Updated on Friday 1 March 2013
If you’re reading this article, it means you’re interested in studying abroad. Even if you’re just casually researching the possibility, you should definitely continue the thread of interest that brought you to this article. Why? Let’s consider your situation (I would say you’re extremely lucky to even be able to consider studying abroad, but for some reason we don’t like hearing that type of thing so let’s be objective about it): you’re probably young, unmarried, without children, don’t have burdensome financial responsibilities holding you down and have parents that are willing to help you through college. This is a time in your life when you can just pick up and go without looking back. Being a college student allows you to do this; if you’re interested in traveling, it probably won’t ever be as easy to do so as it is now.
Once you graduate, the system begins clamping down on you; student loan repayment, work, the various responsibilities of home ownership, insurance … and thus the cycle begins. None of this will stop you if you’re truly passionate about traveling, but for someone in your situation it’s almost effortless. Just consider the fact that institutions are actually on your side to help you get out and explore new worlds. A great example is my brother’s situation: if he can get his grades up, his school will actually send him to study abroad for free. I suppose someone set aside a chunk of money in their will and stipulated that it be used to help business students at the university gain international experience. These kinds of opportunities are not unheard of for students, but are certainly difficult to come by later in life.
Not that you won’t have to do anything for yourself or run into any difficulties. What can sometimes prove problematic is when you bring the assumptions that for your entire life have worked smoothly in your homeland and try to apply them to another culture. Another example: my sister just went to study in Mexico City. The day she arrived she had to start looking for a place to stay, a task that became unexpectedly challenging when she found that her university was closed and wouldn’t open for another week. Little problems and obstacles like this will probably crop up along the way, but you have to expect this and take it in with an air of open-minded flexibility. And that’s part of the adventure, too. My sister ended up boarding a room with a family that took in travelers and met a girl from Spain who was in her same situation. They became friends and together found a place they couldn’t have been happier about.
The interesting part about studying abroad is that you put yourself in a situation where you have to employ your own ingenuity and resources. You take on a challenge and are given the opportunity to prove your abilities to yourself. At the same time, you have an element of support: loans, your family back home, your university … Not to mention that you’ll find your adventure abroad a highly enjoyable, stimulating and rewarding experience. This is especially true if you haven’t broken free of your countries’ borders yet. There’s nothing wrong with living in one place your entire life, but no experience can replicate or teach you the same lessons as living outside of your native land. You’ll learn about another culture and other people, but most importantly you’ll learn something new about yourself. What that is I can’t tell you – you have to experience it for yourself.