Most universities offer the opportunity to explore other countries. You may be hesitant to do so, but here are 9 reasons why you should take advantage of your college’s international student programs:
1. Experience new surroundings. If you’re like the great majority of undergraduates (or incoming undergraduates), you haven’t traveled much before, much less on your own. Far too many students never study abroad simply out of a fear of, or distaste for, intense unfamiliarity. Don’t be scared of the fact that you may not have done anything like this before; the study abroad program will help you adjust to your new surroundings, you can work with the students you travel with to learn new things together, and friends and family back home are just a phone call away. If you’re anything like the overwhelming majority of study abroad students I know, once you actually arrive, you’ll find it a lot more fun than daunting.
2. Study abroad teaches self-confidence and independence. There’s something about surviving for months in a completely foreign place that makes the whole world, including your own country, considerably less intimidating.
3. Routines can get monotonous. Keep yourself engaged with the learning process and avoid burning out by spending a semester doing something completely new and different.
4. It may never again be this easy to travel. The future you could have a family, a demanding job, pets, and other responsibilities that (while wonderful) can serve as serious obstacles to travel. As an undergraduate, you have the time and the freedom to see the world. Make the most of it while you can.
5. Financial aid … Abroad! If you qualify for financial aid, you may receive financial support to study abroad. Even if you don’t, it may still be cheaper to travel now than to travel later in your life. You only need to worry about sorting out accommodation, transportation, and other logistics for one person, and your student status makes you eligible for plenty of deals, scholarships, and discounts that can ease the strain on your wallet.
6. Study abroad helps you get to know your classmates better. Being thrown into a new environment with others just as excited, confused, and nervous as you are creates plenty of opportunities for teamwork, socializing, and new friendships.
7. Study abroad exposes you to new types of people. Reading about a culture will never compare to immersing yourself in it. They say that travel and tolerance go hand in hand because travel, by exposing you to different types of people, helps you to better understand the common thread of humanity we all share.
8. You’ll learn to better appreciate and contextualize the place you come from. It’s difficult to understand the uniqueness of your home community until you’ve had to personally face the fact that only your tiny corner of the world lives and thinks the way you do.
9. Today’s rapidly globalized world increases the value of international experience. It is becoming increasingly necessary for all of us to regularly deal with people, institutions, and ideas from other parts of the world. As a result, the ability to do so is increasingly valuable.
You’ll have a great story to tell–not just to friends and family, but also to future employers, supervisors, and professors. Study abroad helps to differentiate you from others in your classes and applicant pools, and serves as a strong resume booster. Safe travels!
Courtney Tran is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament.