If you are a student and you haven’t yet considered studying part of your degree in another country; you should. The prospect of combining university life with the excitement and intrigue of exploring somewhere totally new is an opportunity not to be missed.
For myself, doing a year of my studies in Sydney, Australia, was the best decision I have made during my time at university. Swapping the small town vibe of Exeter for the iconic Sydney cityscape was thrilling, and that year is one I will never forget.
None of this means that studying abroad is not a daunting decision to make. The thought of leaving everything behind to live in an unknown environment where you will most likely know few, if any, people is as scary as it is liberating. However, once you get settled in to your new surroundings a year abroad can be one of the most exceptional periods of your life.
So, first, here are my top five reasons why you should consider studying abroad, followed by a few tips for when you get there…
1. You Get To Explore the World
The option to go abroad for your studies is a fantastic opportunity to experience life somewhere completely different. You are not merely offered the chance to travel to some fantastic places, but also to live there as part of the community, to immerse yourself into a new culture and to do it all while you are still in a situation to be able to leave things behind. You may even find that you prefer your new country to the one you have spent most of your life in. I know that I would jump at the chance to move back to Sydney again.
2. You Experience Real Freedom
Most people assume that they are independent and unrestricted once they move away from home and into university. One thing that having a year abroad taught me, however, is that there is much more growing up to be done. Living in a different country definitely gave me a real sense of independence. Not having the safe haven of home for a year was a blessing in disguise which taught me a lot.
3. You Meet Exciting New People
Leaving your friends and family behind to study in another country is a frightening thing to do. But, it does mean that you will meet and make friends with new people from all around the world. Most universities will have sizable communities of international students who are just as passionate about travelling as you are. My year abroad has left me with friends from Australia, Germany, Canada and many other places. And that’s great for getting free accommodation on future holidays!
4. You Will Educate Yourself
Studying abroad is likely to provide you with a range of skills you might not have otherwise developed. It also shows potential employers that you have an appreciation of the wider world, are open-minded and willing to try new things, and that you are a confident individual not afraid to take big decisions. Being in a foreign country throws up many situations and challenges, and in dealing with them you will become a more-rounded and employable person. Even better is if you use your time abroad to learn or improve a second language.
5. You Will Change
It may be a cliché, but if you spend a year abroad you may well come back a changed person. Even if you don’t, you will almost certainly feel like you have learnt more about yourself (as well as the world) and grown as a human being as a result of your experiences. If you’re not sure where university is heading for you, or in what area you want to find employment, a time away does wonders for clarity of thought.
My #TravelTips on how to make going abroad as easy and fun as possible:
1. Allow Yourself to Adjust
Moving far away from home and your friends and family is hard, and the prospect of starting from scratch in a foreign country can also be frightening, so you shouldn’t be surprised if it takes a while to get used to your surroundings. It is likely you will find yourself having a low moment at some point during your time away, but this is normal. I certainly found it difficult to adjust for a few months at least. Yet by the time my year was over, I did not want to leave at all!
2. Keep an Open Mind
Travelling alone to live abroad is a new experience for most students, and as with all novel experiences there will be times when certain things appear strange and even unpleasant. It’s important to realise that it is the differences that make travelling exciting. Other countries may have things in common with your home town, but they will also undoubtedly have many differences. Some things will be better, some will be worse. Not liking something about a particular culture is totally natural, but don’t allow your time abroad to be tainted by a few bad things.
3. Don’t Hold Back
Going abroad for your studies means that you can become a tourist for an entire year! Whilst you will have to do (some) work towards your degree, there will still be lots of opportunities to treat your time abroad as one big holiday. Do weekend trips, go to the local attractions, sample all the food you can, and don’t hold back. Whilst in Sydney I visited Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Ocean Road, the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix, Perth, Brisbane and I even travelled to China for three weeks on the way back to the UK. Don’t treat your time abroad as just another part of your study, instead, make the most of it.
So, there you have it, the top reasons why every student should consider studying at least part of their degree abroad, and a few tips on how to get the most out of it when you get there. If you have the opportunity to do even part of your degree in a foreign country, it is well worth considering. The year I spent abroad was probably the best time of my life, and it could be for you too.