Five reasons to say “yes” to study abroad

I’ve had so many people ask about my experience with study abroad: if it was worth it, if I would recommend it, if it changed my life…

All questions get a resounding YES.

I cannot emphasize enough how amazing of an opportunity it is to be able to be completely immersed in a new culture, surrounded by new people and experiencing new things.

It is the best decision I’ve ever made, and if sharing my thoughts on it can give even one person the added push they need to make the decision, I would feel I’d made a great contribution.

So, why should you study abroad?

1. It makes you more independent

Prior to going on my trip, I was terrified of traveling to another country with complete strangers. I was so scared that I actually almost backed out (of my nonrefundable trip) the day before leaving. I had never been away from home alone for an extended period of time, let alone in a whole other country. I had never used a debit card, never been good with directions and definitely never navigated an airport by myself.

I’ll be honest, the first two nights I cried myself to sleep. I wondered if I’d ever enjoy myself. However, I am not lying when I say that feeling lasted all of 48 hours, and from then on I never wanted to leave.

I grew up a great deal and grew as a person. I didn’t think I had the ability to be alone- literally or figuratively- and it taught me that not only was I capable of it, but it was liberating. I’ve never evolved so much as I did on this trip. More than basic life skills, I learned how to fend for myself, how to be my own source of happiness and solve problems on my own.

Because of my experience, I’ll never again fear the thought of being alone.

2. It makes you eternally brave

As I said before, I traveled abroad accompanied with crippling fear. Fear of being alone, fear of not making friends, fear of failure. I almost missed out on the greatest experience of my life because I was scared.

I know now that if I didn’t take the risk, if I didn’t push past that fear and take that opportunity, I would’ve missed out on a life changing experience.

Whenever I am apprehensive to embark on a new experience, I think back to how much it benefited me to do so with study abroad. Keeping this in mind has encouraged me to put myself out there in friendships, school, internships and more.

Once you overcome that fear once, it can never touch you again.

3. You will make some of the best friends of your life

Believe it or not, everyone is experiencing the same fears you are.

I remember nights where we would all be missing home, be stressed about class, or just be exhausted and we would go out for pizza and cry about it, then laugh about it. Within two short weeks they became my family.

I grew closer with these people in a month abroad than I have with some friends that I have known for a lifetime. Being in a situation that involves so many emotions, and being each other’s sole source of support, is the greatest connection that two people can have.

Every day we had class, every night we had dinner, a movie, a night out or just a little exploration of the town. Regardless, we were always together, and before we knew it we were one.

4. It gives you a new perspective

Whether it’s opening your mind to a new culture, new foods, new education, or just the simple realization that we make up such a small part of the world– study abroad gives you a completely new outlook.

It’s invigorating; you feel a fleeting sense of invincibility and have an urge to travel, to learn, to continue to take risks that will teach you things you never knew about the world.

As I said before, it makes you grow as a person, and this enlightened attitude is just one of the ways it does so.

5. It’s a different, unique and incredible way to learn

All of the aspects above contribute to this one. Whatever it is that you do, studying it in another culture just makes it all the more interesting and provides added skills.

I studied journalism, and it was amazing to hear stories from the people that lived in the small town of Urbino. It was so interesting to learn to work with an interpreter to conduct interviews while still building rapport and being engaged in the conversation with nonverbal cues, which was just one of the added skills I took away from the experience that I never would have had without it.

Honestly, just one of these reasons would be enough to encourage me to study abroad, but all five are inevitable along with so many more benefits. I never thought I would love it as much as I did, and now I would give anything to experience it over and over again. Take the risk– it will be well worth it.