With the young age of 16, I waved goodbye to my family and friends and boarded the plane alone for my very first journey overseas. This journey was not just a holiday trip, but a journey to start a complete new life (well, at least for 10 months) in the United States. After a lot of (sometimes stressful) planning, convincing my parents to let my live over 7,000 km away from them and too much packing, it was time to start my year studying abroad.
Six years ago (wow, I feel old now), I took the opportunity to turn my life around and have an experience that lasts for life. I’m very grateful that I had the chance to study abroad and I would encourage you to do the same, if you have the opportunity.
Here are the reasons that should convince you to leave home and explore a country during your studies:
1. Be fluent in a language
This is kind of obvious. It is easier to learn a language while you stay in the country instead of being it taught in school. Before I went to the US, I’ve already studied several years English, but I was not able to speak it really fluently and I had a German accent while speaking. After about half of a year living in the south of the States, I did not only spoke fluently English, but I also developed the typical southern accent, which I was quite proud of (unfortunately, I lost the accent in Berlin again).
2. Experience history
Being at an place where history actually happened instead of learning about it from the books is a huge difference. Of course you can visit historical sites during a short trip as well, but it is a difference when you actually live in the country. When you live there, you will find out how the natives think about their history and how historic events shaped the society. This experience will provide you with new aspects of the country’s history.
3. Get to know the culture
Culture is an important facet of every country. You will learn that culture is more than the country’s food (though it is still awesome to try lots of foreign foods), language and appearances. The society’s beliefs, perceptions, habits and values are all part of their culture. You will experience cultural differences to your own country and where these differences come from.
4. Make new friends
After your time abroad you will not only be friends with the natives, but also with other international students from all over there world. You will meet a lot of interesting people with whom you will have a chance to form a friendship with. Don’t be shy, talk to as many people as possible, learn from them and you will have lifelong and global connections.
5. Become open minded
While living abroad you will come across different kinds of people, who sometimes may have other views, beliefs and values than you. You will learn to accept that opinions others than yours exists and you will try to understand them. It even may happen that your own point of view changes. A year abroad will broaden your mind!
6. Have unique experiences
I had several great experiences during my American high school year that I would never have in Berlin. I attended prom (which girl would turn down this opportunity?), won a prize in drama club, had too much fun in Disney World (the happiest place on earth) and helped the baseball team during their games. There will be numerous opportunities to have one-of-a-kind experiences and you should take the chance even if you usually would not!
7. Become self confident and independent
Being away from everything and everyone that you know and that you’re familiar with can be a scary thought. On the bright side: it is a great opportunity to become more self confident and more independent. Suddenly, you have to manage certain situations on your own and facing these situation will help you grow as a person.
8. Enhance your résumé
As globalization progresses the world gets smaller and companies are aware of it. This means that corporations look for bilingual employees, who have experiences abroad and understand international perspectives. Employers realize that a person who has studied abroad is independent, can handle unexpected situations and problems and is an open minded person. Studying abroad will stand out on you résumé and can help you to acquire your dream job.
9. Explore new interests
During my year in the US, I tried out tennis for the first time (and I was terrible at it). Back in Berlin, I joined a tennis club and I still enjoy it three years later (and I got better at it, too). Maybe you will discover new passions and interests throughout your time abroad, too. Don’t be scared to try out new things! You never know, if it ends up being your new favorite hobby.
Last but not least, study abroad to travel! You will have the opportunity to not only explore one place in the country, but to travel throughout the whole country. In addition, you can travel to the countries near by. It is a great (and sometimes cheap) way to discover another part of the world and who would ever say no to that?
I would love to hear, if you have any experiences studying abroad or are planning to study abroad. Let me know in the comments below.