For many students, the years of college and university are when many of us move away from the comfort of our homes. Studying in an unfamiliar setting where we are constantly being challenged personally and professionally; allowing us a chance to grow and learn more about ourselves. To further develop as a student, one of the best things that you can do for yourself is to study abroad in a foreign country on exchange. Intimidating and overwhelming as this decision may be, it will definitely be one of the best decisions you will ever make as a young adult and you will not regret it. Here are 8 reasons why you should go on exchange:
1. New environment and culture
Unlike short term vacations, studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to fully immerse yourself in a completely new environment and culture. Over several months, you will be able to explore the country you are studying in while experiencing life as a local on a day-to-day basis. In addition to this, you will likely learn a lot about the country’s culture and way of life, which could be significantly different from what you are familiar with back home.
By studying abroad, you will be given the opportunity to experience and learn more about a different education system in a classroom environment within a mixture of local and exchange students. Studying in a different country allows you to take courses of interest that you may not have otherwise been able to take at your home institution. As a Commerce major studying in Hong Kong, my marketing and management courses have allowed me to better understand how business is conducted in East Asia. Many of our professors have extensive experience working in their fields in Asia, allowing us to gain a first-hand perspective. Many of the courses offered at your exchange institution will allow you to obtain a global perspective of your study and broaden your knowledge overall as you apply what you’ve learned to other aspects of your education and life.
3. Professional Development
If you ever have considered working abroad after completing your studies, exchange is the perfect opportunity to expand your network globally while connecting with locals and fellow exchange students. During your studies abroad, you will likely be required to work with a combination of local and exchange students, allowing you to grasp a better understanding of how to work effectively with people from various backgrounds. With this in mind, did you know that only approximately 10% of Canadian post-secondary students study abroad? Adding your studies abroad onto your resume/CV will certainly help you stand out to a recruiter amongst other applicants, given that they may be interested in learning more about your time abroad. They will acknowledge that you have experience working with and in different cultures, which will prove a valuable skill in your professional life.
4. Personal Development
While studying abroad, you will constantly find yourself in situations outside of your comfort zone, in which you will truly learn more about yourself and your surroundings. By doing so, you are likely to return home a lot more comfortable with uncertainty and eager to take more risks as you learn to make the most out of new and unexpected situations. Furthermore, your ability to adapt will always be challenged as you study at your host institution and also while traveling to nearby countries as cultures and customs can vary significantly.
5. Opportunities to Travel
Going on exchange means it is likely that you will be in a country where it is relatively easy to travel to neighbouring countries during long weekends or school breaks. You will be able to travel around by a short train or plane ride to nearby countries for a fraction of what you would have paid if you were to fly from your home country. Additionally, it is most likely that these times that you travel will be during low season, meaning that your travel and accommodation expenses will be a lot cheaper and less busy than if you were to travel during your summer or winter school breaks.
6. New language
If you are interested in learning or improving your language skills, studying abroad will give you the opportunity to learn and practice a new language where you can apply your skills on a daily basis. Additionally, you will be able to befriend locals at your host university and practice and improve your language skills along the way. Knowing a few simple phrases or being conversationally fluent will certainly go a long way!
7. New long lasting relationships
Chances are, there will be many exchange students studying at the same university as you. Given this, many of those students will also be experiencing the new country’s culture and travels for the first time. These new experiences and adventures are bound to bring you closer as you grow together throughout your studies abroad. Without a doubt, these experiences will allow you to form long lasting friendships with students around the world as you reflect on your travel memories years down the road.
8. You’re still young
Realistically, being in college/university means that you are still young and have so much ahead of you. There is so much of the world to see and experience, and I promise you will not be able to do so from the comfort of your home. Perhaps you are worried about missing a specific term or internship; you will always have these opportunities to work and have a ton of responsibilities for the rest of your life. But when else will you ever have the chance to travel for a long period of time while meeting other students from around the world? Studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime and I urge you to go ahead and give it a try. I am positive you will not regret it – university is an essential time to learn about yourself and grow personally as well as professionally. As Andre Gide once said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” It is time to leave the comfort of your home and explore the world.