway point.

Everyone knows that those who speak more than one language have a better chance of getting hired in any field.  Going to a place whose first language is not English can do wonders for any resume.  Also, you would be surprised how quickly one can pick up a language when forced to use it everyday.  Believe me, it is easier than it seems.  If weary of the language barrier, a person always has Ireland, England, and Australia as options, plus you might end up coming back with one of those nice accents.

Complete relevant coursework towards your degree
One of the rumors about studying abroad is that you will fall behind and end up being a Super Senior.  This is untrue in the majority of cases.  To avoid this, studying abroad earlier on in your collegiate career will give you the most options of classes that will transfer.  In my case, I will be graduating early, partly because of my study abroad experiences.

Intern or volunteer with local organization
Every major is a competitive field in this economy.  Having international experience at any formal organization will give you that edge you need over the hundreds of thousands of people who want to be the same thing you do.   Having an international professional network can only help in our age of globalization.

Global understanding
Unfortunately, not many of us watch the news or stay updated on current events.  Through a study abroad experience, a person may not only end up interested in world news, more often than not, but they also will gain a global perspective.  This ties into gaining intercultural communication skills, which again is needed from here on out.

Problem-solving skills
In any form of travel, problems arise.  No studying abroad trip will go 100% smoothly.  This is actually a good thing because you will learn about yourself and how to deal with stressful situations and also improve those problem-solving skills.

Learning about yourself
Just as going to college gives you a “clean slate” and many people take the opportunity to “turn over a new leaf,” studying abroad is a personal growth journey.  As corny as that sounds, you truly do learn about yourself through a study abroad trip.  It is a maturing and life changing experience.

Top reasons not to go?

  1. Cost: Believe it or not, but depending on where you go, you could actually save money by studying abroad.  If traveling to most of Western Europe, this may not be the case.  Also, the plane ticket to Australia alone is pretty steep.  However, Ireland, anywhere in South America, or even different parts of the US and Canada are available and tend to be cheaper than a semester at your home school.  If looking to stay within the US, check out if your school participates in the National Student Exchange.  A semester in Hawaii or Alaska could be just the change you are looking for, and cost nothing more than a semester at your home school aside from the airfare!
  2. State of the world/Safety: As there are, and will forever be, places in the world that one should not go, many developed cities are no less safe than the developed cities we have in America.  Your study abroad advisor will be able to help you choose a location that fits your needs and wants and that is also safe.  Checking it out yourself does not hurt either.  Registering yourself into Travel.Safe.Gov and keeping updated on current world news could help achieve this.
  3. Boyfriend/Girlfriend: You may regret not studying abroad in college because of that relationship that ended up not going anywhere.  If in a true love, long-term relationship, talk to your partner about it.  Just remember, your passport will never break up with you.  It may get old, but then you can just get a new one pretty easily.
  4. Scared of being alone: You may be away from your friends and family, but you will only gain a new friend and a new support system.  Plus with Facetime, iChat, Skype, Oovoo, you can still stay in touch more than just snail mail (which was how the early travelers did it).  You can also come back home with new friendships with Americans who were also studying abroad.
  5. You just watched the movie Taken: This is a movie could be retitled to How Not to Conduct Oneself Abroad.  Sharing a cab, which tells a stranger where you live, then saying that you and your friend are home alone?  Not the best idea.  A person only is exposed to the catastrophes that happen abroad.  No one hears about the hundreds of thousands of students who study abroad each year from the United States.

Life, and college, is all about the decisions one makes.  Studying abroad could be one of those life-changing opportunities that can be beautifully exploited or regretfully glossed over.  You decide.

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine


I’m reading Organic Chemistry