As vaccines are being rolled out and lockdowns are starting to lift, universities are starting up their study abroad programs again. In fact, Vanderbilt University recently announced that students can apply for the Fall 2021 study abroad in Seoul, South Korea at Yonsei University. I was lucky enough to study abroad in Fall 2019 at the University of Glasgow with IFSA. I truly had one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I am here to share four reasons why everyone must study abroad once restrictions are lifted.
Explore a New Culture
By spending an entire semester in a new country, you will undoubtedly learn more about your country’s culture. Whether that is through taking a cultural class your host university offers, trying new foods, or exploring the city, you’ll be able to learn something new. During my study abroad trip to Scotland, I tried the famous dish haggis (it’s made from sheep intestines!), went on a mural tour in the city centre with my IFSA team, and learned about Glasgow’s history of crime on a tour sponsored by IFSA. IFSA does an incredible job of incorporating different events either during orientation or throughout the duration of the semester to teach you about your country’s historical and cultural background.
Take Classes your University Doesn’t Offer
As an economics major, I found several econ courses UofG offered that Vanderbilt didn’t, such as Contracts and Governance and Behavioral Economics. I was able to broaden my academic understanding from these classes. For most subjects at other universities abroad, you will be able to find unique classes you won’t find at your home university. UofG, for example, also offered multiple cultural courses designed especially for exchange students, such as bagpiping and the history of Scotland. IFSA also helps you find courses with their online tool, CHART, a search engine that filters all courses by subject, study abroad location, school, and more.
Grow Your Independence
While attending college in and of itself will make you more independent as you transition from living with your parents to living with other classmates, it’s a whole different story when you are living in a foreign country. I was halfway across the globe from my friends and even connecting online was difficult because of the time difference. I was initially completely alone without the support of my friends, family, and services that my home university Vanderbilt provided. Although this may sound like a drawback, this is a perfect opportunity to learn how to navigate these challenges. While I did quickly find incredible friends, there were times when I had to take care of myself, learn to cook new dishes, and make sure I was on top of all my duties. My constant traveling also helped me build independence. My study abroad experience made me feel more prepared for life beyond college.
Meet Incredible People
What made my abroad experience incredible was primarily the people I met during my journey. My biggest fear about going abroad was that I was not going to make friends since I’m introverted and I thought most people won’t be open to forming new friendships. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I became close friends with my flatmates, who were all part of my IFSA program, and we went to whiskey tastings, parties, and trips together. Then I found my group of people from UofG that I still keep in touch with today. I also made several friends who were studying abroad in Scotland from other countries, like Australia, France, and Germany. The truth is that there will likely be many people in the same boat as you at your host university: studying abroad and looking for people to connect with. The friendships you make while abroad are stronger than you think.