Studying Abroad: Should You Do It?

Everybody seems to be studying abroad lately--my roommate, my ex-roommate, my friends, my enemies, and everybody that I know. So the question is--should you do it?


The simple answer is: yes. Ask any student who has studied abroad, and nine out of ten will recommend doing it. Studying abroad, whether it’s over the summer or for a semester, is a worthy undertaking, and really might not be as expensive as you’d anticipated. Harvard will give you whatever financial aid they’re already giving you to study abroad for a semester, and given how high Harvard’s tuition is, chances are you’ll be paying less than whatever you were paying before.  

For the summertime, it’s not too difficult to secure a scholarship for accredited summer programs, which will allow you to spend time abroad with only the expenses of food, and possibly air travel.

However, leaving for a country where you do not fluently speak the language, and do not know the people is not a small undertaking, and it’s important to give sufficient thought to what you’re doing other than satisfying that little bit of wanderlust.


Pro: Expanding your horizons

There is no doubt. You will learn things that you cannot learn by staying in the same place. A professor can lecture and lecture about buddhism, but it’s nothing compared to seeing the majestic temples in person. Experiencing a culture firsthand is an incomparable experience, and perfectly complements academic pursuits.


Con: Culture shock

It can be harder than you imagined, traveling to a country that has different values and ideals than your hometown. It can be weird, feeling like you don’t belong, and possibly invite some stares from native people when you commit a faux pas--and trust me, you will commit a faux pas of some sort, regardless of how much research you’ve done. And once you’ve successfully acclimated to the environment here, you might have trouble adjusting to life once you’re back home.


Pro: Learning a new language

This is your chance to actually immerse yourself in a country and learn to speak a language, or part of it! Though the undertaking is admittedly a lot more difficult than it sounds, chances are you’ll be able to pick up a few lines to at least be able to function, and begin to understand the beauty and diversity of languages around the globe.


Con: Language Barriers

Studying abroad really sheds light on the beauty of spoken language, and shows the shortcomings of body language on its own. Communication, which is vital to any human, becomes immensely more difficult when you have no idea what to say. Some nations will be better than others, but in a lot of countries, English is not commonly spoken, and you will have a terribly difficult time trying to navigate life if you don’t speak the native tongue.


Pro: Making new friends

Anywhere you go, it’s always about the people. You’ll get to make new friends, and craft relationships that transcend boundaries, geographic and all.


Con: Long distance friendships/relationships

It might get lonely, not being able to be with your best friends, who are thousands upon thousands of miles away from you, possibly even separated by a large body of water. As many new friends as you might make, there will certainly be times when you will miss your irreplaceable family and lifelong friends.


Pro: Very different course offerings

This will really depend on the situation. Sometimes courses are tailored for a study abroad experience, and sometimes they really just are another course at a different university. You will be exposed to a different teaching culture, a different group of faculty, and a different pool of students with whom to interact. All these environmental factors will make your learning experience unique.


Con: Exotic classes might not give you sufficient credit

Doing the logistical finagling can always be annoying--if it’s not a program organized by your university, you might have trouble converting credits, and it’s possible that your hard work might not be recognized for credit, meaning you’ll need to work extra hard another semester to make up for it.