While the deadline for applying for the study abroad summer programme passed recently, some first year students might be considering studying abroad for a semester or two. The third year might seem far off the agenda, but applications must be filled in midway through the first semester of the second year.
It is also a good idea to know if or not you might want to go abroad, as the programme is partly grades-based. Having an exchange semester as a goal is a good way to motivate oneself to be academically successful even through the first year: it will pay off.
The reasons to study abroad are many. The advantages are however not solely academic but stretches far beyond university studies and learning.
Studying abroad pushes you beyond your comfort zone in ways you never thought was possible. It forces you to grow as you face challenges you never thought you would have to deal with. Depending on where you go, some places can be so different from your home town that you feel as if you suffer a culture shock constantly the first few months. While this can be exhausting from time to time, nothing pays off more than thinking outside the box as much as you are required to do when being on such a big adventure – mainly on your own.
It is worth keeping in mind, however, that some universities – even though they do accept applicants studying certain programmes, might not have the courses you are required to take. Although there are ways to work around this and find classes that are suitable enough, it is still likely that you feel that you lack some of the knowledge you should have when returning to your home university. For some students, studying abroad can even be a setback academically due to this. Depending on what you priorities and want from your degree, studying abroad might not be for you.
Yet, by all means, studying abroad is an adventure you will never forget. Despite challenges, such as home sickness, culture shock or difficulty to adapting to a new learning environment, the people you meet and friends you make – people from every corner of the world, will make it worthwhile. As the cliché goes – most exchange student do make friends for life while abroad. It is even common to meet your future life partner when abroad. While there might not be an explanation to this, it is possible that the reason is that when being away from our regular environment, we become completely new versions of ourselves; we live out more, experiment more and take more risks. This attracts people and makes it easy to make friends for life. Additionally, the very fact that being far away from home imposes challenges is what makes us needing to reach out to people and in turn needing close friends.
It is interesting what comes out and who we become when nothing familiar persists in our nearest surrounding area. Sometimes it is even difficult to re-adjust when returning home.