If you are wondering whether or not you should leave your home and study abroad, I would say you definitely should. I know it’s a big decision, but I think studying abroad is something everyone should do at least once in life.
Why would you leave the comforts of home, move to a different country, study and live around complete strangers and become a foreigner? I’m sure lots of people wonder about this and if you are one of them, I hope this can add a bit of value and help you out with your life-changing decision.
This year marks my fourth year of being a foreign student and as much as I struggle through life, here are the reasons why I would choose to study abroad over and over again.
1. Meet people from diverse backgrounds
This was probably one of the things that blew my mind when I found myself in a foreign country. I thought it was so cool to meet people from all over the world, people that are just like me, young, foreign, new, confused, but brave enough to leave their home and be here. And trust me, I still think it’s cool.
I remember sitting in the student lounge at my new university with people from Uzbekistan, Finland, Canada, Scotland and India and thought to myself “how in a world would I ever have thought to meet all these people in the same room, talking about random things like this”. All those countries would have been complete mysteries to me before I left Vietnam.
Now imagine, this person who has grown up in Turkey, he has got a different childhood, eaten different kinds of food, spoken a different language. He probably knows Istanbul by heart, a place you know nothing about. He has his own story and a completely different life from you, and how he is right here, talking to you, studying at the same place, walking the same streets and hanging out at the same places you do.
Okay, I don’t know about you but that was kind of mind blowing for me when I thought about it. So, whenever I met a new person and knew about where they’re from, I would imagine how they have had a different life from me until now, that they know so much about something that I know nothing about, and I would be so thrilled about it. I just think it’s so so cool.
2. Travel the world
It could be scary when you do something for the first time.
The first time I left Vietnam and traveled to a new country, I was terrified, mortified, petrified, stupefied lol.
Anyway, my point is studying abroad gives you a chance to leave your home and travel to a new place as it teaches you so many valuable traveling skills that you can use anywhere else in the world such as finding your way through international airports, figuring out public transport, navigating in new cities, and being conscious about the differences in cultures and social norms in different countries.
Once you have travelled, traveling wouldn’t be such a terrifying idea anymore, instead, it would be fascinating but somewhat familiar. Your mindset about travel would change.
Obviously you would get a chance to be an expert in your study abroad city, you also learn valuable skills that open up a whole new world for you.
Also, when you study abroad, you would have the mindset of “I might not be here for too long, I’d better travel around when I have the chance”, so you will travel a lot and I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find friends that want to travel with you.
3. Discover different cultures in the world
Individuals who possess a deep understanding and respect for the differences in cultures, social norms, politics and historical influences of different countries are whom I call international people. You would know when you talk to one. And because that skill can not be learned through school or books but through real life experiences, it is highly appreciated and vital.
When you study abroad, you will get the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, language, and politics, which guarantees to explore a culture in-depth and makes it easier for you to understand different world views as well as express your own.
During your study abroad, you will learn about perspectives and opinions on important matters about your study abroad country in class as well as daily life. Also, meeting people from all over the globe would help you construct a deeper and broader understanding of the world.
4. Chance to get better education
Your main reason to study abroad should be to study, right? Education is the centrepiece of any study abroad trips. When you study in a different country with a different education system, you will get a chance to study your major in a different perspective that you may not have been exposed to at home.
Choosing school is important, so why limit yourself with universities and colleges from one country when you can choose from everywhere else in the world?
Also, there is a high chance you will study in your second language. Even if you are a native English speaker, you will find yourself in a land of distinct dialect and use of English from your home country. I always think studying abroad is a great way to train your language skills whether it’s just daily conversations with people from different linguistic origins or participating in class at your study abroad university.
5. You will grow
Oftentimes, college is the time of your life when you are not really adults yet but no longer kids or teenagers. It is a confusing phase of life. People kind of expect you to be adults but nobody really teaches you how. Students who choose to study close to home might get better help from their families and might not struggle as much as those who choose to be far away, but I think they sort of miss out on recognising their own potentials.
This is why the decision of studying abroad or not really determines how your future self would differ. I’m not saying that people who don’t study abroad grow less than people who do, but what I mean is that studying abroad kind of forces you to grow up really fast with challenges that we might not expect to encounter.
In addition to the struggle of settling down in a new environment, studying abroad forces you to have some crucial adulting skills such as finding housing, managing your budget in a foreign currency or cooking 3 deals a day for yourselves. I personally think the hardest part of studying abroad is getting myself together on my own and taking care of myself both physically and mentally (also academically). Don’t worry, you will get used to that and once you do, you will find yourself a bit more grown and mature.
I love the idea that now I can settle down anywhere, okay I’m not saying without struggles and tears, but the idea of being a foreigner no longer scares me anymore.
6. Learn a new language
Generally, studying in an international university would offer students to learn their host country’s native language. So why don’t you just follow up your New year resolution, move your ass and learn a new language?
This time it would be easier since you will have professional native teachers (who are passionate hopefully) and get daily practice (even if you never ask for it) by local people.
Your progress really depends on how much you want to learn that language and your length of stay, but I think even if you don’t put too much effort on your language learning, you can always learn it passively just by living in that country.
7. Make life-long friends
It could be really damn hard to make friends when you are abroad, simply because you are too different, and both scared. I don’t know about you party people, but it was hella hard for me to make friends quick and fast without partying in the first few weeks of my study abroad.
I find myself quite uptight in the sense of I need to have a good reason to start a conversation with someone, I can’t just go in and be like “hey what’s up”, so I’m sure it will be easier for you lol. But yeah after a while, I did find friends whom I truly deeply connect with. These friends go through ups and downs with me, from the innocent karaoke nights to my first heartbreak, from my “exciting foreigner” day to my homesick nights. Simply because they were going through the same things, the experience of being young and foreign.
Because studying abroad has a long-lasting effect, the friends that you meet might as well be your life-long friends. Make sure you keep them close and don’t let the distance break up apart.
8. The global mindset
This might take a while for you to realise, but study abroad gives you the opportunity to look at the world in different perspectives. You get to learn about a new country and realize things about yours. Studying abroad gives you a global perspective which helps you appreciate your own culture and accept its shortcomings.
Many of the thoughts, ideas and beliefs you take for granted as the norms are, in reality, parts of your national identity. Other people from different upbringings, religions and political systems might have completely different opinions and beliefs from yours and you will be surprised how different we can be.
That experience, if not break you, will give you a sense of how small you are compared to what there is in the world. The most important thing is you will find yourself, where you stand and where you can be. Study abroad will show you the ways of life and at the same time force you to make decisions on how to live your own.
9. Appreciate your home country and family
Ahh yes, this one is my favourite one yet. We won’t learn to appreciate anything until it’s gone. Studying abroad taught me what I took for granted about Vietnam. I wouldn’t have known how much I love Pho until I couldn’t eat it anymore. I wouldn’t have known what a blessing it was to just come home from school and dinner is ready until I had to drag myself to the kitchen, sort out what to cook and eat alone.
All those mundane things you might have taken for granted, all of the sudden make your eyes wet and the sound of home and familiar things hits you to your core.
Those elements that you longed for while you are abroad will be so much more meaningful to you upon your arrival. You get to see your home country with deeper appreciation and from the eyes of a foreigner.
10. Gain independence
Of all the things studying abroad has taught me, gaining independence has been the most useful and important skill for me. Now I know how to work hard, study hard, travel hard and pay my own damn bills. I know how to decorate my own little space. I know how to cook nutritious dishes with minimal time and efforts. I ain’t flexing though, but I know what to do when I have my heart broken. I know how to love and take care of myself now. And I thank my younger self for being brave enough to not give up through all the loneliness, confusion, mistakes and tears.
The most important thing that I gained independence from is the bad habits and beliefs embedded in me from my past. I’m independent from what has happened to me and in control of what will shape me. I learned all these things from the people that I met during my study abroad.
These people and things have helped me find myself in a foreign land and shape me into a bad bitch that I am today. For all those foreign students out there who are feeling lost and confused, please know that you have been so brave. Adulthood can be hard but as Bretman Rock always says, you can do anything you want if you’re a bad bitch. Period.