4 Reasons Why You Should Do a Year Abroad in Southeast Asia Before you Graduate

My experience as an international summer school student in a Southeast Asian country was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Not only did it mean I had to move to the other side of the world for 12 whole months, but I also had to embrace a completely different culture and foreign habits on my own. Using my own experiences as examples, I have compiled a list of 4 reasons why taking a year abroad in Southeast Asia was one of the best decisions I could have made before graduating.

1. Acquiring skills and knowledge that are highly valued and sought by employers.

Whilst making memories that will last a lifetime, travelling abroad can provide you with a number of transferable skills that will help you to thrive in the work place. You will be able to learn how to overcome challenges in everyday life, whilst gaining intercultural competence, as well as furthering your adaptability skills. You will also begin to build up a global network of people, which is what every employer tends to look for in a candidate. Besides, according to a report by the ‘QS Global Employer Survey’: “6 out of 10 employers around the world give extra credit for an international student experience, and more than 80% said they actively sought graduates who had studied abroad.” Living by yourself on the other side of the world and having to do more activities independently will also  have a significant impact on your personal growth. Your time living alone will encourage  you to ‘think outside the box’ and approach new challenges like a boss.

2. The opportunity to experience the authentic Asian cuisine, tropical fruit, exotic nature, and cultural differences.

Fed up with the fish & chips and the rest of the British cuisine? Always wanted to feel like a celebrity? Dreamed of a pet lizard as a child? Southeast Asia is undoubtedly the place to be if you want to experience anything unusual and extraordinary! All jokes aside, I was blown away by the richness of the Asian cuisine with food being considerably richer in flavor and spices than that in Western countries. There are endless choices of food on offer that can suit everybody’s taste buds, especially if you are into spicy dishes. Your family would never have to worry about you going hungry!

The tropical climate in Southeast Asia seems to make a suitable environment for naturally growing fruit. If you were to compare the taste of fresh and ‘non plastic’ packaged mangos, oranges, watermelons, and other citrus fruits that grow in Asia, the ones you buy from Tesco would be put to shame.

There is also an obvious difference in Asian and Western mentality, with  a lot of the indigenous people in Asia seeing Western people as a real attraction. In fact, if you go to a rural area where the locals are not used to coming across tourists (which differs to more urban areas), it is likely that you will have people asking to take a photo with you. Whilst most of the time they do it in a polite way, (actually asking you first) they can sometimes suddenly just be standing next to you for a selfie. Other times they might try to take a photo of you in secret. All I can suggest is to try not to be confused or afraid but to  be flattered! After all, it is part of their culture and something for you to embrace as part of the challenge of living abroad and adapting to different ways of living.

Something else of a side note is that Southeast Asia’s flora and fauna is definitely one of a kind. A lot of the captivating natural wonders (exotic plants, animals, and scenery) are hard to find elsewhere in the world - another reason  why it is a must-go destination. On almost every bucket list (when it comes to thinking about travelling to any country in Asia) riding elephants, walking with lions, and posing with tigers for photos are some of the must-do activities for tourists. However, lots of travellers are unaware that to do this is one of the cruelest wildlife tourist attractions in the world; either that or they forget about it in the spur of the moment. . Therefore, try not be one of the millions of people who encourage this kind of activity : there will be plenty of other opportunities  to take a perfect travel selfie or create an entertaining story on Instagram. If you can’t see yourself doing this without FOMO, try to do your research and find animal friendly sanctuaries to visit instead. They may be a little pricier, but it is totally worth it.

3. Enjoying your time abroad without breaking your budget.

With the exception of Singapore (a country whose costs are similar to in the UK), the affordability in Southeast Asia is probably one of the reasons why it is considered to be the ideal study abroad destination for students. Whether it is food, clothes, accommodation or transportation, the living costs are significantly lower in Asia than in Europe or the USA. For example, while going out for a meal in England can often be extremely expensive, the same delicious outcome can cost the equivalent of £1-2 in Thailand, China, or Malaysia.  There are also plenty of opportunities to apply for scholarships to cover some of your living expenses, many of which the university can offer. Take advantage of these opportunities whilst you are still eligible and apply as soon as you can.

4. A real heaven on earth for young explorers

Studying in Southeast Asia would be a tropical paradise for those who live to travel and seek out new adventures. Travelling inside Asia is relatively cheap, distances are not long and whichever country you are staying in, visiting other parts of Asia would be easy. There are countless wonderful places to discover and exotic islands to explore: even a lifetime would not be long enough to see them all! Hiking in the mountains, visiting temples built hundreds of years ago, lying on the beach among the palm trees, or even strolling among skyscrapers - the possibilities are endless! Even in one semester, you would gather exciting stories for a lifetime.

Photos by Martina Milkova

Edited by Olivia Morel