Studying Abroad in College and Weighing Your Options

Many students cite their semester or year of studying abroad as one of the most defining moments of their college careers. Studying abroad is a huge undertaking, as well as investment, so make sure to carefully consider your options before taking the plunge.

Positive Considerations

1. Once in a Lifetime Experience

One of the things I hear most from graduates of study abroad programs is that the experience cannot be easily replicated. It’s one of the most unique programs a college student can participate in, and past study abroad experiences are usually remembered with fondness. You may get the opportunity to travel later on in life, but living in an area for several months while attending classes at a foreign university will be difficult to do after college.

2. You Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Being thrown into an entirely alien environment is terrifying, but it helps spur personal growth. You will learn a lot about yourself during this trying time. Everyone who has gone abroad says this, but it’s hard to understand this phrase without actually experiencing it.

3. You Learn a New Language

Depending on where you decide to go abroad, you will probably be forced to learn a language, at times without even trying. Learning a new language becomes a whole lot easier when everyone around you is impossible to communicate with. You will pick up phrases out of necessity that you will remember for the rest of your life.

4. Employers Will Fight For Your Experience

These days, employers can afford to be very picky with who they hire. Simply deciding to take the plunge and enroll in a study abroad program exemplifies the initiative that many businesses are looking for in today’s economy.  And sticking through it will illustrate how resilient and open-minded you are to new experiences. And let’s not forget the immediate connection you possess with your interviewer if he or she is also a graduate of a study abroad program!

Negative Considerations

1. Cost of Attending

Despite all of these great perks associated with studying abroad, I will admit that it isn’t for everyone. The costs of airfare, enrollment in a foreign university, and living expenses can pile up quickly. In my opinion, one semester of study abroad should not cost you a couple of years of your life later on when you start paying back loans. However, there are many ways to avoid this. There are loads of scholarships available to those studying abroad, and there’s always the option to volunteer and work abroad instead of attending a foreign university.

2. Will This Be Useful to Your Future?

Study abroad will not be useful to your future life if you treat it as a glorified vacation. Make sure that you learn something while over there. As with anything else in life, your experience abroad will be defined by what you make of it.

3. Will This Make Me Graduate Late?

If the credits you’re earning aren’t going to be able to be transferred to Towson University, and you will be forced to commit to an extra semester before graduating, you should include this fact in your internal deliberations. College is extremely expensive, and you need to weigh all of your options.

4. What Will I Miss When I’m Gone?

This is something much less advertised, but still widely claimed by graduates of study abroad programs. People will move on with their lives at Towson, and you may come back to an extremely different social landscape after your time abroad. Things may be very different with your friends even just after one semester. In my opinion, the experiences allowed by studying abroad take precedence over this factor, but it should still be kept in mind because this phenomenon is fairly widespread and it probably will happen to you.

I’m not trying to swing your opinion one way or the other, but I  highly encourage everyone to consider all of the factors and fully think it over before making a final decision.

– Russell Bowen

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