If you’ve ever imagined yourself gallivanting through foreign streets or strolling through sheep-covered fields, then you’ve probably considered studying abroad. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and extremely worthwhile. As someone who was lucky enough to study abroad during their freshman year, it’s safe to say that doing so was one of the best decisions I’ve made in college so far.
Whether you’re dead-set on studying abroad or teetering on the fence, here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a semester in another city.
1. Will I have fun?
Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it. Every country has something to offer. Even when you’re not expecting it, you’ll find something that interests you. Just remember not to go too crazy and remember that you’re in that country to study and explore, as well as to have fun.
2. Will I miss my family?
It’s inevitable that you will miss your family, but try not to. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and they can always visit you. How bummed would you feel if you came home and all you did while abroad was long for your family? They’re only a phone call (or FaceTime) away. At the end of your time abroad, your family can come visit, and you can be their personal tour guide to the cities you’ve discovered and mastered.
3. Will I be able to afford it?
This is a big one. Typically, your financial aid can apply to your semester abroad, but just to be safe, talk to your school’s financial aid office. Don’t be ashamed in setting up a GoFundMe page, or even asking your aunts and uncles for a little donation. They want you to have an amazing and memorable time, and they’ll more than likely be happy to assist you. In terms of feeding yourself, there’s no need to spend hundreds of dollars a day. Plan out those meal hacks and split groceries with people. Treat yourself while you’re abroad, but don’t eat a five-course meal everyday.
4. Will I have time to go on weekend trips?
If you manage your time properly, you should be able to get out of the country a few times. Save up and do your research. It’s fairly simple to find flights or trains to bordering countries for cheap. Definitely try to stay in hostels or Airbnb’s because they’re much cheaper. Hostels may not be the nicest places you’ve ever stayed in, but you shouldn’t be in your room all day anyway. You’re already across the pond and out of the United States, so get another stamp in your passport and gain some more experience.
5. Will I have trouble with the language barrier?
Wherever you go, even if they speak the same language, they may have some different lingo. Be patient — it’s all a learning experience. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to help you out. Talk to some locals on the street, and you’d be surprised at how many people also speak your language.
6. What do I want to take away from this trip?
Before you go, ask yourself this question. Maybe you want to become friends with people who permanently live in the country you are in. Maybe you want to do something different every day, maybe you want to find yourself longing for a country you’ve never visited before. Regardless of what you want to take away from this experience, definitely set some goals for yourself before you go. They may change while you are abroad but that’s OK. It’s definitely important to focus on how the experience will change you for the better. If you branch out while you’re abroad, you are likely to make connections with people and business owners that can last a lifetime. Make it worthwhile, and go the extra step to get your name out there.
7. Will I fall behind in my coursework?
It is definitely something to consider. Many study abroad programs offer courses and even internships that are specific to your major. It’s very important to plan ahead for the classes that you’ll take at your current school and at the school abroad. Some universities have sister schools that offer the same classes for certain majors. Do your research so that you don’t go into the process blindsided. While you are abroad, it’s necessary to plan and maintain a balance between your studies and your explorations. It’s definitely not hard to fall off the path that you’ve created for yourself, but make sure to keep on track so that you don’t spend every waking hour studying inside when you could be outside exploring instead.
8. Is it worth it?
Yes, yes and yes. You will gain experience, intuition and a sense of who you are. No one should live their life without seeing the entire world, and what better time to do it than when you are young. The process of planning and applying can be stressful, but it’s worth it. Friends will be made, memories will be created and life concepts will be learned. A lot of people who study abroad say that they would do it again in a heartbeat and wouldn’t change anything about their experience. If you find that studying abroad isn’t the right option for you, that’s OK, too. Not everyone’s major is suited to do so. Just remember that you have your entire life ahead of you to travel and pursue certain interests.
As you sit at your desk while doing homework, you can either be scrolling through your friends’ study abroad pictures, or posting some of your own. Now, ask yourself: Is studying abroad the right choice for me?