Studying abroad, to some people, sounds like a dream come true. The opportunity to travel and experience a new way of life can be a great opportunity. To others, however, studying abroad may appear like a complete nightmare – being away from your family in a strange culture can be very scary. The reality is that studying abroad is only a good idea if it is something you may enjoy otherwise you will not be able to have a positive experience. But if you do decide to study abroad, it is important to know the benefits and downsides before you make that final decision.
Pros of Studying Abroad
Some of the pros of studying abroad are very clear: you are allowed the opportunity to learn to stand on your own two feet, whilst at the same time not only learning an academic subject, but also learning about other cultures and ways of life. You could even learn to speak another language.
Studying abroad can teach you invaluable life lessons about what you do and don’t enjoy and you learn great independence skills. Some of these things may sound trivial, but it may be the first time you have had to budget for yourself, cook and clean for yourself, do the shopping, and so on. You will also get a great sense of freedom, meaning you will have to learn how to discipline yourself. It is all too easy to forget that one of the reasons you came abroad is to study, and it is important that you focus a large part of your time on your academic studies and not solely on your new found freedom and social life of course!
Also, you will probably meet new friends, who you will share valuable experience with that will stay with you for a lifetime. Possibly, these new friends are foreign students themselves, meaning you could even gain some extra holiday destinations and see even more of the world at a later stage.
Another pro of studying abroad is that you could potentially enroll in a course that is not available in your own country. Of course, studying a course abroad will also show you how other cultures perceive that subject. This can be a very important lesson on any subject and will really allow you to further your academic career.
Furthermore, once you come to writing your curriculum vitae, being able to enclose international exposure is a definite selling point. It shows potential employers that you are independent, dedicated and hard working as well as being aware of global and international issues. In addition, as discussed above, you will have learned a certain subject from a different cultural perspective, meaning you have extensive knowledge on this subject that other people may not have.
Cons of Studying Abroad
Of course, if you are studying abroad, you will be leaving behind your existing friends and your family for a period of time. This can be very hard, particularly if you have never been away from home for any great length of time. You will also need to interrupt any activities you are involved in at home, such as a sports team or voluntary activity. However, many of these activities can also be continued abroad.
Another con is that you do not exactly know what to expect, and you could be in for a disappointment. Being independent in a foreign country means you will have to learn how to budget, and this can be very hard. Furthermore, your accommodation might not be up to standards, or you may have very annoying neighbors or roommates. This may be something that is harder to sort out whilst abroad, especially if you are struggling with the language.
It is also possible that you find you cannot settle in the foreign culture. Different cultures have different habits, and you may find it very hard to learn how to live with these, or how to live without certain habits that come so naturally to your own culture.
Something to definitely look into is whether or not the credits you obtain from studying abroad can be transferred back to a college or university in your own country. Of course, if you can’t transfer the credits, this does not necessarily mean that the time you spent abroad has been a waste of time, as you can see from the many pros, it is an invaluable experience.
Another issue is, of course, the potential language barrier. You may have a rudimentary knowledge of the language in the country you are hoping to study in, meaning you are able to make your way around when you are on holiday, but it’s an entirely different thing to study in a foreign language. However, many schools in foreign countries now offer their main colleges and seminars in English, so you may be able to take advantage of this.
However, on the positive side, it could give you the opportunity to learn a brand new language. This can help you in the rest of your life, not just in your career and possible further travels, but also health wise. It has been determined that speaking a second language greatly reduces your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease later on in life.
Should You Study Abroad?
This is a question you can only answer yourself. It is important to carefully weigh up the pros and cons of studying abroad and ensure that you have contingency plans in place for every con you may come across.
It is also important to seriously study the country you are planning to study in, particularly because laws and ideas can be very different abroad. There are many countries that still discriminate against certain groups of population, such as women or homosexuals, for example. If you are part of such a group, it is important to know about these issues when you decide whether or not you want to go.
Of course, before you go, you need to have everything in place. Your place at the college or university being one of them of course, but you also need a place to stay and potentially a visa and inoculations. Make sure you research all the requirements of the country of your choice, including financial issues such as the need for a bank account. You may also want to look for a job, as it is not guaranteed that you will receive a student bursary whilst you are in this foreign country. If you are lucky, you may have a sponsor at home through a member of your family, but as long as you are learning to stand on your own two feet, having a regular source of income that you have worked for yourself is very good, as well as being yet another experience to add to your impressive list.
If you do decide to study abroad, try not to give up at the first sign of trouble. You have made the decision to accept the challenge of studying in a different country to improve your own life and dealing with obstacles is part of life and will offer your further learning opportunities. Once you know the pros and cons of studying abroad and you decide to go for it, stand by your decision and believe in yourself. But most of all enjoy!