Image Credit: Caitlin Lumber
The university experience is an independent step for all of us, but for those studying abroad, home is not just a quick train ride away. Not only are you cooking your own meals, doing your laundry and living without parental assistance; you are adapting to a whole new way of life. The language, food, and lifestyle will all be unfamiliar, and you may be in an entirely different timezone to your family and friends.
So with that in mind, you may be wondering if studying abroad is all worth it. With the help of Caitlin (Third-year French and Spanish), and Jacob (Third-year History and French), this article aims to help you decide if this particular path in your academic career is for you!
Living in another country is bound to impact your confidence, language skills, and life experience. This may be your only chance to experience everyday life in a foreign country before you settle down into a lifetime of the 9-5. You will be open to new hobbies and friendships, and experience a country without the clouded excitement of a short-lived holiday. Caitlin says that the best thing about studying abroad “is going out of your comfort zone and having the opportunity to try new things,” as Mexico dragged her out of her shell, and away from her natural shyness. Meanwhile, Jacob chose to split his year abroad between an internship and studying, claiming all the employability benefits of an internship in this country while practicing his language skills on a daily basis in the work-place environment.
Homesickness, loneliness and Caitlin’s worst experience, culture shock. Settling into a new environment is no easy task, and Caitlin explains that “even doing simple things like your weekly shop are so different to the UK and it will really take you a while to get used to things.” Jacob notes that homesickness can be of difficulty, especially with him being away during his third year. It can be hard not to feel like you are missing out on the social lives of your friends at home; particularly when you are missing their 21st birthdays.
Every time you pop to the shop or go out to a bar, you have the opportunity to practice your language skills. And practice is the most valuablething you can offer to someone learning a skill. Not only do you get to practice speaking yourself, but you are surrounded by native speakers and are open to learning new vocabulary at any given moment. Caitlin has certainly felt the benefits, mentioning that “you’re immersed in the language so now I can understand everything and anything someone says to me.”
Since Jacob’s degree is in History and French, this studying abroad opportunity has allowed him to study the subject of History in the French language. Not only does this enhance his language skills but gives him the opportunity to learn about historic events from a different culture's perspective. By studying only in the UK, he feels that a British bias is unavoidable and this new point of view is a valuable thing to consider.
Caitlin says that your confidence “just skyrockets” when living abroad as ‘you realise how independent you can actually be’. It has been a real benefit to her to see a different perspective on life and not take anything for granted. Jacob has also been positively impacted by this sudden self-reliance, as moving abroad “forces you to be independent.” “I literally came over here by myself ... and just rocked up to work the next day.” He has also found it worthwhileto experience all the museums, art and tourist spots that Paris has to offer. In all, he labels the best thing about studying abroad the people he has met along the way.
Memories for life
You will never fall short of memorable moments or stories to tell after experiencing this opportunity. When I asked Caitlin and Jacob about their most memorable experiences they found it difficult to narrow it down to just one thing. For Caitlin, it was Independence Day in Guanajuato. “We watched the flame through the city and sang traditional songs in the square. It really was special.” Jacob also finds a celebration to be one of his most memorable nights, choosing 14 July as his key memory. He remembers that all the firehouses were turned into open-air night-clubs. That combined with the firework display at the Eiffel Tower the night before made an incredible couple of days.
Should I study abroad?
All I can say here is that it is entirely up toyou. Only you know what is best for your own personal development, and if you feel that, with this article in mind, going abroad is the best next step for you, then go for it