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Should I Study Abroad?

Updated on September 23, 2012

Why I made this page

One month into my first semester at college, I was in public speaking class and a girl gave a presentation on studying abroad. "Everyone should do it!" she said. "I know I'm going to. I want to study in Italy!"

"Oh man," I thought. "I just got here! How can anyone be thinking about studying abroad?" I was scared enough just being on campus, away from my family and friends. Only 20 minutes away, sure, but it felt like entire universes expanded between me and my old life. I couldn't imagine going thousands of miles away to study in a place I had never been to!

Flash forward to now, and I've studied abroad in two countries - Uganda (Africa) and Jordan (Middle East). Both were life changing, exhilarating, and totally worth it.

(PS - that photo is me on a camel in Wadi Rum, Jordan!)

Academic Factors

Some majors allow for study-abroad more easily than others. For example, business students can get a new perspective studying abroad. Nursing students, however, may fall behind without their home labs, unless they carefully choose the right program!

If your major makes it hard to take a semester or year away from your home college, you may want to consider short-term study abroad!

Also, many students who study abroad end up needing an extra semester or even an extra year because they picked classes that don't transfer back to their home school. So visit your registrar and pick your classes carefully!

On the other hand, studying abroad can give your education a real boost. Your major will be different in other countries, for example. And learning about different cultures will give you a professional edge - especially if you sharpen your foreign language skills while you're there.

As a communication major, I went to Africa for journalism and the Middle East for healthcare communications. I learned invaluable lessons about both while abroad, and it's definitely impressed internship employers back home.

Personal Factors

The decision to study abroad is very personal. While your friends and family will miss you while you are overseas, ultimately you need to decide if it will make YOU happy.

Studying abroad will take you far away from friends and family. Fortunately, the internet and cell phones has made it possible to keep in contact almost as closely as if you were on your home campus.

Some people are also very uncomfortable with being a foreigner. If you aren't fluent in the language of your host country - or the particular dialect - adjusting can be difficult. The culture will be different, etiquette make take some getting used to, and the food won't taste the same. However, it can be incredibly rewarding to immerse yourself in a new culture. The same joy you feel in a new city on vacation may well be the feeling you get in your host country.

If you have a medical condition that requires constant care, you may want to carefully evaluate potential host countries for their ability to care for you. Speak with your doctor about your options.

Remember, there is no wrong answer to the Should I Study Abroad? question. It's your decision, and your life. If you don't want to go, that's totally fine! Some people are happier staying at their home school. If you do want to go, visit your home school's study abroad office. They will help you pick a good program and make the arrangements to go.

Study, Vacation and Travel In College

Financial Factors

Studying abroad can be very expensive. Or, it may cost the same as your home school (plus souvenirs, of course!). Different programs and different countries will also have different costs. Popular universities may cost more than the almost unknown school a few miles away. When you decide on a location, look into the different schools in the area for the best cost.

If you are planning on studying abroad, visit your school's study abroad office and talk to them about the costs. Some schools will let you take your financial aid package abroad! Others will know about scholarships you can apply for, or have a cheaper alternative to the school you're looking at.

While it may be expensive, some students think it's worth the loan debt to have an overseas experience.

If financial factors are an issue, you may want to look into summer sessions or break sessions (winter break and spring break are popular choices).

Ways to Study Abroad

  • Traditional Study Abroad for a Semester or Year
  • Summer Abroad
  • Volunteer or Intern Abroad
  • Language Immersion (often less than a month)

Reader Feedback

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      RinchenChodron 8 years ago

      Great lens - hope you make it abroad! Good luck on the Squid Squad making your 50 to become a Giant. You go girl! Five Stars.