Why Pursue Your Dream of Studying Abroad?

These former students will convince you to go for it.

These former students will convince you to go for it.

By Ashley Reynolds

There’s so much to look forward to when it comes time for college – living away from home, making new friends, exploring your unique interests.  But perhaps the most exciting opportunity?  Getting the chance to study abroad.

After all, there’s no better time than your college years to jet off to a completely new corner of the world and immerse yourself in an entirely different way of life!  It’s a dream so many have going into their freshman year, yet once the diplomas are handed out and the college experience comes to an end, it seems to be something so many miss out on.  But why?

If studying abroad has ever been a dream of yours, here’s a tip:  Just go!  Not convinced?  Maybe this insight from former globe-trotting students will change your mind.

EMBRACING THE CHALLENGE
Sure, living abroad comes with its challenges.  You may be worried about language barriers or cultural differences, but nothing worth experiencing is ever easy.  This is a time to push yourself to overcome your fears.

Take it from Kelsey, who spent a semester studying in Granada, Spain.

“I decided to study abroad because I wanted to improve my Spanish language skills,” says Kelsey.  “I knew that it would mean forcing myself into an uncomfortable environment where I’d have to speak the language to communicate on a daily basis, but my usual classes didn’t push me enough out of my comfort zone.  Now, in my post-graduate career, I’ve been able to find a use for my language skills and I strongly believe I wouldn’t be where I am had I not taken the leap and decided to study abroad.”

Not studying a different language?  There’s still value in challenging yourself! Allie, who recently went on a 3-week educational trip to Sri Lanka, believes that experiencing a different culture helps broaden your perspective.

“I chose to go to Sri Lanka because it was something so different from my everyday experience.  And, even though the language barrier was difficult at times, it was so rewarding to share my experience with the locals,” she says.  “I got to see what the country was like directly through them and I learned that, even though our cultures are different in so many ways, we share the same characteristics as humans.  I have absolutely become a more empathetic, understanding and knowledgeable person through this experience.”

GROWING YOUR PASSIONS
Gaining distance from your everyday life has a funny way of making things clear.  And once you’ve overcome the challenges of living abroad, odds are you’ll find that your time away helps define your passions in a big way.

Jordan’s recent study abroad trip to the Mukono District of Uganda helped pave her path forward, and proved to be a crucial stop along her dream pursuit.

“I knew that by traveling to a developing nation, I’d be able to serve a large group of people and really learn from them.  And, after serving these at-risk populations, I’ve become inspired to pursue a career in Public Health,” she says.  “I hope to work with these same populations, both in developing nations and those suffering in our own country.”

Even if your time in a different country doesn’t end up defining your future career path, you might be surprised at the new hobbies and passions you discover.  For Kelsey, getting away from her normal routine encouraged her to explore in ways she likely never would have.

“The most rewarding part for me was the opportunity to live somewhere other than my home-town – where I’d spent my whole life.  I was able to push myself to go out and experience new things like backpacking through Europe, bungee jumping, trying new cuisine, etc.  Now I feel I’m a much more adventurous and travel-driven person, and that makes life more exciting!”

So, no matter where in the world you’re interested in exploring, the fact is studying abroad could be one of the smartest investments you’ll ever make.  You’ll have the chance to explore new passions, experience new and exciting things and learn more than you ever could in any classroom.

“I highly encourage everyone who has the chance to study abroad to just do it.  Go for a purpose, desire to learn more about somewhere you’ve never been, step out of your comfort zone and expand your awareness.  At the end of it all, you’ll become more appreciative, enlightened, compassionate and inspired,” concludes Allie.

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