Study abroad experience can be enriching, fulfilling, stimulating

Posted October 14, 2014


“It will change your life, you’ll come back a new person.”

Although this might sound like a generic statement, for years the benefits and the overall experience of studying abroad have been described in these words.

I believe that going abroad can be one of the most amazing, enriching, fulfilling and educationally stimulating experiences any student can have.

A room with a view at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Photo by Stephanie Meadows).

A room with a view at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Photo by Stephanie Meadows).

Having studied abroad on a Webster University campus in Leiden, The Netherlands, before transferring to the University of Miami, I can state that it was a great opportunity and made me feel like a well-rounded person.

Even in challenging economic times, making sure that study abroad is part of college students’ education is a tremendous investment. If you have never been abroad, you may not be convinced that study abroad has benefits, and is worth your time, money, and effort. However, some people just need a push in the right direction.

From my experience, through Webster University’s study abroad program in The Netherlands and knowing other students’ stories, studying abroad is not only a defining moment in a young person’s life, but it continues to impact the participant’s life years after the experience.

Academically, I didn’t know if I was just going to stick to my major or if I needed to experience other topics, but I learned that the broader your interests, the more options you will have. As I am passionate about music, finding a music class to take as an elective was a dream come true, especially for someone who wants to be in that field of work after graduating.

“Webster University’s mission comes to life through our students, and so many of our students come to life through their study abroad experience,” said Kim McGrath, assistant director of Study Abroad at Webster University St. Louis.

Such experiences have a huge impact on a student’s life by expanding their horizons and changing the way they see the world. The best way of finding out about another culture is by immersing yourself in it.

There are many personal benefits of studying abroad and ways to grow both professionally and personally. In our world today, there are a variety of study abroad opportunities in almost every country, so studying in your dream destination is easier now than it has ever been.

Marchesa Bergman, a senior at the University of Miami, didn’t get the chance to study abroad, but gives insight on what she would have wanted in her study abroad program if the opportunity presented itself.

“Even though I didn’t study abroad, I think it is beneficial,” Bergman said. “It would be cool to experience a new culture and learn a new language. It is a entirely different place and learning environment. To go to a school that’s not primarily study abroad students would be nice, so I could meet and experience local culture more.”

The importance of research and planning is crucial. The more time you spend planning your international experience, the more likely it will be a successful and memorable one.

Once you have an idea of what you want to study, think about the location.  People tend to think of a specific location first, but be sure that you consider tailoring your study abroad experience to make it relevant to your academic and professional goals. Explore and go on adventures, as well. Take full control over your experience.

Anne Mene, a senior at the University of Miami, is from Rio de Janeiro. She studied abroad in England in a special IB program to have other opportunities, personally and academically, that she would not have been able to obtain elsewhere.

“Studying abroad took me out of my comfort zone and therefore made me discover new aspects of my personality,” Mene said. “I guess that happens because we need to adapt to unusual situations and then with time it makes us be open to anything. I think it’s a great quality to learn.”

Being in a new place and culture is a wonderful part of studying abroad, although, one can tend to get homesick. A good tip is to think of the things that remind you of your home. This makes it easier to adjust.

“I remember one of my professors saying, go to a city that is similar geographically to your hometown,” said Mene. “For example, if you are from a city with a beach, go somewhere with a beach, or where there are beaches close by.”

A lot of important factors go into preparing for a trip abroad. Choosing your destination is fun, planning your trip is also fun, but it can be stressful as well. Bottom line is, you want to make sure your time is spent wisely and you’re getting the most for your money.

Viviana Werner, a recent graduate of the University of Central Florida, studied abroad in France as a senior and gave some sound advice on her experience.

“I studied abroad a couple years ago and got the incredible opportunity to stay in Europe for two months and ended up visiting about a dozen different countries,” Werner said.

Thinking on your feet as well as planning beforehand, are crucial to making your study abroad experience the best it can be.

“We invested in a train pass that allowed us to use the awesome train system in Europe, which allowed us to be super spontaneous,” she said. “We also Googled free Europe tours and found some great free tours given by local college students in a lot of the cities we went to. I went with one of my friends, and before we left we made our “must visit” list and we roughly planned ahead, but you definitely need to be prepared to go with the flow and be able to switch things around.”

International experiences, especially long-term experiences such as a semester or year abroad, provide lasting benefits that can shape an individual’s life forever.

Congratulations! Now, you are about to take the next steps to discovering yourself and the world! The following steps and advice will help guide you through the study abroad process.  You have a lot to plan and many big decisions to make, but don’t feel overwhelmed.

  • Globalize yourself: While studying abroad, you will be given the opportunity to further your academic study in a foreign country. There are a variety of programs to choose from. With so many unique programs, it should be easy to find a good fit for your personality and goals. Take this opportunity to expose yourself to the world.
  • Broaden your experience: Keep your own traditions alive while sharing them with others. During your time abroad, take advantage of traveling around your host country or neighboring countries. Executing travel plans and seeing unforgettable sights will help you see the world through new eyes.
  • Take the challenge: Studying abroad comes with its challenges. No matter where you end up, you will more than likely be out of your comfort zone as you face obstacles like homesickness, spending and budgeting foreign currency and simply living in a new, unfamiliar place. You will most likely return home a wiser individual and ready to face future challenges head on.

What Can Study Abroad Offer?

  1. Travel the world
  2. Broaden your world view, and perspective
  3. Develop valuable career skills
  4. Make friends and a professional network
  5. Experience personal, professional, and educational growth all at the same time

Things to Know:

  1. Even though studying abroad can be expensive, scholarships are available for people who need help financially when deciding to study abroad
  1. There are many different study abroad programs to choose from
  1. You can talk to fellow students and mentors who have studied abroad, or even those who have studied in your chosen country, to get a better idea of what to expect
  1. Research, research, research

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