Studying abroad may be one of the most beneficial and impactful experiences a person can have in college. However, there is a lot to be considered when deciding if study abroad is the right choice. You must make considerations regarding the location, cost, time you would like to spend abroad, and how the courses offered fit into your coursework at your home institution.
Studying abroad is an experience I will never forget but I did not make the decision lightly. I went back and forth for months trying to decide if I wanted to study in England, Ghana, or Italy and if I wanted a short-term or long-term experience. After considering cost, duration, and coursework, I chose to study abroad in Florence, Italy for five-weeks during the summer and take a sociology of the Italian Mafia class (fun times!). Based on my experiences prior to leaving and once I was abroad, I have compiled some pros and cons to consider when deciding to study abroad.
Pro: Language Immersion. If you are studying a language in college, visiting a country where that is the native language can bolster your speaking skills. Additionally, taking a language class with a native speaker can be incredibly beneficial.
Con: Not Knowing the Language. Conversely, if you are not fluent in the language, it can make everyday life difficult. There will be a lot of opportunities to push yourself to learn as much of the language as you can, but you will definitely be outside your comfort zone.
Pro: Resume Builder. Studying abroad is a great addition to your resume whether you are looking for an internship or job or pursuing a graduate degree. You can showcase your ability to be independent and flexible, and you can demonstrate cultural humility.
Con: The Cost. A major hurdle to overcome is the cost of studying abroad. Many factors can affect the cost such as duration of the program and cost of living in the country you are visiting. However, oftentimes colleges have many resources, such as scholarships and loans, to help pay for the cost of a study abroad program.
Pro: New Friendships. One of the best parts of studying abroad was the chance to make lifelong friendships with the people I traveled with. If you travel with a program, typically people are just as motivated to make new connections. If you do not travel with a standard program, there are probably still many other students who are studying abroad and eager to make friends.
Con: Homesickness. Being a new country for any amount of time will make you miss being at home. A good solution is to create a new routine for yourself and try to stick to that. Additionally, setting up times to talk with friends and family may prove beneficial.
Pro: More Course Options. Studying abroad offers coursework that may not be available at your home institution. While in Italy, I was able to study the sociology of the Mafia. That was definitely not a course offering I had at my undergraduate institution.
Con: Navigating the Requirements. Depending upon your location of choice, it can be quite a lengthy and confusing process to get the appropriate documentation for travel and enrollment but there are resources to help navigate the requirements. The study abroad office (or their website) at your institution is a great first step, as they have probably assisted hundreds, if not thousands of students study abroad. The U.S. Department of State also has numerous resources on their website such as a traveler’s checklist and visa requirements for each country.
Pro: New Holidays. When studying abroad, you may have the chance to participate in and appreciate a new celebration or holiday. This is a fantastic way to get the most out of your study abroad experience.
Pro/Con: New Customs & Culture. Navigating new customs can bring about many feelings. It is thrilling to try new foods, see new sites, and exist in a new country; but, not knowing a country’s customs can serve as a constant reminder that you are an outsider.
There are many compelling reasons to study abroad but there are equally profound reasons why it may seem like studying abroad is out of your reach. After college, you may never get another chance to study abroad, so it is important to carefully consider all the options and resources available to you. My decision to study abroad gave me an opportunity to learn unique stories about Italian history, make irreplaceable memories with new friends, and gain confidence I might not have at my home institution.