1. Immersing yourself in a new culture
One of the most important reasons to study abroad is immersing yourself into a foreign culture. With studying abroad, you will experience new languages (even if it is your native language, being in a new country means that you will not be privy to the local lexicon), new ecosystems, and new perspectives. Visiting a new country is the most direct way to learn from communities different from your own. As a student, you will also be able to have more access to educational resources while you are abroad. You will interact with academics and other members of a community in order to learn concepts that aren’t necessarily apparent in your home country.
Some students study abroad and find that the autonomy they experience while studying in a different country awards them a feeling of independence. Students are away from family, friends and familiarity while abroad. As a student abroad, not only are you responsible for your education, but also the experiences you create while in your host country. The restaurants you visit will change, your extracurricular activities will be different, your life at home will continue on but you will be crafting an entirely different itinerary for your semester.
3. A change of pace
Sometimes a change in setting can affect your academic experience and not necessarily for the worst. Have you ever studied in your room for weeks on end then decided to go outside to do your work for a change? Imagine that feeling, but tenfold. In a new country the entire country is your “outside”. Life at the University of Texas can be fast paced and you’ve since adjusted to it. However, you may find that the experience of taking courses in a different environment may be refreshing and reignite some positive feelings that come with learning new subjects.
4. Expanding your friend circle
You won’t be able to bring all of your friends abroad with you. What’s a solution to that? Create new ones. You’ll be surrounded by students your age and even with similar interests. Even though you are studying abroad, your social life continues on. Whether you frequent the club scene in your host country or enjoy trivia night, you will find friends abroad who share similar interests as you. Even if you all don’t share interests, you’ll be introduced to new things that you’ll most likely connect over.
5. Picking up a new hobby
While you’re abroad, you might feel compelled to partake in the same hobbies as back home. Perhaps you played chess every Saturday in the park or played a pickup game of basketball after work. There’s no reason for you to not continue your favorite activities abroad, however it is also the perfect time to pick up a new one. When abroad, you will find yourself around different people who share different activities together. If you’re having trouble finding a nearby basketball court, why not join your neighborhood’s soccer games? If you’re not sure what to do with your Saturday evenings, try finding a friend that wants to visit the local plays on the weekends. Being in a new environment for an extended amount of time is the perfect window for picking up a new hobby.
6. Developing your communication skills
It is a common goal for students to want to improve on their language skills while abroad. However, even if you don’t feel comfortable with your level of host language proficiency, that doesn’t mean you won’t improve your communication skills. Although knowing a language of that country will help you navigate situations better, you have to keep in mind that communication doesn’t end at spoken language. Most countries are used to communicating with bordering countries or regions that don’t share the same tongue. Therefore, you might be surprised when you realize that citizens of your host country are willing to improvise and introduce alternative ways to share information with you. Through body language, gestures, and a mix of English and their own native language you will be able to communicate with people from a country you’ve never visited before. The more you engage with interactions that force you to communicate with more than your native language, the more practiced you will become at communication in general.
7. Preparing yourself for diverse environments
After college, you’ll be in more professional environments and settings that will be composed of other professionals from different backgrounds. As a student, studying abroad prepares you for these spaces significantly. Since you will be in a new country, improving your communication skills, adapting to a new environment, and learning new crafts, your ability to think on your toes will also improve. This means you will be able to connect and relate with others easier. Future employers will view this as an asset and you should use it as a tool to improve your professional relationships with others.
This post was contributed by Romelle Johnson-Boykins, a Study Abroad Peer Advisor majoring in Psychology and Mexican American and Latino/a Studies. Romelle studied on a summer 2018 faculty-led program in Mexico City.
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