One of the most beneficial things I have ever done in my life is study abroad. In 2013 I decided (somewhat on a whim) to spend the summer abroad in Brazil. I didn’t have friends that were going with me and I knew I would have to take out a fairly large loan to afford it, but in a way I knew it was something I needed to do. As my blog progresses, I will be pulling many stories from my time in Brazil, but first I think it’s important to understand the concept of studying abroad.
If you ask somebody who studied abroad in college, “what was the best thing you did during those four years?” I would guess that around 99.99% of the answers will be “studying abroad.” After my time in Brazil I can say with confidence it was the best thing I did while obtaining my undergrad. Once you have decided that you want to take on the challenge of living in another country, the first step (and arguably the most important) is deciding your country of study. I chose Brazil based on three criteria: my Portuguese heritage, the amount of outdoor activities that Florianopolis had to offer, and the available classes. If you are an outdoor person, maybe a major bustling city isn’t the perfect place for you to study.
Another important thing to think about is cultural immersion. Studying abroad in a country like Brazil or China will have a much larger culture shock than countries such as the United Kingdom or Australia. There were numerous students in Brazil with me who couldn’t handle the cultural difference and rarely left their apartment. I always lean more toward the “just go for it!” mindset because I believe cultural immersion is important but it’s definitely something to think about when planning. Wherever you go, keep an open mind when it comes to change and be ready to go out of your comfort zone.
Another tip I would give for studying abroad is to go alone. It might seem scary but I am completely sold that it is the best way to experience another country. Don’t get me wrong, exploring Germany with three of your best friends will probably be a great trip that leaves you with fond memories, but there are vast differences in group and solo travel. Traveling without friends truly pushes you out of your comfort zone and into a new culture. It forces you to interact with strangers and locals that you otherwise might not have talked to.
I could probably write ten pages right now about studying abroad but that will have to wait. If you are still deciding on whether or not you should study abroad, just remember that opportunities like these wont be around forever. So get up, walk to you nearest study abroad consortium, sign up, and prepare to have the time of your life.
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