Maybe you’re going to be a senior. Maybe you’re going to be a freshman. Maybe you’re in between or even (for now) neither—if you’ve got a desire somewhere inside you to get out of this place and see the world in all its many glories, then you should definitely start pondering a semester (or two!) studying abroad. The reasons for studying abroad are innumerable, unique to every individual, but there are some reasons that everyone should take into consideration.
Learn About Yourself:
Traveling to a foreign land is one of the best ways to learn about the most important topic of your life: yourself. There’s no better way to find out what kind of person you are: how you react when things don’t go according to plan, what you do when you are somewhere you don’t know anyone, or what kinds of things you truly value in your life. When you travel, most especially when you travel alone, the answers to these questions and questions like them become apparent, sometimes painfully so. You will probably return home a more responsible, frugal, open-minded person. You’ll be forced to keep yourself on a tight budget; you’ll have to take care of your belongings and be wary of your surroundings; you’ll have to force yourself to meet people and even rely on them. You will become twice the person you are now, and people will notice it.
Meet Lifelong Friends:
Anyone who comes back from a stint across the oceans does so with a new pool of friends. And these are the kind of friends that everyone wants to have. You’ll have met them in a time of need, surely, and they’ll be the ones that came to your aid. They will take you into their homes and give you a bed to stay, free of charge. They’ll cook you a fantastic dinner and you’ll converse with them and their families about their lives, about all kinds of things. They’ll take you to the best bars or restaurants in town, or to see hidden sights that most tourists pass by without noticing. The bond you and your new friends will develop will be stronger than most bonds you have with the people you know at home. You may even meet your new wife or husband, like my brother did while he was hiking through the mountains of Spain!
Get Away From Materialism:
Everyone loves their toys. How much time do you spend in front of your computer or iPad every day? How often do you shop for things that you don’t need, and don’t even want any more after a few days? How do you feel inside when your bank account isn’t fat enough for that new pair of shoes or that new game? This is materialism, and it’s something you can get over just by travelling. You’ll learn to appreciate the beauty that is inherent in the world, in nature, in people, in food. You’ll learn to entertain yourself without electronics. Reading a good book on a train, hiking up a mountain or sitting by waterfalls, conversing with people whose lives are utterly different from yours… these are ways you can find happiness in every moment of your life.
Learn A Useful Language:
You’d be amazed by how quickly you can learn a language. Learning a language in a classroom setting is probably one of the slowest and least efficient ways to learn one, so it would be very wise to give yourself the opportunity to study a language the fastest and most efficient way possible: by total immersion. Immersing oneself in a language is a method that is similar to the way a baby learns to speak, and that’s why it works so well. When everyone around you is speaking a new language, you get to see it applied to every aspect of your life. When you’re in a restaurant, you’ll pick up on food-related words; when you’re in a taxi, you’ll learn transportation-related words; when you’re in a park, you’ll learn nature-related words; and so on. By living within the language, you’ll be able to much more easily remember what words mean, and recall words and phrases by pulling from the memories of past experiences in your mind. I became fluent in Mandarin Chinese in less than 18 months this way. Learning a language can also give you job opportunities, ones that will land you more money than you’d think you could (especially if it’s an uncommon language).
Really, there’s no better way to learn about the world or about yourself than to travel. It will change your life, and it will change you for the better. Your mind will open, your confidence will blossom, and you will be the envy of all your sedentary friends.