I’d go so far as to say studying abroad was the best decision I made at university. There are some major benefits to taking the opportunity to study abroad, and if it’s even remotely possible, then I urge you to try and make it happen. Once you get into the routine of university, it’s easy to drift along and not step out of your comfort zone again and organise a study abroad, but if you can do it it’s one of the easiest ways to travel.
The best benefits?
1. Living abroad (of course)
Need I say more? Studying abroad means living abroad. But the best part about living abroad while you’re at university is the time you have. Getting to live in another country while you’re studying means more time to see and do things than if you were working as an expat there, and more time to spend there than if you were just travelling through. Usually, a study abroad would be at least 4 months, plenty of time to explore!
2. It’s easy to make friends
When you move abroad it can be more difficult to make friends than when you’re travelling. University is a more naturally social place, just like backpackers and tours are. There’ll be a bunch of other exchange students in the same boat as you, plus multiple exchange student organised social events to take advantage off. Much easier than moving abroad on your own! Plus, you’ll be attending classes every day with other local students, so you can make friends and also join general university social clubs. When I studied on Vancouver Island I made sure to join the snow club so that I could go away on snowboarding trips as often as possible!
3. A Study Abroad is less scary than moving abroad alone
A study abroad is more structured and planned than moving abroad alone. If you’re nervous to move abroad, then studying abroad is a great introductory step. A lot more things are organised for you and there’s more of a formal support network through the university. Often you can stay in university accommodation, or if not the university can help you with finding your own accommodation. If you have problems with setting yourself up in any way they will always be there to help you, and quite often they’ll give you an introduction to the city!
4. Experience study at another university
Studying abroad really widened my university experience. There were so many different classes at my university in Canada that I could never have taken at my home university. I think it gave me a more rounded degree, as well as being a point of interest to employers who were used to seeing the same sort of courses all of the time. Which brings me to the next point…
5. A Study Abroad looks great when you apply for jobs
In New Zealand if you have gaps in your CV from travelling it’s not a problem, but I know in some other countries it can be. If you study abroad it’s a legitimate reason to have travelled to another country for awhile, and you will never have to explain why you chose to take time away. You can also add travel before and after your study abroad and lump it all in the same category!
Plus, like taking different courses, it’s a point of difference and opens up a conversation with employers about the skills you’ve already developed before finishing university. Travelling often means being flexible, adaptable, motivated, and a problem solver.
6. Studying Abroad makes you appreciate your home country more
After my study abroad in Canada, I came back to New Zealand with a renewed appreciation for what was on my doorstep. Before I went to Canada I was a lot more focused on study, but in a way that was unbalanced. I didn’t take time to do the things I enjoy, and in Canada, I rediscovered my love for exploring my surroundings and choosing the adventure in a way that didn’t have to mean big holidays abroad. Afterwards, I spent time going to walks with friends, tramping in the mountains nearby, and finding the time to do things I’d always wanted to do around my city but never did. It’s been six years since my study abroad (eeek!) at the University of Victoria on Vancouver Island, and I haven’t lost that enthusiasm.
6.5 Finding a direction
This one gets to be a half reason, because it was true for me but won’t be for everyone. Finishing university is a huge step, especially if you go straight from school. Leaving school and going to university is less of a big step than finishing university and entering the workforce. Now you’re actually going into the world that you’ll be in for the rest of your life, and it won’t be the same again.
The unexpected thing for me was that studying abroad helped me to get over a relationship that was breaking down at the same time I was nearing the end of university. It helped me see what I really wanted, and that was to live abroad. It was 100% what I needed to sort out my life direction. Ten years and 3 more expat countries under my belt and a lot of thanks to that decision to jump out of my comfort zone at 22, and study abroad.
Have you studied abroad? Did it change things for you?
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