It is a classic stereotype that when someone goes abroad, it becomes their whole personality — they come back with a new accent and compare everything to where they went. However, this is not the case for most of us. There are so many opportunities around the world that people are missing out on when they don’t take advantage of studying abroad. Here are some of the amazing reasons you should go abroad if you can!
- experiencing a new culture and meeting new people
I feel like this is widely known, but so undervalued. When going abroad people focus on traveling, but not the fact that you can learn so much about a new culture. Yes, you can read about different cultures and places around the world, but nothing compares to being a part of a new culture. I went to Madrid, Spain, and before going, I read so much to be prepared for my life abroad. I could not have read enough to fully understand everything about this beautiful city. There are cultural norms that I never would have imagined, like how it’s a custom to walk up the left side of an escalator and stand on the right, that people kiss on the cheek as a greeting, or how much history all of their land holds. You also get to meet so many new people from all around the world. I made the most amazing friends while traveling abroad — I made friends from Chile, Madrid, and even from Texas and Washington in the United States.
- Learning new skills
Communication skills are a huge lesson that you learn when studying abroad. In the United States, the majority of people know English, and we all have more or less the same mannerisms, so communicating with one another is quite simple. When going to another country with a different language, you have to broaden your ways of communicating. This was the roughest but funniest part for me. My broken Spanish with crazy hand motions to explain what I meant made others laugh, but it also taught me skills for how to better express myself.
How to slow down is another skill that I learned. I did not realize that this was something I needed to learn until I left America. The United States makes us all move so fast; we’re constantly needing to do something and rushing off to the next task. In different countries, they spend a long time eating and talking with friends during lunch and dinner; people are not always rushing to get to the next thing on their to-do list. Overall, I learned a skill that I did not know I needed to learn: how to enjoy the moment by slowing down.
This was super important for me. Yes, I am a college student, but I have always been just two hours away from home or just a phone call away from my friends and family. While I was abroad, there was a six-hour time difference and an ocean between me and my family and friends. While this sounds scary, it was amazing. Yes, I missed everyone at home, but it made me focus on myself and what I enjoyed, and I learned skills that I wouldn’t have if I had had friends and family to fall back on. Even things that seem as simple as making sure that I had three meals a day or could get from campus an hour away back to my apartment alone were important lessons that I had to learn. I have never had to experience any of these things before, but being in a different country, I had it happen all at once, which ultimately made me a more independent person.
When you go abroad, you have to learn how to adapt to new situations quickly, especially if you travel every weekend like I did. You have to learn traits of different cultures, how to get around, and how to make sure you are safe and have somewhere to stay. You learn to adapt super quickly and always be on your toes for the next thing to happen. For example, my friend had her phone stolen three times! It was an awful thing to have happen, but she was still abroad, and she had to make the most of everything despite the circumstances. I guess, in a way, you get to learn how to roll with the punches.
Naturally, as you gain independence and learn new skills, you mature a lot as well. As you learn how to problem solve, learn about others, and learn how to adapt, all these growing skills lead you to mature as a person. You also learn how to be self-aware, since you are in a country that you are not used to and you are constantly focusing on yourself and how you fit in. This causes you to mature and reflect on yourself very often, and it helps you grow for the better.
If these five reasons haven’t convinced you to go abroad, think about eating amazing Italian food while sitting on the Amalfi coast or seeing the Mona Lisa in person. Trust me — it’s definitely worth it, and you know you want to go.