If you’re in college right now, or even just have friends in college, your Facebook Newsfeed is probably overloaded with gorgeous photos from your friends’ somewhat cliché semesters abroad in Europe. It’s easy to be jealous of anyone hopping across the pond to go “study”—but unfortunately for your friends, Europe is not the only awesome place in this world.
There’s another continent just south of it which many less people will have the opportunity to ever see: Africa. Here are the top five reasons why college students should seriously consider studying or interning abroad in Africa, and not Europe.
1. Language Immersion
As Americans, we’re pretty monolingual. Sometimes we try really hard to learn a new language like Spanish or French, and then go study abroad in Europe to perfect it. But here’s the problem: everyone in Europe also speaks English! Since you’ll already be able to communicate easily with everyone in Europe, you’ll probably come out of your trip thinking language-learning is useless for an Anglophone anyways.
But interestingly enough, there are millions of French and Portuguese speakers just south of Europe who don’t actually speak a word of English! Even if Africans do catch your accent, it’s not like they can switch into English to speak to you, because most of them honestly can’t. Sure, it’ll be more difficult for you to communicate with others at first—but that’s why you’re abroad, right? If you genuinely want to go out of your comfort zone and become more fluent in a foreign language through immersion, there are many Francophone and Lusophone African countries waiting for you to explore.
2. Save Money
The Euro is stronger than the US dollar right now, which means that even if you try to be cheap your semester abroad will have you shelling out a ton of money on dinner, drinks, and souvenirs. Enter Africa, where the currency is generally much weaker and you can splurge a bit without breaking your bank account. In Cape Town, South Africa for example, you can buy dinner for 40 Rand (around $4 USD), a decent bottle of wine for $3 USD, and then end your night with a $1 shot! If you like saving money (what college student doesn’t?) why not go to a place where eating something other than Ramen noodles won’t break the bank? In most of Africa, you’ll probably even be able to go to the most upscale restaurants in the city. Let’s face it: trying to act cheap all the time is no fun at all, so why not go somewhere where you can feel classy?
3. Impress Family, Friends, and Future Employers
Doing a semester abroad in Europe is cool. But doing one in Africa is bold. Anyone reading your resume is going to do a double-take when they see that you spent four months abroad in Mozambique instead of Italy. Spending time in a unique country speaks for itself in proving that you’re adaptive, willing to take risks, responsible, mature… the list goes on. Not to mention all the impressed looks you’ll get when your parents brag to everyone you’ve ever met that their kid is going to Africa.
4. Be a Valued Employee
As an intern in Europe, you’re less of a “critical employee” and more of a… well… intern. In Africa, it’s much more likely that your work will be genuinely appreciated. Compared to your African coworkers, you’ve had a higher quality education, as well as exposure to newer technologies. You’ll be able to bring different ideas and a different skillset into the workplace. Because everything’s on African time, you’re going to look like a speed demon completing any assignment. And of course there’s the English advantage—you’re fully fluent in an environment where again, your coworkers may not be. Any company or non-profit accepting American interns genuinely needs you to be there and will appreciate your contributions.
5. Actually Learn Something New
Let’s be real for a minute. How much do you already know about British culture? Tea, the Beatles, and fish and chips? Great. Now how much do you know about the culture of Ghana? Morocco? What about Angola? Drawing a blank? Exactly.
Because let’s be real for another minute. Maybe you’re looking to have an insanely amazing adventure—that’s cool. Maybe you’re looking to meet new people, gain new skills, and see something beautiful—all awesome reasons to travel. But the number one most important thing you should want to do when you go abroad is to actually understand something better than when you left your home country. Getting to know a new culture of people can revolutionize the way you see your own world and change your life forever. And the more different the place you travel to is, the greater the chance of actually experiencing that revolution in thought.
While a lot of Africa is politically unstable, there are plenty of places that are perfectly safe for students to travel to. Whether you want to volunteer, study, or do an internship, there is a beautiful country here somewhere that’s perfect for you to go visit. Students of America, let’s stop ignoring Africa when we travel—there’s a lot to be learned on this great continent.