Just before the pandemic started in 2020, I was able to study abroad in Costa Rica. It was an experience I will never forget, and any time I can, I advocate for people to have their own study abroad experience if at all possible. Here are a few of the things studying abroad can offer you the opportunity to do:
Explore a new country.
As the name implies, studying abroad requires you to leave your home country and go to a new place. Most people in their 20s are already obsessed with traveling, so why not get some college credit and visit new countries at the same time?
For my program, we obviously had class during the week, but the professors gave us more than enough time to finish our assignments, so most of the time, the weekends were ours to do what we pleased. Almost every weekend, we traveled to a different part of the country whether it be a few miles away or a whole day’s journey. We definitely took advantage of the efficient public transportation system. It was during this time that I was first exposed to hostels, backpacking, and navigating a bus system.
Brush up on your language skills.
Studying abroad is the perfect time to practice your language skills. You get to choose which country you study in, which means you can choose a country that speaks a language you have learned or want to learn. You will have the opportunity to practice the language either by taking a class or just by being surrounded by that culture.
I started learning Spanish in middle school and continued onto college, but I was most fluent in the language while I was studying abroad. I lived with a host mom that only spoke Spanish, so I was forced to speak Spanish everyday. At times, it can be exhausting and a little frustrating trying to express yourself in a non-native tongue, but you will 100% be better at the language by the end of your trip.
Take classes your college may not offer.
Most study abroad programs specialize in something, whether it be fine arts, language, STEM, or history. Each program may have some courses that your school back home doesn’t offer.
For example, I started off wanting to study marine biology, but since I stayed in a land-locked state (Nevada), studying marine biology was not an option. I ended up studying its close relative, ecology, but I still wanted some marine experience so I chose a study abroad program that specialized in animal and marine studies. I was able to take courses in both tropical ecology and marine biology!
What was super cool about my program was that each course was taught by an actual expert in the field. I was being taught about marine biology by a marine biologist. I took a women’s health study course from an actual medical doctor. I took latin dance courses from a professional dancer.
Meet new people.
You’ll get to make friends with people from your host country and the other students who traveled with you. Even though your fellow “exchange students” came from the same country as you, more than likely, you will be from different states, so when you go back home, you will have a friend to visit in different parts of your home country.
Broaden your world perspective.
There is so much more to life than just the bubble you are in. There is more outside of your city, outside of your state, outside of your country. Part of being a good citizen of the world is being exposed to cultures that you may not be used to. Gaining this experience helps you to understand and appreciate other people even if how they live is different from you.
Make memories to last a lifetime
It’s been three years and I still think about this trip. It has helped me be a top competitor for many career/educational opportunities, given me friends that I still talk to today, and provided me with endless stories.
If you get the opportunity, STUDY ABROAD!! The programs are usually the same price, if not cheaper than tuition at your current school. Schedule an appointment with your advisor today to go over your study abroad options.