When junior year rolls around, it seems like everyone is going abroad or coming back from abroad or suffering from “#studyabroadproblems.” What is the big deal about going abroad? Is it actually the best thing ever?
The answer is yes, yes it is. And here’s why:
TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL! Ever seen Eurotrip? Well, your study abroad experience will be nothing like that. But it will be an amazing time “backpacking” from country to country (and by backpacking, I mean you’re only jet setting for the weekend, you needn’t bother bringing a real suitcase!). I’ve been privileged enough to travel outside of the country prior to study abroad, but a trip to London with your parents is a far cry from traveling to a different country every weekend with a bunch of your friends. You will get into tricky situations. You will find yourself being utterly obnoxious and American, and you will do ridiculously embarrassing things. But you will also have the adventure of a lifetime. Not to mention, when you get back you also get to be that annoying person who watches the travel channel and repeatedly says, “Been there. Been there. Oh my god, Berlin is amazing at Christmas. Just amazing,” much to the chagrin of your loved ones.
CULTURE: Even though study abroad may just seem like one big party, learning about another culture is an invaluable experience. As Americans we often get closed off into our own little world and forget that other people may have a different, and sometimes better, way of life. I studied for a semester in Spain. After spending my whole life trying to do everything quicker and more efficiently, it was incredible to see how slowly and calmly the Spanish live their lives. Lunch is a two to three hour affair. Ordering a quick coffee at a restaurant can take 45 minutes. People even walk slower. While this slow-paced lifestyle sometimes made me want to scream (particularly at the slow walkers in front of me), it also made me slow down and really enjoy my time. The lessons I’ve learned from the Spanish culture have stayed with me and will probably impact the rest of my life.
ADVENTURE: Perhaps the best thing about study abroad is that everything becomes an adventure. Obviously you have your big adventures, like traveling to countries where none of you speak the language and trying to navigate your way to the hostel on the most complicated subway system known to man. But then there are your little daily adventures: going to the grocery store, trying to buy shoes, meeting locals. Every day you end up doing something you’ve never done before. At first, this is absolutely terrifying. However, as you get used to it, these mini-adventures become the best part of your trip. As ridiculous as it sounds, when you get home and you can walk into the supermarket and know exactly what everything is, you will miss the time you spent in a foreign grocery store attempting to figure out what the heck you were holding and whether or not it could be made into mac and cheese.
As much as I hate to be one of “those” people, studying abroad changed my life. It was eye opening and educational, but most importantly, it was FUN. College only happens once and then the big, scary “real world” begins. Nothing like a four-month long vacation in a foreign country to remind you how awesome being young is!