WE’VE all been there: scrolling through study abroad photos on social media sites, listening to friends while they boast about how they ‘found themselves’ backpacking through eastern Asia, wishing that you were anywhere but within the drab grey confines of your lecture hall.
Maybe it’s come to point where you’re seriously thinking about spending some time travelling and experiencing life abroad. Or maybe you just want to know more about the opportunities that university has. If this is you, then maybe it’s time to consider a question that could change your life: should I study abroad?
“Can I afford it?”
It’s easy to become trapped into spending more money while you’re abroad – travelling to new places, tasting the local cuisine in restaurants and living in the party bubble that is the study abroad world. But this doesn’t mean that it’s out of reach. If you’re an EU citizen and choose to study somewhere within Europe, then you’re eligible for Erasmus funding – a non-repayable grant that normally totals at over 200 Euros per month. If you’re not eligible for Erasmus then make sure you talk to your university; many will offer additional bursaries and scholarships to those who need it or who have achieved a high academic record. Spending some time doing some research may also pay off; there are many trusts around that offer financial aid to students who qualify, such as the John Speak Trust for UK citizens.
Remember that you can also live stringently abroad, just like you do as a student at home. Shop at local markets, get together with your friends and cook together at home and book flights in advance to save some money.
“Will I get homesick?”
Living in a different country will sometimes be difficult, and it’s not unusual to feel homesick from time to time. Maybe it will be a birthday, a festival or a day when you’re ill and just want your parents’ cooking. Homesickness is a hard thing to prepare for and some days it will feel tough. But remember that you’re not living there forever and that you need to make the most out of the little time you have. In today’s world, home is just a Skype call away. If you think you’ll struggle with homesickness there are some great articles online, such as this one from the BBC.
“Will I Learn The Language?”
This will depend on where you choose to go, and if you really want to engage with the culture. If you’re looking to hone in on your skills or pick up a new language, then studying abroad is the best thing that you can do to improve. Be aware that being an international student, it is extremely easy to make friends with other internationals and your main language in common will most likely be English. However, by choosing to do a language course, taking a few modules in the language and living with native speakers, you will be sure to improve over the semester. If you’re still not convinced, the British Council gives some additional advice for people interested in learning the language while abroad.
“Is it going to look good on my CV?”
Absolutely. While it’s true that you probably won’t study to the extent that you do at home, employers look favourably on candidates who have spent a semester abroad. It will make you stand out and show that you’re a rounded individual with knowledge of an international culture. It’s even a great starter in interviews according to Ashley Blackmon in a CNN report.
“How much harder will the classes be abroad?”
This question is quite hard to answer, as it depends on your course, modules and country. If you’re being taught in your second or third language, then you might struggle to keep up at the beginning. However, after a while and once the teachers know that you are an international student, you won’t feel quite so far behind. They may even consider your exam differently to that of native speakers. Each country has their own educational system, so it’s probably a good idea to do some research before hand and see what kind of modules you’ll be taking, and the work involved in them.
“Is moving abroad really stressful?”
There’s no denying the fact that moving to a new country is stressful. Finding a place to live and enrolling at a new university is a daunting prospect, especially when you live so far away from home. Just remember to take a step back and breath, it’s a challenge, but there are many others in the same position as you – try and reach out to people who have previously been in the city and ask them for advice.
“Will I enjoy it?”
It’s the one main worry that everyone has when choosing to study abroad. But it truly will be an unforgettable experience. You can make your semester into whatever you want it to be like. Whether you want to try all the clubs in the city, travel around the country, learn the language or just improve your tan, you won’t forget a single second of it. You’ll make friends for life incredibly easily and while you may miss home from time to time, when the time comes to finish you’ll realise what an amazing time you had studying abroad.
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