Studying abroad is one of my favorite college memories. I spent six glorious weeks in Rome, Italy during the summer between sophomore and junior year. It was 2008 and while people at home were worried about the recession, I was worried about finding the Vatican and if getting a third round of gelato was a good idea.
I traveled all around Italy, ate so much pasta, earned six college credits, bought a purse I still use to this day and created memories to last a lifetime. I have friends who didn’t study abroad and when we talk now, they say it is their biggest regret. If you are contemplating going abroad in college and need some convincing or need to convince your parents that this is a good idea, here are seven reasons to study abroad.
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One – You will never have weeks or months to just travel.
I know it seems like I travel all the time, which I do, but I still have to work, pay bills, take care of a dog and husband, normal life stuff. When you’re a college student, you don’t have as many responsibilities and all you need to worry about is studying. While you’re abroad, you most likely won’t have a full class schedule, so you can spend your time traveling.
When I studied abroad, I only had classes Monday – Thursday, so it was really easy to travel over the weekend. It was even encouraged by our program to take a day off if you were going somewhere new. Ah, the European lifestyle at it’s best. Some girlfriends and I even skipped class one day to go see the Pope do his weekly prayer in St. Peter’s Square because he only did that on Wednesdays. I figured that was a good trade and forgiven in the long run.
Two – You will expand your horizons.
Experiencing a new culture is the best thing for a young mind. You will be surrounded by another language, possibly, and not know where to go for certain things. I remember the moment when I realized that I was surrounded by a totally new language. I was sitting on the airplane to Rome from Amsterdam and I could hear Italian and Dutch. I’d never really heard another language being spoken in real life before. I took Spanish in high school but that’s about it! I just sat in my seat on the verge of tears thinking, “No one is going to understand me. What have I done?” Moral of the story, everyone will understand you because most Europeans learn English from an early age (I wish I had learned Spanish or Italian or German from an early age) and getting to be part of another culture for even a small period of time is going to change your life.
You will have to find your way around your new city, buy your own groceries and figure out the best time to take out money based on the exchange rate. I loved having Italian professors who were much more laid back than my American ones and really immersing myself in the pasta, wine, dessert Italian lifestyle.
Three – Budgeting lessons will be to the max.
I learned how to budget while abroad. My parents gave me a certain amount of money for the duration of my six week program, very generously, and I knew I could only spend what they gave me. I printed out a calendar and wrote down every penny I spent on the day I spent it and then put the remaining total underneath. Some days I would spend 2 Euro on a mezzaluna sandwich for lunch and that was it and other days I would spend hundreds because I booked a train ticket or had to pay my friend back for the hostel. <— Side note about hostels, they aren’t as bad as everyone says. I did stay in some nicer ones and some not so nice ones, but they are a great option when on a college budget. Just make sure you do your research before.
I did not spend 1 cent over what my parents gave me, I am happy to say. If only I kept this up for the rest of my life.
Four – You will earn some of the easiest college credits.
My college had a sister university in many different cities for the study abroad program. Since I chose the summer program, I completed two classes, so six credits. Back then it costs about $2,000 to get those credits, which was actually pretty inexpensive as far as college credits go. I took an English elective where we read A Streetcar Named Desire, which I read in high school, and then a history of music in America in the 60’s. That class was fascinating and we listened to a lot of Bob Dylan and Beatles music. The best part was realizing how American and British artists had an impact on Italians. I discovered that music is an universal language and that everyone loves the Beatles.
Studying abroad is a great way to check some electives off your list, while not being too difficult. This is my experience, anyway with the curriculum of studying abroad. My sister studied in Belgium for an entire semester where her classes were completely in French as she was a French minor. I imagine that is more difficult but also the best thing for immersing yourself in a language and culture.
Five – You’ll make great friends.
I lived with three other girls, two were from my school and the other was from a school in Boston. We all traveled together with one other girl and just had the best time. We would cook together in our apartment, go to class together and travel all around Italy. We are all still friends, even just social media friends, but we will always have Rome.
Six – It looks great on a resume.
The world is only getting smaller thanks to the internet and globalization is here to stay. My husband and I are living proof of it. We both studied abroad (actually Vinn did twice) and wholeheartedly believe that we were able to get jobs at international companies in part because we studied abroad.
Studying abroad shows prospective employers that you can adapt, have a want to experience new things, you perhaps know another language and can communicate across cultures. These are all great qualities for an employee and will only benefit you in your future career.
Now that I live abroad, I know I was able to jump in with both feet quicker because I had already experienced living abroad. Certainly the scale was different, but the basics were already there. You never know where you life is going to take you but the skills you learn about yourself while you live in another country will be with you forever.
Seven – Memories for life.
This is the most obvious reason to study abroad, but it should absolutely be noted. I still talk about the time I stayed in a hostel in Florence where there were no towels and resorted to using a pillow case. And I laugh every time. My best friend was studying abroad in Spain at the same time and when our programs were over, we met in Venice. And that long weekend was so much fun and we talk about how my flip flop fell off into the canals as I tried to stand up from eating our pizza and our feet hanging over the edge. Or how I couldn’t find the Venice hostel and was carrying all of my luggage from the past 6 weeks and stopped on the street just crying. Some nice man asked me if I was okay and I told him what was wrong and he said, “Well, I’m not sure but a lot of young people always go to this door.” And that was my hostel. I needed to cross a bridge and didn’t know it. And then crying again when I saw my best friend because I was just so happy to see her. I’ve even visited some of the same restaurants after visiting Rome and Venice again.
One recommendation to make sure you remember everything: keep a journal. I kept a journal while I was there and having my thoughts, memories and feelings written down in one place from that time of my life is so special.
That’s it! Did I convince you?
If you did study abroad, where did you go? What was your favorite part? Are you going to study abroad if you’re in college?
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