In the spring of 2023, I spent the second semester of my junior year in Florence, Italy. I met amazing people, saw incredible places, and made some truly unforgettable memories. I learned so much about the world and myself, and I would do it all over again if I could. It might sound corny, but studying abroad really was life-changing. If you’re on the fence about studying abroad, I’d like to share my two cents on why I think you should go for it.
I had known that I wanted to study abroad in college since I was in high school. When the time came to actually send in the paperwork, however, I became apprehensive. It’s a massive life change — you’re leaving your home, support system, and all familiarity behind to take a massive leap of faith in another country. Plus, the amount of preparation work (and expenses) that go into studying abroad cannot be ignored. In the weeks leading up to my departure, I grew steadily more nervous. The plane ride over didn’t feel real, and the fact that I was about to live in a foreign country for four months didn’t hit me until I was sitting in a hotel room by myself in Florence. I wasn’t scared anymore though, I was just excited.
Challenging myself to study abroad was the best thing I ever could’ve done. Aside from all of the incredible experiences you’ll have, you’ll come back home feeling braver, more independent, and more confident than you ever have before. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to travel to new cities and countries, whether you’re in Europe, Asia, Africa, or elsewhere. The perspective that an experience like this can give you isn’t something that can be found on the UMass Amherst campus, or whatever campus you call home.
Your study abroad experience doesn’t have to look a certain way, either. Whether you want to experience the food in Italy, the nightlife in Spain, the fashion in France, the nature in Thailand, or something totally different, there’s a destination out there that’s perfect for you. If you’re planning to go abroad alone, just know that there will be other people in the same boat as you and you’ll have the opportunity to make amazing friendships — and also enjoy your own company! You can work with an advisor to come up with the right place that will accommodate your academic and personal goals while still pushing you outside of your comfort zone.
I know it can seem daunting and scary, but the best thing you can do for yourself is to just go for it. For all the highs, there will definitely be lows. You’ll miss your family, your friends, and your home, but you’ll be alright. You’ll learn how to deal with these challenges, and you’ll become a better person for it. Of course, the lower moments won’t hold a candle to the joy you’ll feel. Before you know it, you’ll be at an amazing restaurant with your new friends in a new city for the weekend, wondering how you ever could’ve thought about passing this opportunity up.
If you’re still on the fence about studying abroad, that’s alright — it isn’t for everyone, and that’s totally okay. But, it might also be just what you need. Don’t be the one holding yourself back. If you’re able to, I highly recommend taking the risk to study abroad!