Most individuals will spend their entire lives within the boundaries of their own country. But what if you do not want to be like most individuals? What if you want to experience other countries and cultures from the inside out? You may know that deep down you want the experience of travelling and living in another country, but you may not be sure how you could make that happen. For many U.S. students this dream can become a reality through study abroad programs. There are so many great reasons to consider study abroad programs. However, there are also a lot of myths and misunderstandings about study abroad programs. So if you are not quite sure if study abroad is for you, or you think it’s impossible, we’ve outlined some important information below about how study abroad programs can be within your grasp.
The Benefits of Study Abroad
Spending some quality time continuing your education in a foreign country can change your life in a number of ways. Immersing yourself in another culture gives you a whole new perspective on your own life in the U.S. When you spend time understanding another culture you grow as a human being and increase your understanding of other human beings. Spending time in another country can also improve your foreign language skills which is an important aspect of job marketability in today’s workforce. Don’t forget also, that having spent time abroad, and having a foreign university to site on your resume is a great bonus in the eyes of most future employers. You will continue to earn academic credit while making incredible memories and lifelong friendships that you could not have made any other way. Most importantly, studying abroad is fun! You only live once, so you might as well do it right.
Why Most People Don’t Want to Study Abroad
According to this article in the British newspaper The Telegraph, many students have a mistaken idea that in order to study abroad you must be fluent in a foreign language. This simply is not true. The last five years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of English taught programs across Europe that U.S. students can participate in. Countries such as Denmark, Belgium, Finland and Italy are offering exciting new programs for U.S. students to expand their horizons and learn about these incredible cultures. Another thing that many U.S. students worry about is safety in a foreign country. Most U.S. colleges and universities have set in place very stringent health and safety measures to ensure that their students that are involved in study abroad programs are taken care of properly. Schools like Michigan State University have established an extensive system of health and safety protocol for their students studying in foreign countries. Review your school’s policies and protocol on study abroad health and safety. This will put your mind at ease.
Another concern of some students might be homesickness. Thanks to the many innovations in modern technology, no matter where you are in the world, home is just a Skype call away. Being able to video chat with your loved ones on a regular basis helps many study abroad students fight homesickness and truly enjoy their travelling experience.
What You Can Do While Studying Abroad
According to Stacey Kostell, the Director of Admissions at University of Illinois, when a student enters a study abroad program they will continue their own course work at the university in that country. In addition to your regular course work, you will also have the opportunity to engage in hands on cultural activities that will enhance your understanding of the culture in which you are living.
Some Practical Concerns
Once you have made the decision to study abroad there will be some practical issues you will need to address. Obtaining a passport is one thing you will not want put off. This is actually a very simple task that many people put off till the last minute. The Centre for Disease Control also recommends that students planning to study abroad be up to date on all their vaccinations. The CDC has other health and safety tips available for students travelling abroad. One concern at the forefront of students’ minds is how they will get around in a foreign country. Most foreign countries have excellent public transportation. However, renting a car for the time you are in a foreign country is also a very inexpensive way to travel when studying abroad. Companies such as Deal Checker can make sure you have just the right ride during your amazing weeks, semester or year abroad. Remember, studying abroad can be an exciting, life changing experience for the well prepared student.
I decided a few years ago that I would teach English abroad in Spain, I spent three months volunteering in Castilla-La Mancha which was absolutely brilliant! After I finished teaching I decided that I wanted to go travelling around Europe. I decided that I would ‘go with the flow’, I wanted no strict rigid travel plan – I just wanted it to be, me and the open road. I decided that I would travel to Paris, then on to Berlin… after which I spent time in the beautiful Alps (which are just breath taking by the way), then onto Italy. After this I decided that I had lived out of my back pack for long enough and I made my way to Portugal. I wanted to lie on the beautiful Ilha da Barreta beach in the Algarve – my favourite beach in the entire world. I booked into a hostel and hired a car in Faro for a couple of weeks while I soaked up the sun. Hiring a car enables you to drive on scenic routes and to kick back and relax and watch the world go by. My time spent in Europe was my best summer to date.
Olivia lives to travel. She went on a gap year before university and then travelled around Europe. She loves the beach and she loves experiencing different cultures.
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