Are you considering studying abroad or perhaps even longing to but still hear a little nagging voice in the back of your mind that holds you back? Perhaps there is more than just yourself to persuade. Instead of a voice in the back of your mind there are two loud voices right in front of you, your parents'.
Whomever you need to convince, a psychological battle may ensue between the desire to study abroad and the anxiety about changing your entire world. The mini conscience sitting on your shoulder listing all the reasons to stay may be getting louder so it is time to decide.
Take a deep breath and look at this list to help quiet all the voices except the one shouting GO! It will debunk the myths that hold so many people back and send you on your way with only excitement in tow.
1. I Can't Afford it
Many assume it is out of their price range before even looking at costs. The truth is, study abroad is surprisingly affordable and in many cases even more so than staying home, particularly if you are paying private liberal arts tuition or choose a country with a favorable exchange rate.
If you are receiving financial aid don't think you have to give it up. In most cases your aid will go with you, plus, supplemental student loans may be available. Many study abroad programs and providers offer their own scholarship programs or discounts for things like early registration or volunteering during your stay. Search for a study abroad scholarship that fits your needs; you can even search by location and field of study.
Another route to help you afford the trip is crowd sourced funding which has been around since before the internet. Students wrote letters to relatives, spoke at church, or other social communities. Today, sites like Fund My Travel make it much easier to raise funds in much the same way. Many motivated students cover their entire budget through donations.
2. I Will Miss My Family And Friends
Maybe, but you will make new friends, and your old friends will be there when you get back. Relationships formed on study abroad programs are often some of the strongest students form in college. Your homesickness will soon be replaced by excursions to exciting places, people from all over the world, and an appreciation for a new culture.
To thwart any homesickness or loneliness right away make it a point to get involved and create a life for yourself. It may be a temporary home, but it's still home. If you attend church weekly find a church. Volunteer with children if you are used to being surrounded by younger brothers, sisters, or cousins. This way you will find a spot for yourself in a new place and also make friends. If these are things that sound daunting to you, consider a more inclusive program with a study abroad provider. Many will help you find the perfect host family, include organized excursions with other students, help you get involved, and even have weekly events like dinner nights. They can be a priceless resource for the shy or first time traveler.
If you know the time away will be more difficult for you, remember there are numerous ways to stay in contact with family and friends back home. Make Skype dates, write your parents a weekly email, or start a blog so you can continuously share your experience.
3. I Am In A Hurry To Graduate
Slow down you have the rest of your life to work. Your university years are meant to both broaden your horizons and allow you to discover yourself.
Study abroad allows you to experience another part of yourself in a different setting.
Plus, if all that hurry is geared towards success in your career, international education will most definitely be worth your time. It is not only an expedition of self discovery but also an investment in your resume. The skills learned while studying abroad can carry over to the workplace and make your resume shine in a stack of hundreds. Set yourself apart with international experience, volunteer work in your field, perhaps another language, and a list of worldwide contacts.
4. I'm Not Good With Other Languages
You are probably pretty good with English and that began as a foreign language for you. The best way to learn another language is to immerse yourself in it. Every student learns how to buy a drink, get on the right bus, and order lunch very quickly in a foreign language setting. The necessity will force you to.
If you are simply terrified of speaking another language or it doesn't interest you there are still plenty of English speaking destinations for study abroad. From South Africa to Scotland, Malta to Ghana, and Jamaica to New Zealand, you can choose from a plethora of countries that will surround you with a new culture, but in the comfort of your native language. There are even programs in non-English speaking destinations where courses are taught in English.
5. The Application Process Is Too Complicated
You applied to college and that probably seemed intimidating at the time. Study abroad programs are making it easier to apply, but in the end it's no different than sitting down to complete a paper. You just need to do it and you will find how quickly it can be done.
It is a good idea to break the process down into separate tasks. This will allow you to focus more on each part and it won't seem as large. Also, don't forget to take advantage of all the people that are there to help. Your school and program provider will have study abroad advisors whose job is to make it simpler for you.
6. I Don't Want To Do a Homestay
Many students are very resistant to the idea of homestays. Of course many programs provide housing in apartments, dorms, or even tents, but for those who do provide homestays you should know a few things. An international homestay provides you with an instant network, often the family will have grown children, or neighbors and close friends who will help you connect.
A homestay also provides instant language practice opportunities. It allows you to hear the language how it is really spoken, by using informal tenses and traditional slang. Another bonus is the home cooked meals which will probably be amazing. You won't need to buy pots and pans and try and figure out how to make cheap spaghetti while your classmates are eating fresh paella.
7. I Don't Know How To Choose a Program
Forget the reviews. Every study abroad website has reviews. But in many cases these reviews are submitted or encouraged by the organization themselves. The reality is most students describe their study abroad experience as the most important and life-changing thing they have done. It's going to be good. If you want a real and accurate testimonial look for the sites with positive and negative reviews and reach out to a program alum, they will tell you everything you need to know.
Reach out to your study abroad advisor who has probably vetted many programs and can share their experiences. In the end you need to decide based on what you want to gain from the program. Consider your area of study, the program highlights and reviews, and the costs, and then choose the best study abroad program for you.
8. I Am Afraid of Traveling
This one can be the toughest of all to approach. Only yourself is standing in the way. The truth is that traveling can be scary. It is new, everything will seem foreign, and you may feel out of place for a while. But the other truth is that it is priceless in terms of self development, and there are many statistics out there to prove that studying abroad is nothing to be afraid of.
If safety is a concern, take that into account when picking your location and place to live. There are many options in countries that are just as developed as the U.S. and have housing options that will surround you with a safety net. Plus, it's an increasingly global workplace and chances are you will be required to travel at some point in your life. Get comfortable with it now while you are young!
9. It Won't Help My Career
False, employers value study abroad experience, as well as other types of international experiences like volunteering and interning. Just the fact that you studied abroad demonstrates a wider desire to learn about your world; it demonstrates that you are adaptable, open to new experiences, and that you have experienced a culture beyond your own.
And guess what. Many of skills cited to be competitive in the modern workforce can be effectively and profoundly developed while studying abroad. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
10. I Have Too Many Other Commitments
The largest growth area in study abroad programs is short term programs. If you really don't want to spend a whole semester away there are plenty of shorter options that range from spring break trips, to a couple of weeks, to summer programs. Short stays still provide academic, professional, and cultural enrichment. They can also be a good idea for graduate students or students needing the field experience.
And here's three really GOOD reasons...
1. You Want to Stand Out from the Crowd
Less than 10% of students study abroad in any given year. That gives you a whole LOT of room to out-pace your peers and wedge your way into a job offer. Instead of having the same pedigree as everyone else, level up your skills. Enjoy the onset of more interesting, memorable conversations whether you're professionally networking or just having a drink with friends.
2. You'll Learn to Value Experiences Over Things
While it is pretty fun to collect stuff — like on point heels and the newest iPhone — you quickly realize the transience of it all. Your focus on things over memories doesn't make for long-term satisfaction or happiness. If you really want to live and experience all the up's (and sometimes downs!) that life has to offer, take a beautiful leap towards the extraordinary instead of the ordinary.
3. You Can Add Some AWESOME to Your Low-Level Degree Requirements
News alert — you don't have to complete your 101 level classes at your home university. In fact, knocking out a few required courses alongside some electives while studying abroad can really help you balance your course load. Classwork comes first even when studying abroad, and incorporating general education classes with those that are tied to your location (like art history in Florence or theater in London) can round out your overall academic experience.
Next Steps to Study Abroad
Ready to make those study abroad dreams a reality? Here's our go-to kit, chockfull of advice to help you make it happen.
- Scour reviews of study abroad programs. Program alum are your best-bet for the inside scoop on any given experience.
- Don't mess up! Here are top 10 places to study abroad in 2018.
- Read our official how to study abroad guide. It'll put you on the right path. (Once you find a program that's a good fit, bookmark our 10-Step Action Plan!).
- Contact these four people to get your study abroad plans rollin'.
- Get mom and dad on board. Here's our best advice for persuading them — and if that doesn't work, check out these template letters.
- Money money money! Start crunching the numbers and make a study abroad budget you can stick to.
- MUST READ for first time study abroad students.
Were you born to be a meaningful traveler?
See more inspirational travel videos (like the lies we tell our parents while traveling!) here.