3 Reasons why you should study abroad when you're young
As I continue to get older and older and experience more in this world, I always seem to forget to look back at some of my past experiences and how they have helped my present. Many, are typical ones that most experience at some point in their lives (graduating from high school, buying my first car, moving out for college, etc.). But there is that one that I seem to always forget for some reason whenever I am looking back at the “big” moments in life. This one moment is none other than my study abroad adventure to the beautiful country of Costa Rica in the summer in between my junior and senior years of high school. I spent six weeks studying and living with a host family there in the months of July and August of 2009 and it has definitely had a long-lasting impact on my life, even though I do not always realize it.
Sometime in the middle of my junior year, I felt very uneasy about my future and what I was going to be doing after high school and college were over. I hated high school with a passion and could not fathom the thought of going through another four years at some expensive college where I would not know anyone, except possibly for a few people that I was not friends with, let alone even acquainted with. Classes were boring and being one of the only upperclassmen in school that still had to have their parents drive them to and from school was downright humiliating. I did not have a car, a job, or more importantly, any sense of purpose in this world. My parents took notice that I was constantly stressed and coming home from school unhappy, and they eventually came to terms that something needed to be done. They proposed that I take a study abroad trip to the country of my choosing because they knew how much I enjoyed to travel and experience new cultures. I had been to Mexico and Europe numerous times in the past but was ready to try something new. I looked up some study abroad companies online and found one that I liked the most. Then I had to figure out which country I wanted to stay in. I chose Costa Rica because I was studying Spanish in high school and wanted to eventually be fluent in the language. In addition, I also was lured into picking the country because of the beautiful beaches and rainforests that are well known across the globe. When the time for leaving drew closer and closer, I grew more and more anxious about what would transpire during my stay in this foreign land. Were the people there going to be friendly? Were the classes going to be difficult and tedious? What was my host family going to think of me? All of these questions were circling in my head before I left for my trip and there were a few instances where I contemplated no longer going. However, little did I know, by the time the trip was all said and done, I came back home a changed person with a fresh new look on life. The three following reasons are why I believe you need to study abroad when you’re young.
- You get to live in another home outside of your own for once. Yes, this may sound a little strange, but I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed the unfamiliarity of waking up in a different bed, eating different food, and being around others that spoke a different language outside my native tongue. You don’t really realize how accustomed you are to your own unique way of life until you live somewhere else, particularly somewhere else in the world. A lot of various positive feelings started forming inside me that I never thought I would feel. I felt grateful for being so fortunate to live in a country that was filled with so many great opportunities. I also felt excited that I made the right decision to live for an extended time period in this country. I quickly realized that the reason why I was feeling all of these positive emotions, was because I went past my comfort zone and moved somewhere completely new, and it paid great dividends. The bed wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the one I had at home, but my mood while I was there improved drastically.
- The friends you make really will last a lifetime. When I was in Costa Rica I met all sorts of interesting and diverse people that lived in the town that I was staying in, and also students that were from different parts of the United States and Italy. All of the students had their own unique reason as to why they chose to be a part of the program. Some were forced to go by their parents, some wanted to visit just because they wanted to travel, and others wanted to be fluent in Spanish. And when it came to the locals, I couldn’t believe how friendly all of them were. My host family always cooked for me three meals a day, washed my clothes, and drove me to school and wherever else I needed to go. What was really interesting was the fact that Costa Rica isn’t a wealthy country by any stretch of the imagination, but the people there are some of the kindest you will ever meet in your life. I still speak with members of my host family today through Facebook and other social media platforms, the same goes for the people in my class. I visited the country a couple more times after the initial trip (once in 2010 and once in 2014) and plan to visit again in the near future. I believe I became good friends with many people during my stay there because of our mutual desire to meet and learn about people from different parts of the world. Gaining new friendships like the ones that I gained, is a great sign that the program you were a part of was well worth the time and money.
- You will come back home with a fresh outlook on life. You may ask yourself if living in another country gives you any advantages in your daily life when you return home? The simple answer here is yes, it really does in more ways than one. As soon as I came back home to my parents' house in Chicago that summer of 2009 I wish I could’ve traveled more to different parts of Costa Rica and other countries as well. You can definitely say I caught the “travel bug”. This to me is a big positive because many people live ordinary lives where they go to school every day, go to work or both, without thinking about how fun and important traveling really is for the brain. I wanted to continue to learn more about different cultures and people because of how many friendly people I met in Costa Rica. Before I left for the trip, I thought Costa Rica might be a somewhat dangerous place with rude and aggressive people due to many not having a great deal of income. My mindset changed, however, immediately when I got there, and made me realize I can’t ever be too quick to judge a particular group of people if I haven’t even been around them before. You become less judgmental the more places you visit, which is something quite a few people don’t realize until they actually start traveling and meeting new friends.
Based on the three reasons above, you can see that there are clearly lots of benefits to going on a study abroad program. The reason why you should travel when you’re young is that when you are older you obviously gain more responsibilities such as getting married, having children, buying a house, etc. I still reap the benefits from going on an extended stay like this and recommend it to anyone searching for meaning in their life, wanting to get outside their comfort zone, learning a new language, and many more examples. Even though I never learned how to speak Spanish fluently I still learned a lot. I learned about the country’s culture, geography, and how people can still be friendly without having a lot of money. There are tons of programs that offer you to stay with a host family for around six weeks like I was on, or you can choose a program that is longer in duration, such as six months or even a full year. Regardless of how long you wish to stay, you will, without a doubt in my mind, benefit in some way when you choose one of these programs. It doesn’t have to be a Spanish-speaking country like Costa Rica, there are programs in pretty much every country on the planet. So what are you waiting for? Sign up now and be prepared to change your life in ways you didn’t think were possible!