Last Updated on
Have you been considering studying abroad? When I was at university I studied for a year near Pittsburgh in the US, and it was one of the best years of my entire life! If you’re still a little unsure about it, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten reasons why you won’t regret studying abroad.
1. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has regretted studying abroad
When I studied abroad in the US I made friends with all the other international students. I also made friends with different students at my home university as we were all preparing to leave. Not a single one of those people have regretted their study abroad year.
I know I didn’t. It was hands down one of the best years of my entire life.
The only regrets I have ever heard people have to do with studying abroad is either a) they studied abroad, but only for a semester, or b) that they never took one in the first place. I met so many people who only applied for a semester abroad initially, and then tried to extend whilst they were already there. It can be done, but it is WAY harder to do so, mainly because of strict visa conditions the country has in place, or because the university can only accept a certain amount of exchange students at a time.
I knew that one semester wouldn’t be enough for me, which is why I applied for a year program from the start. I have zero regrets about this decision.
2. It is a socially acceptable time of your life to go travelling for six months or a year
I think that one of the most depressing moments of my life was when I realized that you have to accrue and apply for leave to travel when you become a “proper adult” with a full-time job.
When I was eighteen I travelled to Europe for six months on a gap year, and then studied abroad when I was 20/21. I had a realisation while I was studying abroad that this would be the last time people would actually be encouraging me to go travelling long term or not raise their eyebrows as I announced yet another longterm travel adventure.
You can absolutely travel long-term after you start full-time work. But people have A LOT MORE to say about it. Trust me.
3. Studying abroad in a country is WAY different to just taking a holiday there
When you visit a place for a couple of days or even a couple of weeks you tend to travel with a more concrete plan. You’re going to visit this must-see tourist destination on this day, and then this one and then this one.
When you study abroad you are committing to staying in the one place for either a semester or a year. This means that you can take your time and see things at your own pace, generally increasing your enjoyment whilst doing so because you’re not stressed about fitting everything in.
And of course, that doesn’t mean you are limited to just that one place. I studied near Pittsburgh, PA and I would often make a weekend trip to Washington DC, New York or back to my roommate’s house to hang with her family. I also celebrated my 21st birthday in Miami (because it lined up perfectly with Spring Break) and went on a 42-day camping trip where I visited 25 different states!
4. You’ll realize how capable you are
Organising to study abroad can be a pretty daunting process. For me, I had to get two letters of recommendation from professors, organise with my own faculty of study to make sure I would get credit for any topics I took (and therefore not extend my degree!), make sure that I wouldn’t miss any core topics of my degree while I was away, not to mention the process of getting a visa. We don’t have a US consulate in Adelaide so I had to fly to Melbourne (where I do live now actually to organise this) in the middle of the semester to organise this.
It would have been pretty easy to get lost in the process and red tape and have it all fall through. Unfortunately, this did happen to several people from my university who weren’t proactive enough with ensuring their application was finalised. However, I was dedicated to my goal and I made sure that all the elements that I needed for a successful application were in place.
Before this year I had also never flown completely by myself internationally and was privately quite nervous about this. I had taken a gap year, but I started that trip with my parents because we were visiting family in the UK and ended up flying back from Greece with a friend that I met on my Contiki. I was convinced that I would screw up somehow, most likely by forgetting whether my bags would go the whole way through to my final destination or if I would have to pick them up during a connection. Well, that year I ended up flying internationally all on my lonesome about eight times, and thankfully never lost any baggage!
5. It is an amazing experience to talk about in future job interviews
Look, I’m not going to bow down to society’s distaste for women knowing their worth on this one. My resume was already pretty damn good before I studied abroad. I have been working some type of part-time job since I was fourteen years old, been involved in volunteering since about the same age, and I’ve always been good at school. Sorry not sorry to the guy in the cubicle next to me at work who would call this a “casual flex”.
But as university becomes harder to get into and relevant full-time jobs afterwards becoming increasingly more elusive, this alone is not enough to get you in the door anymore. However, I have both my gap year and my study abroad year listed as accomplishments on my resume, and I have yet to had an interview where this has not been brought up.
Studying abroad shows that you have discipline and commitment, not to mention a willingness to expand your horizons internationally. And as the world becomes increasingly more global, having these connections is a major tick in the eyes of recruiters.
6. You have the chance to study something you might never otherwise get the chance to
Because I was in the US for two semesters this meant that I had the chance to study eight topics in total while I was there. From this eight I chose several topics that were specific to my degree, such as Youth Justice and Psychology of the Law, but I also had some electives saved up as well. I made sure to utilise these free topics and took an American politics class (another thing that has always fascinated me) as well as an American literature class. While I’m sure that I could have found a way to study these back home, there’s nothing quite like experiencing it firsthand in the country that the topic is about.
7. It will broaden your horizons about new cultures
No matter where you are in the world, no two countries have the same culture. Look there’s definitely an argument to be made for Western countries somewhat lacking in it. Studying abroad in a country with a different language or different dominant religion to your own is a very obvious way of learning about new cultures. But I think even between different English speaking countries there can be quite a difference as well. For example, I think the American college system is pretty unique and extremely different from what university life is like in Australia or England for that matter.
Thanks to the popularity of study abroad you’ll also be exposed to more than just the culture of the country you’re studying in. I became very close with some of the girls from Spain and Japan, and I think we were all as fascinated by each other’s countries and cultures as we were of America.
8. You can learn another language or improve any current language skills
There’s no better way to pick up some new language skills than to completely throw yourself in the deep end and study abroad somewhere with a different first language. Whilst studying in the US made sense for my degree (I studied criminology and the American justice system is all kinds of unique, and not always in a good way) I do wish that I had been brave enough to study in a non-English speaking country.
One of my best friends studied abroad in France for a year and it improved her skills tenfold. It was definitely a steep learning curve for her but she’s now a French teacher back home and feels so much more confident in this role with that cultural immersion behind her.
Side note: I have five best friends back in Adelaide and every single one of us has studied abroad, which I think is pretty damn cool!
9. You’ll appreciate your family and friends back home more (and they’ll appreciate you more too!)
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and it really does seem to be true! When you see your family every day it can get pretty easy to take them for granted and not appreciate the time you spend together. But having family in a completely different time zone to you means that you have to be on the ball with scheduling some face to face time. I probably talked with my parents once or twice a fortnight while I was studying abroad, which meant that when I did sit down for a Skype with them it was quality conversation and interaction.
My parents, sister and brother in law came to visit me in the US for Christmas and we had the most amazing few weeks together after being apart for six months and with another six months to go before I would return. And since I have returned I think we’ve been the closest we’ve ever been, and we make sure to appreciate the time we spend together and the things that we do for each other.
10. And last but not least, you will make friends for life
I really won the roommate lottery when I studied abroad. This was probably the thing I was most nervous about beforehand, but turns out I needn’t have worried about that one. Sarah (the girl on the right on the featured image for this post) is now one of my all-time favourite human beings and someone that I truly consider a sister.
She reached out to me on Facebook before we ever met and put me at ease straight away. I spent my first ever thanksgiving with her family, and she tells me that they now consider me their third daughter! We make sure to Facetime at least every one to two weeks and I know that when she gets married I’ll 100% be there, the same way she has already called dibs on godmother for any future kids I might have.
She has since come out to visit me in Australia and we spent an amazing couple of weeks in Adelaide (this is where I grew up and one of the most amazing places ever if you’re into wine tasting and beautiful beaches, just saying) and also up in Cairns. While we were there we got to volunteer with sea turtles and catch up after a year of being apart.
But she’s not the only amazing friend I made during that year. Another one of my best friends there actually joined me for the camping tour, which was absolutely incredible. I also joined a sorority whilst I was there, which meant that I gained a whole number of new sisters, including Sarah (who also organised my first ever surprise party for my first birthday away from home.
I have friends now in Equador, Spain, Germany, Denmark, the UAE, Japan and even a girl from my own university back in Adelaide who I never would have otherwise met.
Have you had a study abroad year, and if so where did you go? Would you recommend it to others? Let me know below in the comments!
Pin it for later!