Eight months ago today, I boarded a Virgin Atlantic plane to London, England. My heart pounding as I went through security, I feared leaving behind the bubble of Ann Arbor I had spent the past two-and-half years getting comfortable in. I said goodbye to my loving friends, boyfriend, and family, and tried to do anything possible to prepare myself for the adventure of a lifetime that lay ahead. Five months later, I returned back to America with an open mind, a wealth of experiences, and a new circle of friends who had shared in an unforgettable journey with me. I walked across the London Bridge, drank wine in front of the Trevi Fountain, posed with the Eiffel Tower behind me, explored The Guinness Factory, laid out on Italian beaches, all the while learning more about myself than I ever thought possible.
Though I, like others, found the experience of going abroad to be too tempting to pass up, to others the mere thought of it is enough to make their hairs stand on end. You love Ann Arbor. It has become your home in the last few years. All your friends are here. Everything you know is here. Other than the treacherous winter weather, it seems like heaven on earth. So why pack your bags and head overseas?
For thousands of college students every year, the decision to say goodbye to the comforts of college and hello to a brand new culture has become one of the most difficult to make. Studying abroad for a semester or a year is an incredibly popular experience amongst college students who want to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live in a foreign country. Though it may seem like everyone you know is choosing to venture off to a faraway land, avoid getting peer pressured into making this decision. Opting to go abroad is a personal choice that only you, and you alone can make. Use the guide of pros and cons below to help you make this decision just a little bit easier!
- Seize the Opportunity: This will most likely be the only time in your life you have the opportunity to spend 4-12 months living in a foreign country with your peers, traveling and learning with little responsibility. Seize it.
- Learn more about the world: You will learn more traveling abroad than you will staying on campus. By experiencing something entirely different, meeting all new people, and immersing yourself in a new culture, you will learn more about the world and yourself than you ever thought possible. You will broaden your viewpoints. Staying in Ann Arbor, you might get a better academic education, but socially and culturally you will likely only learn the same things you have every other semester.
- Become an adult: You will become an adult. Breaking out of your comfort zone, overcoming cultural barriers, facing homesickness, learning to travel on your own, and making your own decisions, you will become an adult who knows more about who you are and what you want out of life.
- The bottom line: I guarantee this: you will never regret going abroad, but you might regret it if you don’t.
Stay in Ann Arbor
- You’re only in college once: You are only in college once in your life and you have four years to make the most of it. If you love your friends, are dating the world’s more perfect man, and are thoroughly enjoying your time on campus, don’t feel pressure to jet set to Europe. You have time to travel during the summer, or backpack through Europe after graduation. You may not want to miss out on a semester or year of college to rake in the perks of traveling abroad.
- Academic education: You will likely receive a better academic education in Ann Arbor with its world-class professors and research facilities. (However, do not forget about the out-of-the-classroom education you will gain from immersing yourself in a new culture.)
- Internship-hunting: It is inevitably more difficult to land an awesome summer internship while abroad. Though the Internet definitely helps this issue with online internship-search engines, and the possibility for Skype and over-the-phone interviews. You may be at a disadvantage in your internship-hunt compared to those students who can easily meet the recruiters in-person.
- Inevitable Homesickness: Periods of extreme homesickness are inevitable abroad. It is difficult to be in an entirely different culture without any of the comforts of home. When making your decision, consider that you will have days when the difficulties inherent in overcoming cultural barriers will be too much to bare, and you will undoubtedly miss home.
- FOMO: FOMO kicks into high gear: you might feel alienated from the social scene once you return to campus having missed an entire semester. With Facebook and Twitter constantly updating you about the fun life your friends are having on campus, you may long to be apart of the fun.