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Those Three Little Words: Why Study Abroad?

Why Study Abroad? The not-so-old-aged question now making its way into lecture halls across the country.

Modern day students, tempted by the exotic uncertainties of life in far away campuses, are repeatedly confronted by these three words. Both alluring and exciting, they are also daunting and potentially problematic. No magic 8 ball or sorting hat (unfortunately) can provide a unanimous answer. As always, responses are diverging, diverse and depend on the individual.   

Hence, this article offers three different responses, from three different individuals, with three different experiences. It does not enlist the usual roll call of sweeping commentary involving career prospects, academic development and once-in-a-lifetime chances. This merry-go-round of buzzwords can be saved for another, more formal occasion. Instead, a trio of Study Abroad survivors offer one reply to this tantalising question.  The aim is to provide an honest, personalised perspective and, in the process, help others who, like me are toiling with these three words.


Student One: Montreal, Canada

Answer: You will never be more out of your comfort zone and yet, at the same time, be in a place in which you can fit yourself in easily.

Uprooting your life (with all its carefully constructed comforts) and planting it somewhere completely different is hard. Study Abroad, like entering the Triwizard Tournament, is not for the faint hearted. This friend in particular is acutely aware of the sticky situations that can arise when living abroad, returning one bodily organ less than when she started (it’s a long story!) 

Nevertheless, somehow everyone survives to gleefully tell the tales of their experiences. Whilst discarding the ‘comfort zone’ of UK studenthood, you are given elements of structure and familiarity as part of the university regime. As an international student, there are always networks of support services and friendly faces to help you negotiate your respective environment and overcome any potential troubles. Study Abroad, with all its associated adventure and abnormalities, provides an extraordinary gateway to that unique place ‘Where the magic [does really] happen.’ 

Student Two: Auckland, New Zealand

Answer: “she must now submit to feel that another lesson, in the art of knowing our own nothingness beyond our own circle.”

British University life is just one page of a rich, riveting book that the academic world has to offer. Please note – this is not a ploy to deride the student experiences at Nottingham or elsewhere in the UK. This is a moment of appreciation for the infinite spectrum of studentdoms existing across the globe. We are one campus: one student union, one academic institution in an intricate web of worldwide universities.

The brilliance of Study Abroad is that you can intimately explore this elaborate spider’s web, engaging with an utterly different system of studenthood. As an English student (and mutual lover of Ms. Austen), my friend’s quote is rather fitting, expressing her realisation of one’s ‘own nothingness’ amongst the scholarly seas.

The clichés are (and I am sorry to be annoying) true, the ocean and the drop have some real-life relevance. Granted, Nottingham is a culturally diverse campus with an abundant array of opportunities and yet, by immersing yourself in a different student life, you can truly experience what lies beyond ‘our own circle.’

Student Three: Ningbo, China

Answer: Culture, and the exciting eccentricities of your new (temporary) home.

Each chosen destination provides a wealth of wonderful cultural experiences. By exchanging one student life for another, you are given the freedom to envelope yourself within the patterns and peculiarities of this temporary home. For one alumnus, the attraction of Study Abroad comes from its opportunities to embrace the social habits/quirks within campus and wider social life.

China, in this particular case, offered a unique realm of unparalleled experiences. The compelling comparisons with Nottingham life have left her with an exciting catalogue of stories and fond memories. The cheap and gorgeous food, with £1 lunchtime meals and street snacks sold outside the university gates, were especially memorable for her.  

Tales of riding mopeds around campus streets late into the night invoke jaw-opening reactions (mostly from me) and paint romantic scenes of life abroad. The people, welcoming and willing to interact, created a 6-month exchange filled with excitement and long-lasting friendships.


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Somerset girl, history student, study abroad returnie and, like so many, an aspiring writer Twitter Name: @rosemaryecwebb Email: [email protected]
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