The reasons to study abroad
The reasons I try and convince anyone who will listen to me to study abroad: If you had asked me two years ago where I would be the summer of 2012, I would have probably responded like this: in my hometown working, hanging out with family and friends, and going to the beach. Not a bad way to spend the summer, right? In fact, Michigan is probably one of the greatest places ever to spend the summer. The beaches are fantastic and the weather is usually perfect (if you’re from Michigan, you know the irony of that last statement, since it can go from 89 degrees and sunny to 29 and snowing in a matter of a day.) I am so proud to call the mitten my home. But the thing is, that is how I have spent almost every summer of my entire life. And while I’m not complaining at all, how can I know what else there is in the world if I never leave where I’m from? So, I did it. I took the leap. And now I want everyone else to be persuaded to do the same. So here is my list of reasons that you should study abroad.
1. MONEY. This might seem odd to you, because usually this is people’s number one reason for not studying abroad. So let me get real with you for a second. Money is probably the worst reason to not study abroad. Yes. I am aware of how expensive it is (however, side note: the company I am traveling with—API—is one of the least expensive places I have found. You get so much for your money there! And they didn’t even pay me to say that!).
But you only have one life (I was kind of tempted to say #YOLO just now but I knew I would be judged and have to judge myself if I did) and you can’t take money with you when you die. I would much rather spend money on doing something that I feel passionate about, than to hoard my money and never have any new experiences. One big reason I decided to study abroad was because someone asked me what I wanted to do before I die, and I said travel. And then I realized, tomorrow is not guaranteed. I want to believe I will live to be 92 like my great grandma, but you never know. I don’t want to put off doing something I want to do just because I am afraid of how finances will turn out. I also feel really proud of myself. No, that feeling of seeing the $1,200.00 plane ticket come out on my bank statement wasn’t necessarily something I would write home about, but knowing that I worked so hard to be able to afford something I feel this strongly about was so worth it to me.
2. You will grow up. In fact, I have already grown up immensely. If you had talked to me a year ago, I would never have had the courage to fly across the world alone to a country I have never been, that speaks a language I barely know, to hang out with a group of people I have never met. Did I mention alone? I barely go to the grocery store alone. Two months ago when I booked my flight and sent my confirmation in to API I literally think I was a millisecond away from a panic attack. Ask my family, friends, or random strangers on the street. I probably asked for anyone’s advice multiple times. I also changed my mind at least half a million times and I literally am not exaggerating at all. Making this decision was probably one of the hardest and most nerve wrecking things I have ever done. But now looking back, I realize it was the best decision I have ever made.
3. You may never get this opportunity again. A lot of people have argued with me on this one, saying that someday when they are more financially stable they can just travel. And sure, that’s cool and I am sure I would someday love to just travel for fun. But it will never be like this. You will probably never live with another family for this long or experience the culture as someone who lives there rather than just visits. The bottom line is, you never know what is out there until you reach beyond what you know. I know it’s scary. I know sometimes you will feel unsure. I know sometimes you will second guess your decision. I know you will miss home. But I also know you will experience things beyond your wildest dreams. You will grow so much. You will learn a lot about yourself. And you shall see wonders (William Shakespeare quote that inspired my trip!)
So do it. Take the leap. Or just do what I did, and book the plane ticket before you realize what you’re doing. Then, when you realize it is non-refundable, you realize you have to go!
Bridget Valenti is a student contributor to the API Tumblr Blog, and is currently studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain.