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What I Hope to Learn From Studying Abroad

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Why Abigail is setting off into the unknown this semester.

Choosing to study abroad is not an easy choice. It’s expensive. It’s a long way from home. And it is the unexpected. Our generation has been told to embrace the wanderlust, adventure and the unknown. The real question is, to what extent will you actually do just that?

Study abroad is more than an experience—it’s a notion for change in your life that will set the tone for the rest of your years. I decided to study in a foreign country—the Netherlands—because of the grandeur of opportunities these five months will provide for me.

You know you’ll make new friend. You know you’ll see awe-inspiring sights. You know you’ll have something to add to your resume. But what about the abstract things we don’t think about? You prepare to expect the unexpected in life abroad. What the unexpected will bring is something you probably haven’t explored or thought about yet.

And what are these unexpected things study abroad teaches you?

A chance to learn how to think differently

The education system is different from country-to-country. School in the Netherlands is going to be different than how the United States goes about teaching. Study abroad gives you a chance to learn how to learn in a new country. You will learn new ways of thinking and new methods of discovering knowledge. It opens your mind in an educational way, not just your view of the world.

A chance to become a part of a new culture

You find a new home away from home. Yes, it’s not the same as your home country, but you have the opportunity to become a part of something that is different from you. To live how other people live. To immerse yourself in the unknown and make it the known over the course of the semester. This isn’t something you can gain from going on vacation somewhere for a week. You need time to adapt and become a part of a new culture, and study abroad provides you with this chance.

A chance to experience the “real world”

You will be on your own. When you are going to school in your home country or within a few hundred miles of where you grew up, you don’t get to feel what it is like to actually be on your own. You don’t have the opportunity to drive a few hours, take the train or fly home for a few days. You are completely self-sufficient while abroad. Sure, your parents and friends back home may be able to wire you money if you are in need, but when you are in trouble, or in need of something you will have to fend for yourself. And this is a good thing. Experiencing what it’s like to be fully self-sufficient and on your own teaches you more about yourself than you would think.

A chance to broaden the list of cities I would live in after college

This home away from home could become your new residence. As students we are trying to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives and where we want to live. Why not abroad? Anywhere you go, see and explore could be the place you fall in love with and the place you find your passions. There’s a saying to “love the life you live, and live the life you love.” So why not make that happen in a city you are fascinated and inspired by?

A change to learn more about yourself

You are still figuring out who you are. I know I am still finding new things that inspire me and new things that I like to do on a daily basis. While you are abroad, you will have the opportunity to experience things you have never done before. You may find you are interested in something you would’ve never even tried if you didn’t go on that weekend adventure to a random city in Europe. Doing the unknown or what scares you challenges you to think outside the box and broaden your horizons.

Have I convinced you yet? These abstract opportunities aren’t something you see at first glance. You’ve probably heard that study abroad is the thing to do, but what you haven’t heard about is all that you gain in terms of life skills and a broadened worldview. You do more than take photos, go on exciting adventures and see historical buildings. You change.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Abigail Zeitler

Abz Zeitler is a communications student from The University of Texas. She is studying abroad at University of Amsterdam in 2016 and frequently volunteers in Africa with IVHQ and African Impact.  

Website: theresnosuchthingasanexcuse.tumblr.com

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