Why Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life

January 1, 2015
activities, study abroad
Why Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life

How would I know what it feels like to walk through the flooded streets of Venice or make snowballs in the Swiss Alps? Or sleep in a tiny tent in Germany one weekend and then ride my bike past the Eiffel Tower the next? Studying abroad changed my life–and it can change yours too.

If you thought going to college and living in a dorm with friends was the definition of freedom, then picture this. You’re sitting on your bed with new friends, laptops open and adventures ready to be plotted. You all start throwing around phrases like, “No we can’t go to Paris that weekend because that’s when we’re going to Oktoberfest. Ohhh Paris the weekend after Vienna? Sure thing.” Living abroad and slowly booking flights and buses and train rides so you can explore the world is one of the most surreal experiences you will ever have.

Being in a place where everyone speaks the same language and wears North Face jackets isn’t going to give you an accurate description of what the world is like.

No matter where you go to college, everyone is participating in pretty similar activities; going out to the local bar with classmates, sitting at brunch for hours in sweatpants and pulling all nighters on the third floor of the library. But if you are brave enough, and seize the opportunity your school has given you, then you will be among the select group of people who can boast about other things when they reminisce about their college days. These are the people who talk about the time they went swimming under the stars in Budapest, drove a boat down the Venice canal and jumped out of an airplane with their best friend in Prague.

Go. Study abroad. The same parties and classes and professors will be waiting for you when you get back. The cafeteria ladies will still be in the same spots, making the same sandwiches. The line for the printer will still be annoyingly long in the library, and your friends won’t have replaced you with someone else to dance with on Saturday nights. Your college is giving you the opportunity to live out so many people’s secret desire: to be a wanderer and a student of the world. When you return to your classroom, you will realize that what you are learning from PowerPoint presentations is far less valuable than what you learned navigating Czech street signs or trying to find your hostel in Switzerland.

Why Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life

Studying abroad is a time when you will realize how truly capable you are. This is not learned in the comfort of your local university. Rather, you will realize this when you are successfully decoding subway maps within an hour of being in a new city and bartering with local salesmen so you can get the best deal on strange souvenirs.

You will notice that you truly don’t need many material possessions, and it’s shocking that you can fit your life into a suitcase and backpack. This will lead you to start appreciating the little things that normally go without regard, like shoes that don’t break on cobblestones and pants that can be worn pretty much anywhere.

There will be very few opportunities down the road where people are actually encouraging you to take a few months to just explore the world.

No longer confined to the comforts of your familiar home state or country, you will feel like you aren’t living in a bubble anymore. Being in a place where everyone speaks the same language and wears North Face jackets isn’t going to give you an accurate description of what the world is like. Studying abroad will show you how in some places it is normal to be fluent in three languages and definitely not normal to wear sweatpants in public.

So, get out there and take a chance. There will be very few opportunities down the road where people are actually encouraging you to take a few months to just explore the world. You may be nervous or scared or feel like you will be too far from home, and that’s okay. There will be some rough patches when you’ll think you can’t make it one more day communicating in a broken language or eat another bowl of goulash. But just remember, when it comes down to it, through all the struggle, triumph and new discoveries, you are going to turn into one hell of a storyteller when you return home.

Why Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life

Why Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life

Top photo credit: Katie, Why Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life Bottom photo credit: Alex Tinder, Change your life. 

About Kate McCarthy

Kate McCarthyKate McCarthy is a Boston based writer. Her life goals are to travel the world and live a life that Oprah would approve of.

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