Studying abroad can get a bad rap. Yes, it’s increasingly popular, perhaps even trendy—but it’s not just for the wine-sipping art history exchange student in Paris. Many people, or articles such as this one might suggest that studying abroad is either for the rich and pretentious or the party-hard interested in pub-crawling across Western Europe, but that is a very particular experience that fails to represent the myriad opportunities.
While there are valuable and educational experiences to be had in Western Europe, studying abroad opportunities for Canadian and American students span the globe. And there are countless of scholarships and grants available that don’t require a 4.0 GPA. The aforementioned article suggests that studying abroad is an overrated bandwagon that will run you into the ground financially and whose quality of education remains incomparable to what’s available at home, namely, in America.
But the truth is, with the right amount of research, studying abroad might not cost much more than studying at home. The education you could gain at home might be superior to the school in your host country, but that’s only if you consider education to be something gained within four walls, from scribbled notes and a projector.
Studying abroad in Mumbai last year changed my life. Here are five irreplaceable experiences gained by studying abroad:
Experiencing—rather than just observing—a culture.
Traveling is entirely different from living abroad. While Mumbai is almost guaranteed to initially be an overwhelming experience, being in a university immediately integrated me into a community. It gave me the chance to not just visit a country, but to temporarily belong to it. Living amongst another culture means learning more about a different environment, and yourself, from firsthand experiences. The challenges, excitement, frustrations and education makes for invaluable memories.
Gaining work experience.
Let’s face it: the job hunt post-graduation can be dismal, and if you can demonstrate that you are resourceful and confident enough to pack your bags and independently move abroad, it’s going to work in your favour. (Not to mention the work and volunteer experience that you may gain abroad.)
Before living in India, my professional writing experience was extremely limited, but I found major publications in Mumbai interested in having me write for them. With the extremely competitive nature of internships and journalism jobs at home, I would never have otherwise had such opportunities.
Building a tough skin.
If you weren’t confident before moving halfway across the world, you certainly will be upon leaving. Living in India was the first time I even had to find an apartment. In one of the biggest cities in the world, to call it an arduous task would be more than an understatement.
As a foreigner in many countries around the world you can expect the prices and the rules to be different for you. You’ll learn to stand up for yourself and refuse to be taken advantage of.
Challenging your academic perspective.
While this may be less true for math and sciences, many subjects that you’ll take at your host university will be from a very different voice and perspective. To learn about world history, art and religion from a different position in the world can be a fascinating experience. And if you were previously unexposed to perspectives vastly different than your own, you might get a humbling and eye-opening lesson.
Dealing with homesickness.
Homesickness can be as valuable as it is miserable. Spending time away from home will inevitably make you miss your family and friends, but you’ll learn to cope and you will likely be even closer with them when you return. While it may be cliché, it’s important to recognize how good you have it.Add this article to your reading list