The subject of studying abroad can be very frightening, especially if you’re fairly young and have never lived anywhere but at home with your parents. However is it as scary as you might originally think? I’d like to state that it doesn’t have to be.
There are a few things to ask yourself before you choose to study abroad. The first and perhaps most important question would be “where?” You can’t really study in another country until you’ve chosen your location. Added to that question can be “why?” Why are you considering studying abroad? Is it because you want to use these studies for something in the future? Or is it simply because you want to experience a new culture and spend some time in a new place? You don’t have to have a solid plan as to why; it’s okay if your answer is simply “because I want to”. You might experience that people raise their eyebrows if that’s your answer, but at the end of the day it’s your life so you should do what you want, and why you want it.
“How long” is another important question to have with you, because usually you do have to decide on a set period of time before traveling. Especially if you’re going somewhere where you need a special VISA in order to be allowed to study and live there. Of course money is going to play a part here because it’s not free to attend school abroad. What you need to do is to see what ways there are for you to get help with money, should you need it. Are there scholarships? Exchange programs? Can you borrow money? These are all important questions to think about before you decide on how long. Sometimes you have to stay for a certain amount of time in order to borrow money, for example.
Choosing what you actually want to study is also important. Usually it’s the language of the country you’ve chosen, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Use Google, check it out, what can you study abroad? Where can you go to study it?
Now for something else very important.
“Should I study abroad?”
That’s a question no one else can answer. You might find resistance in your parents, you may be told it’s unnecessary and that you’ll simply find yourself in debt. You might feel that perhaps you’re throwing away a year on something silly when you could in fact be doing something better with your time. Well, keep in mind that most likely you will end up with some debt, unless you can get a scholarship or already have the money. And I do think it’s important to stretch this, quite a bit. It will cost you an arm and a leg to study abroad. It will and there’s no denying it. However, only you can decide whether it’s worth it or not. After all, would you more regret not going than going?
It can also be mentioned that if you find a program through school and it lasts for six weeks or something, naturally you won’t be spending too much money. However there are always limited spots and nothing is ever guaranteed. If you want to go abroad and stay for longer, and go with an agency rather than through your school or via a scholarship, well, then you’ll need to cough up a lot of money. There’s of course the matter of living, food, VISA’s, travels and so on, that may end up milking your wallet for all it has got.
Another thing to think about is culture clashes, new languages, new people, etc. Can you survive in a culture that’s 100% different from yours and where you’d have to follow their customs or you’ll seem rude? Are you okay with living in a country where they may not know your native language or a lot of English? Again, this all depends on where you go. If you’re an American that chooses to study in England you’ll find that things aren’t always that different. If you’re English and you choose to study in Japan you’ll find that most everything is backwards and even using the bathroom can be a challenge. Making new friends might be difficult if you’re shy and you might feel lonely, if you choose a country far away you might not be able to go home for visits, and your money might be useless so you might have to learn a new currency.
These are all things you do need to consider and think hard about before you go. And they might seem negative but in reality they’re just reasonable things to keep in mind.
What are the plus sides to studying abroad? Well first of all you’re doing something that’s exciting and new. You might get a bigger understanding of the country you’ve chosen and you’ll get to see a new culture (depending on where you go). You might empty your bank account but your memory bank will be filled to the brim by the end of your stay. If you choose to study a language then you’re going to be able to practice with natives and in real life except for just through a text book and you’ll make new friends, mature a lot as a person and learn how to handle crises. Because yes, if you choose to study abroad for a year, for example, things will go wrong. You’ll find yourself in situations where you feel lost and where everything seems to simply be going to hell. However that’s when you get an opportunity to learn how to handle when things go wrong and how to find new solutions.
The first time I traveled abroad I wanted to cry because my plane was late. The last time I lived abroad I was on the verge of becoming homeless and I had to go to the emergency room after an accident. You learn how to face new challenges with a more relaxed attitude and you learn how to do it on your own. Are you shy? Well, if you get lost in the whirling streets of Madrid you might have to get over it to ask a native in your rusty Spanish for directions back to your apartment.
If you have any doubts about going, think about it again. If you still have doubts about going maybe it’s not for you. But at the end of the day no matter how sure you are of your decision you’re still going to be terrified when the day finally arrives and you’re still going to wish your mother was there to hold your hand. Sometimes you just have to take that leap anyway because we don’t get a second chance at life. This is it, seize it!
April 25th, 2013 at 02:02pm
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