Venturing to a foreign land for a summer, semester, or year might seem a daunting undertaking; college can be challenging enough without putting a few thousand miles between yourself and your comfort zone. But, studying abroad can be one of the most exhilarating and educational experiences of your life, and we’re not just talking about the language credit!
Still not entirely convinced? Here are 10 reasons every girl should study abroad:
1. Learn another language.
Learning a foreign language is an amazing reason to spend time abroad. As competent as the foreign language professor at your home institution may be, necessity breeds adaptation, and there’s nothing like immersing yourself in another country to learn its native tongue. New vocabulary and listening comprehension exercises aren’t just homework assignments; they’ll become your everyday life in the best and most challenging ways. The practice of diving into a foreign language is never a wasted one. It teaches you about how other cultures think about the world, and might just give you some insight into the ways your own language informs your cultural and gender identity.
2. Better understand how the world treats women.
The ways women are empowered or disempowered around the world vary, and seeing first-hand how women are treated in a new country can be an eye-opening experience. This might get you thinking about better ways in which gender and identity are handled in other countries. Maybe the problems women face in your host country have a lot in common with those you face at home. Regardless of similarities or differences, you will have the opportunity to forge strong relationships with amazing women you may have never met otherwise, and there is no such thing as having too many inspirational women in your life.
3. Make amazing friends.
You’ll meet amazing people studying abroad: other international students who understand the crazy joy of launching oneself into life into a strange country, students from your host country that are eager to practice their English and share their culture and country with you, and like we said before, amazing women. You might start off as awkward strangers, but you’ll leave as family, bonded by an ephemeral intersection of time and place.
4. Find out that magic is real.
Although we all know that expectations don’t always equal reality, amidst the ordinariness of doing homework, grocery shopping, and chores, studying abroad will present you with moments of pure magic. Dancing until sunrise with new, international friends, watching the sun set over medieval rooftops, a moment of cross-cultural connection with a complete stranger; these moments may be small, and sometimes few and far between, but they are pure magic.
5. Go deeper than the tourist perspective...
Traveling as a tourist can be great, but it is a distinctly different experience to studying abroad. The latter often allows the opportunity to break past the tourist, or even expat experience, to a level of cultural immersion more akin to actually living in the country. The level of immersion will be what you make it. Do you want to live with a host family? Will you volunteer to teach English to locals looking to learn? There will be a thousand different decisions you make everyday while studying abroad that will inform how far past the surface of a country and its culture you delve.
6. ...but sometimes, just be a tourist.
On the flipside of embracing cultural immersion, studying abroad can provide girls with a great launch pad for new experiences as part-time tourist! Although studying abroad will let you see beyond tourism in your host country, there is nothing wrong with taking full advantage of the travel opportunities living overseas will throw at you. Studying in Prague? Why not pop over to Budapest or Vienna for the weekend. Be at one with your inner tourist and go get those selfies, girl!
7. Date foreign men (and/or women).
Whatever your dating preference(s) may be, studying abroad will open you up to a whole new prospective dating pool, and accents! The locals in your host country may also be gorgeous. Cross-cultural flirting can be fun, and even teach you something about social practices and the ways in which dating cultural does or doesn’t vary from country to country. Who knows? You may even find love during study abroad.
8. Enjoy being alone.
A lot of time is spent focusing on the connections that can define your study abroad experience, but one of the relationships that might see the most growth during your time abroad is the one you have with yourself. It may sound cheesy, but removing yourself from the relationships and culture that define you is a great way to better understand who you are and who you want to be.
Studying abroad can leave you feeling sure in your own skin, and more than the sum of the identities that can sometimes be forced upon you. Don’t be afraid of making the most of some valuable you-time.
9. Learn more about “home.”
Study abroad orientations often include a discussion about the perils of reverse culture shock. That’s right, just when you think you’ve acclimated to a new way of living, you return home and realize you yourself have changed, and may not fit in as easily as you did before you left. Coming down off of the study abroad high can be tough (and annoying to those friends and family members who have to hear the same stories again and again), but it is also part of the learning experience.
When studying abroad, you’ll learn just as much about the place you left behind as the place you venture to. Spending time in another country will give you invaluable perspective into yourself, and your home country, that would have been hard to garner had you never left. Understanding your complex connection to the concept of “home” is a huge part of figuring out your place in the world. There’s nothing like traveling to the other side of the world to discover you belong.
10. Find out that you are stronger than you think you are.
Studying abroad is scary. It’s a huge leap that takes a huge amount of courage. Making that move overseas might be the best thing you ever do for yourself; it will be concrete proof to yourself that you are a confident, independent woman. Studying abroad as a woman does bring with it certain challenges, like possibly learning to deal with stares and catcalls (ignore them), getting used to mentioning a fake hubby Steven to keep men at bay, or teaching yourself to be hyper-aware of your surroundings at all times. You’ll need to use your female smarts to prepare yourself for a different kind of treatment, and to help yourself stay out of trouble, but it won’t be long before you are at ease navigating the streets of foreign cities with cool assertiveness.
These hurdles are just a few of the reasons every girl should study abroad. Girls who study abroad will go home more self-confident and self-reliant than they ever thought possible, and their future self will one day thank study abroad for that.