Having the option to study abroad is one of the many advantages of attending a college or university. It’s what you call a once in a lifetime experience that you should take full advantage of if you have the chance. However, there are many things you have to think about first before studying abroad. For example, where would you like to go and why? What kind of program does your school offer? What classes will you take and how are they taught overseas? So before you get excited and book that plane ticket to a new world, weigh your options. Furthermore, let us help you with your decision making process. Here are our pros and cons of studying abroad.
Pro: Make new friends
No matter where you end up studying abroad, take this time to make new friends. That could mean someone from your school in your program or major. It could also mean a native of the city or country you’re visiting. Remember, even your best friends started out as strangers. Do your best not to isolate yourself. Having friends from various cultures and backgrounds is a great thing. You can learn so much from them and vice versa. It also makes for great stories and memories. This is what life is all about. So, if you see someone you don’t know, don’t be afraid. Instead, start a conversation. A simple hi might lead to something really amazing. Take a chance. You never know.
Homesickness is just the opposite of making new friends. No matter where you go, you’ll probably get a little homesick. We’ve all been there and that is perfectly normal, especially in the beginning. For example, on special occasions like birthdays, holidays or special events with your friends and family. Luckily for you, with social media, you can connect with your loved ones almost instantly at any time of the day. There’s FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and with these at your fingertips hopefully you won’t miss too much. Besides, we’re almost positive that everyone back home misses you just as much as you miss them. However, they’d probably want you to enjoy yourself as much as possible not be miserable because you miss them. They’d want you to have awesome stories, pictures and adventures to share when you come home. Possibly souvenirs, too.
Pro: More options
For some, studying abroad may offer flexibility in their program. Especially in the case of international students. For example, if an international student is studying something like economics, business or finance there may be more choices for them in the U.S. compared to where they’re from in the case of class selections, internships, and even job opportunities. Having options is always a good thing. It may open your eyes to new ideas that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise. The possibilities are endless.
One of the main concerns we hear about study abroad is how much it costs. Especially if you plan on studying internationally. Flights, housing, meals, living expenses plus tuition and fees can all add up pretty quickly. However, if studying abroad is something you really want to do, don’t let that stop you. The solution is very simple: do your research. Contact your institution and look into any financial aid for your specific program. Ask about scholarships, grants and other forms of free money to cut costs where needed. Some people consider cost a huge con when it comes to studying abroad but it doesn’t always have to be.
Pro: Learn a new language
This one might seem pretty obvious, but one of the best parts of studying abroad is learning a new language. There are so many to choose from. By doing this, you’ll be able to communicate with people in your new home, connect with them and hopefully blend in more. After all, that is your home for a limited time. Also, speaking another language no matter which one is yet another useful skill. Employers and internship coordinators take interest in that when considering applicants. In addition, it’s just a nice icebreaker or conversation starter when people ask you ‘what do you do?’ or name a fun/interesting fact about yourself.
Con: Losing Time
For many, studying abroad can be a wonderful experience. However, going away for a semester or even a year can sometimes affect your degree program when you return. For example, some students who choose to study abroad end up having to do an extra semester or even an extra year of school. This is to make up for the time that was lost. If that happens you also have to factor in how that changes your college plan.
All that said, please consider studying abroad carefully. Talk to your professors, academic advisors and people in the study abroad program where you are. That includes directors, coordinators, and past or present participants. These are the people that will be able to paint the most realistic picture for you as far as what to expect. Exhaust all your options. The worst thing that you could do is study abroad and find out that you have requirements to fill later. Nobody likes to waste time.
There is definitely a level of independence when you take off for college, but that increases tenfold when you study abroad. Being far away from family can be liberating in it’s on way (but also scary for some).
Some colleges and universities abroad have dorms, but others may offer apartments, a place with a local family, or even a hotel.
Con: Culture Shock
Initially, being in a completely new area and country can be a little unsettling, and it can take time to settle down. You’ll need to learn your way around an entirely new city, and it can be a bit much. With time though, you can be comfortable with your new area and school. And it may be a bit of a change too when you finally head back home after the semester!
Pro: You’re Somewhere New
While it is definitely a culture shock to study abroad, there’s also definitely a plus to it: You’re experiencing something new. Traveling is a ton of fun, and this is your chance to do it while furthering your education. You have time to explore an entire new city. This can be particularly exciting if you’ve never traveled outside the country.
Con: Not Fluent in a Language
While you definitely can work on learning a language while studying abroad, if you’ve never studied it and have no experience with it whatsoever, a new language can be a big jump and a bit jarring. You can have problems with your studies and also problems out on the town. If you’re not comfortable learning a new language or getting over this period of time where you’re learning, it may be a good idea to attend a college in an English-speaking country.
If you can, we hope you study abroad. The world is full of so many beautiful places. We wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to see them all. At the same time, if you seriously are considering it, take your time. There’s no rush. Use this list as a starting point, along with other tools. The ultimate goal is to come away happy and satisfied. If you’re on the fence and decide to study abroad is not for you that’s fine; some people prefer not to. If you do, make the most out of it.