“To Go or not to Go?” Why Everyone Can and Should Study Abroad

by Megan Byrd

Whenever I tell someone I am studying abroad, they always respond the same way. They look up at me adoringly, their eyelashes slightly batting and dreamy, and say, “Oh! I’d love to do something like that.”

Normally it’s easy just to respond by saying that it has been a great experience. I’ve learned a lot. Met some great people. Yada, yada, yada. But what I really want to do is shake them by the head and yell, “Then why don’t you stop talking about it and do it!” Too much of life is spent sitting and pondering the adventures of others, when we could easily be out having our own.

This advice is for all of you skeptics out there who invent every reason in the world for why studying abroad just can’t happen for you. I’m here to tell you, scout’s honor, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be packing your bags today.

Here’s why students should study abroad.

Excuse No. 1: Money
The main excuse I always hear is money. Money, money, money. Fortunately for you, I’m not going to lie. Studying abroad, while growing more affordable, can take a hefty chunk out of your wallet. That’s the truth of the matter. The other truth is that it’s worth every penny. While it might not seem like it before you go, studying abroad is definitely worth going in the hole for. There is no better education or experience for the growing soul. You will come back a different person and that’s a guarantee.

Now, being aware of the steep costs, it’s worth saying that there are definitely ways to hop over the big pond without dishing out as much dough. It’s all about scholarships, folks! Check into your home university’s international office and they should be able to give you heaps of information on exchange and study abroad programs. Sometimes home universities even offer scholarships for their students studying at foreign universities. Start asking questions and your counselor is bound to help you find a way to cut corners. Utilize the resources at your disposal. That’s what they’re there for!

In the unfortunate case that your home university doesn’t have an international office or if it’s really, really awful – start surfing the web. There are so many programs out there now, you could spend hours researching the options for just one country. The web is a priceless resource that will help you discover the most affordable programs. Use it! You can find something within your budget if you’re willing to look for it.

Excuse No. 2: Time
Running second only to money is the infamous excuse of “I don’t have time,” or “It doesn’t fit in my schedule.” Clearly, anyone who uses these excuses hasn’t done their homework. The study abroad world has expanded greatly and now has programs ranging from one week to an entire college degree. If you absolutely have to spend the semester at your home university, go over a winter or summer break. These short trips will allow you a dip into the world abroad, while still permitting you to get the credits you need.

Excuse No. 3: Fear
The third excuse you hear, which is often the real reason behind many students’ apprehensions, is the fear of homesickness, loneliness, or simply not having fun. Often students are afraid to admit this, but they shouldn’t be. Moving to a foreign country for any length of time can be emotionally taxing. There’s culture shock, homesickness, and initial loneliness.

When the date for my departure was coming closer, I cried like a little baby. I was horrified that I had made the wrong decision, and I wanted to back out. Fortunately, I didn’t. Part of the study abroad experience is learning to move on and deal with life on your own. Don’t let a little homesickness deter you from doing the greatest things of your life. Pack your pacifier if you have to. I won’t tell. Just go!

No Excuses Left
All that being said, you should have no real excuses left to keep your feet on the ground. The money can be managed, the time is there, and you might be apprehensive, but you will make friends. People can always find ways to talk themselves out of doing great things. Excuses are never few or far between. The pity is, most of the reasons behind the excuses can be dealt with if you’re willing to try. If you’re wavering on the line between taking the plunge or staying planted, do yourself a favor and try something new. There are far more pros than cons to studying abroad, so go out and see the world.

original photos, top to bottom, by CalAggie and woodja