Is studying abroad worth it? Is it something for me?
Let’s face it: studying abroad is always an investment of both time and money. With every large investment, it’s normal to ask yourself whether it’s worth it, or if you’re better off doing something else instead.
Here are some of the more common obstacles for studying abroad:
- Not having enough time
- Being afraid that you won’t progress in your studies and graduate on time
- Not having enough money to study abroad
- Not feeling confident enough to go live in another country
If you can identify with any of the above, you’re not alone! We’ve asked people about their challenges when planning to study abroad, and the answers above are the most common.
Now let’s go through some of these obstacles and see if there’s anything you can do about them!
Not having enough time
Studying abroad usually takes a maximum of 5 months of your life. During those 5 months, you’ll have opportunities to learn and experience things that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. Studying abroad is not only once-in-a-lifetime experience: because of everything you get to live through and see, it can sometimes literally feel like a whole another lifetime unto itself, condensed into the span of just a few months. Like one student put it:
“I can honestly say that during the last 5 months I’ve learned and experienced more than I have in my whole life, and it’s been just incredible.”
– Barbora, studied abroad in Phuket
If you truly have a lot going on in your life and simply find it impossible to squeeze in a few months of studying abroad, you can always sign up for a shorter summer school session of only a few weeks. During those weeks, you get to experience the many benefits of studying abroad but in just a shorter time.
Being afraid that you won’t progress in your studies and graduate on time
You might think that you don’t have the time to study abroad or that it means you will fall behind in your studies. Frequently though it’s possible to earn as much or even more credits abroad than at home. Studying abroad is also a chance to expand not only your personal horizons, but academic as well. You can study subjects you wouldn’t at home, and get them accredited as minor studies. Integrating the studies into your degree is often just a matter of creating a Learning Agreement and negotiating things with your home institution.
Not having enough money to study abroad
Studying abroad doesn’t have to cost a fortune. A lot depends on where you want to go. Asia has some of the most affordable study abroad destinations, where you will be able to live comfortably even on a student budget. See here for a calculation of the overall costs involved. There are often many opportunities for scholarships which can help cover some of the costs of studying abroad. See here for a list of resources per country.
Not feeling confident enough to go live in another country
Often we might want to go for something, but feel uncertain about whether we are up to the challenge. The only way to find out what we’re capable of something is taking the leap and doing it. We might encounter some things we are not used to and may at times feel our capabilities being stretched, but that’s how we grow. It’s like going to the gym: you have to strain yourself in order to grow stronger. In some ways, going to live abroad is like entering a hero’s journey: you enter into strange lands, face challenges and ultimately become a better and wiser person as a result of your experiences.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
– Joseph Campbell
7 top reasons to study abroad
What are then the top reasons why you should take the leap and spend a semester (or longer) abroad? There are at least seven:
1. Studying abroad is more and more common
The fact is that today, more and more students go study abroad at least once during their academic career. Almost every student who has ever studied abroad thinks of experience as an absolute highlight of their student years – maybe even the best thing they have experienced so far in their lives. But it also matters where you go: Asia is one of the best destinations to study abroad in terms of both affordability and the value it can provide.
2. You can learn a new language and improve your existing language skills
Knowing another language besides your native tongue is always a great asset. Not only does it allow you to understand and connect with people from a different culture better, but it will actually improve your memory, mental flexibility and creativity. This is because with a new language your simultaneously learning a whole new way of looking at the world.
And even if you’re not looking to learn another foreign language and you’re not a native speaker of English, studying abroad will definitely provide you with many opportunities to improve your English, both in- and outside the classroom.
“Going to a foreign country is the best way to learn a new language. And it’s always a good thing to know how other people live on the other side of the world – our world.”
– Jadhe (France), studied abroad in China
3. You have the chance to experience a culture deeply
There is no better way of getting to know a new country and culture than by living in it for a longer period of time. An exchange semester enables you to thoroughly explore a different culture in a way that isn’t possible for just a tourist. Getting to know another culture will give you a whole new perspective on your own culture as well. You will be less likely to take things for granted and will become more tolerant of perspectives different from your own.
4. You become more independent and learn more about yourself
Studying abroad might be the first time that you get to live away from home, thereby giving you a chance to explore how it is to be truly independent. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you simultaneously open yourself up to new opportunities and possibilities you didn’t know existed. Often it is only when we leave our familiar circles that we discover who we truly are and where our deepest values lie.
5. It makes you more creative and benefits your career
If that isn’t enough, studying abroad can even make you smarter. This is because it exposes you to new situations and broadens your ways of thinking beyond what you’re used to. Studying abroad teaches you flexibility, language skills, problem-solving skills and intercultural competence, among many other highly valuable, transferable skills. By teaching you these skills, studying abroad can directly benefit your career.
6. You make lifelong friends
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Like all experiences, it is best when shared. You will meet many students from all over the world who are in the same situation as you. With them you can later look back on all the unforgettable experiences you shared together. You will also get to meet local students who are eager to introduce you to their country and culture.
7. You make the best possible investment into your own future
Going abroad is an investment that can yield immense returns long into your future. Studying abroad will expand your options, interests and future visions. You gain a new outlook, see opportunities where none used to exist, and discover new passions that will guide your future plans. That is what happened to Harri and Tuomas, the founders of Asia Exchange, and that’s what has happened to countless of other students as well, like Roosa and Marvin. See all stories here.
As a student you still have the luxury of time and independence – use yours well.