It was over ten years ago when you asked why someone would leave the US to go abroad for a year. Your reasoning was that the US had so many incredible factors that it was incomprehensible to you that someone might want to explore something more. We understand that this way of thinking isn’t unique to you and have faced many different questions over the years about why we went and stayed abroad. We understand that our choices haven’t been the most common ones, but we do think that having an international experience (whether it be studying a semester abroad, spending years abroad, or even working abroad) gives you a lot!
We get that staying abroad long-term probably isn’t right for everyone, however, we have five reasons why you should have an abroad experience.
1.) Self discovery
When you leave home for the first time lots of things can change and you get a great opportunity to learn about yourself in all the different facets of your life. While we are not negating that this phase of life exists when you go away to college or move out for any other reason, living out self-discovery abroad (and perhaps in another language) is definitely a new experience. This is because you will have the opportunity to define yourself in a situation where no one knows your name (except for maybe your academic adviser). Is this scary? You betcha. But at the end of the day, this self-discovery/self-definition is a wonderful way to decide who you want to be.
Anyone who has lived abroad for any reason (studying, working, etc.) will tell you that getting used to the way other people live is not easy. No matter how much you love the community and culture you find abroad, it can take a lot of effort to make that life yours. This is because you will constantly find yourself facing unexpected culture shocks.
When you get to a point where you are able to live in a different culture from the one you are used to, you have this amazing feeling of accomplishment. It’s like “Yes! I did it! I can do whatever I put my mind to.” You will be proud of what you have done, and you deserve to be proud!
3.) Language learning
While this might be negated if you choose to study in an English-speaking country―which is just as awesome and possibly just as hard as other countries―you will have to carry out a portion of your daily life in another language. This is not an easy thing to do, especially when you are also trying to navigate all the parts of normal life such as making friends, doing your school work, or paying your bills. If you can master it, however, you’ll see how awesome you’ll feel as you are able to conquer the roller coaster of learning another language.
4.) The ability to see a new part of the world
You will already travel to a new country when you go abroad (even if you just go from Spain to Portugal like Claudia did with her study abroad). This means that you will be exposed to new foods, traditions, and ways of thinking. At the same time, you are probably positioning yourself in a way that allows you to explore more places. For example, coming to Spain from the U.S. will give you easier access not only to different parts of the country but also to other countries in Europe. For many people, an abroad experience can be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see so many different places in a short period of time.
5.) It will help you in the future
We are not specifically saying that you should have an abroad experience just because it will look good on your resume, but we honestly believe that the benefits of cultural competence that you can gain while living abroad is priceless. Taking advantage of getting to know different types of people and cultures helps you when you have to take on various workplace situations. And trust us, these types of competences will help you respect others and build relationships when, culturally-speaking, it isn’t always easy.
We understand―going abroad can be scary. At the same time, so many different ways of going abroad are available to you (summer abroad, semester abroad, degree abroad, working, or living abroad, etc.). Consider your options, talk to the people who support you, and figure out a way to be yourself in another country.
P.S. International experiences tend to be kind of addicting, so just as a warning be prepared to get hooked!