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Nate Nault, StudyAbroad.com’s study abroad student expert and editor of The Study Abroad Blog, partnered with StudyAbroad.com to create the Study Abroad Student Guide.
Perhaps you’re reading this because you’re not completely sure whether or not you’re ready to go abroad. I didn’t make my decision until a week before the application was due (not something I would recommend by the way). I could say that if you really don’t think it’s for you then don’t go, but I don’t believe that. It’s only natural to be a bit fearful of change and facing new and challenging experiences.
Anyone who has even a remote desire to go abroad should decide to do it, in my humble opinion anyway. If for some reason you can’t last the semester or year and you have to come home, what’s the worst that can happen? You lose one semester of school and graduate when you’re 23 instead of 22. In the scheme of life, that’s not that big a difference, and the chances of that happening are minimal.
One of my biggest fears when I made the decision to go abroad was that I would lose my good friends and be really far out of the loop when I returned home. First and foremost, your being abroad shouldn’t change anything. You can still talk via Skype and phones and, if your friends are true friends, they will be excited for you to go and do something with your life, as well as be understanding when you come home.
There is still the possibility that you will feel out of the loop when you go back home, but you’ll catch up on the latest music trends, TV shows and fashion crazes pretty quickly. Besides, the stuff you pick up while abroad is probably more valuable anyway.
Need help convincing the parents? Do they think it’s just a way to waste time, spend money, and get out of studying abroad for a semester or year, or working for the summer? It’s important that they understand the benefits of studying abroad.
Tell them that while you’re of course you’re going to have a good time and an active social life when you go abroad; you’re also going to have a unique educational experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Since you’re looking at this website, why don’t you share it with your parents? They will be amazed by the thousands of study abroad opportunities that are available to you, and will understand why you are so excited about the prospect of spending a summer, semester, or even a full year in another country. Consider reading or sharing this article with them too. It outlines the different questions and topics you should discuss with them as you research, apply and plan for study abroad.
If you’re looking for more concrete benefits of studying abroad or reasons to study abroad, StudyAbroad.com has done its research to help you understand just that. From study abroad student testimonials to tips for navigating the job search after study abroad, there are tons of articles about the advantages of studying abroad. Coverage of study abroad in the media has been growing tremendously due to things like the “100,000 Strong” China study abroad initiative. There’s no shortage of articles that put study abroad in a good light.
As cliché as it sounds, by studying abroad you will become a much worldlier person, and become more marketable to grad schools and employers because of the intangible life skills you’re going to pick up along the way. Think of it as gaining a sort of cultural capital. The fact that you’ve studied abroad will answer many people’s questions about what type of person you are even before they have to ask.
You want culture? Perhaps one of the best ways to experience culture is to live it, which is exactly what you’ll be doing as a study abroad student. Aside from gaining an understanding for cultures other than your own, you will also gain intangible skills (another great selling point for Mom and Dad). Independence, time management, organization, social skills and self-confidence, just to name a few, will all develop exponentially while you’re abroad.
There will be a moment while abroad when you’ll realize that you’ve made the right decision: Treasure that moment. Mine was on a beach in Spain during a one-week vacation in November. There I was, shirt and shoes off, staring into the 75 degree Mediterranean Sea thinking about how all my friends were in class, possibly bored out of their minds and probably freezing in the cold New England weather.
That moment will come when all the stress from the first few weeks of getting acclimated is finally over, and it’s at that point that you will fully grasp what you’re doing, the magnitude of your decision to go abroad and your new found drive to take advantage of every opportunity that lay ahead of you.
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