Why Everyone Should Study Abroad: From a Student to a Student


I’ll provide a brief introduction before I get going on this tangent. My name is Kyle Loftus and I’m currently a senior at Ohio University. I’m a video production major with a passion for writing, photography, adventure, and travel. Last summer I planned and executed a solo-backpacking trip around Europe. Additionally, I studied abroad in Letterkenny, Ireland. Through my travels I got to experience incredibly unique cultures, learn new languages, acquire new taste buds, visit world-renowned landmarks, and make friendships with people all over the globe. I’m writing this piece to encourage everyone no matter how young or old to get out and experience the world. Although I’m speaking directly about studying abroad, this piece is binding to travel & adventure as a whole. Additionally, I’m writing this piece because I’ve grown frustrated with people’s complacency. I’m tired of people settling with what they are instead of working towards what they can be. I’m tired of hearing people complain about their boring lives all-the-while doing nothing about it. I’m tired of ignorance clouding so many minds. I’m tired of the phrase “I can’t do it” or “I don’t have the money” because you can. I’m not sure, maybe it's fear of the unknown. Maybe it’s fear of taking the chance. Whatever the reason is, the phenomenon that occurs when breaking through that fear and traveling abroad is incredible so TAKE A CHANCE AND MAKE IT HAPPEN.

Here are my top ten reasons to study abroad:

1.     Expand your horizon.

2.     Acquire an open-mind.

3.     Get in touch with your ancestry.

4.     Learn a new language.

5.     Looks great on a resume.

6.     Take control of your life.

7.     Make friendships that will last a lifetime.

8.     Build a global network.

9.     Find your passion in life.

10. A Life-changing experience.

 

1. Expand your horizon.

The world has an infinite supply of beauty and mystery ripe for the taking. There are endless amounts of experiences waiting for you from the awe-inspiring architecture of Prague Castle to the crystal clear waters of Cinque Terre. In every country there lies monuments, museums, landmarks etc. that have defined world history. Take a second and let that sink in…WORLD history. You will gain a better understanding of the world by actually seeing it, hearing it, and feeling it. Pictures are worth a thousand words, but a thousand words won’t come close to seeing Michael Angelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece in person. Textbooks are great but if you truly want to learn about Pompeii you should start by physically going there. Studying abroad will provide you with an immeasurable amount of genuine knowledge that no book with the government mandated stamp-of-approval can provide.

 

2. Acquire an open-mind.

Arguably one of the greatest qualities I acquired while studying abroad was an open-mind. Frank Zappa says it best, “A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work unless it’s open.” By completely immersing yourself in a different country and culture you’ll learn how the United States has influenced you from top to bottom. Furthermore, you’ll learn how the United States has impacted the world. Studying abroad will allow you to educate others and dispel stereotypes. It provides you the opportunity to be a representative of your country and culture. By plunging yourself in a new culture you can truly understand your own. When you open your mind to new ideas and perspectives you automatically become exposed to the differences as well as the similarities your culture shares in correspondence to another. Additionally, you’ll learn about an entirely new way of life fueled by different values and beliefs. Studying abroad will challenge the way you see the world. It will encourage you to openly observe and discuss everything around you. Studying abroad will allow you to push aside the influence of mainstream media and finally form as well as validate your OWN perspective on life.

 

3. Get in touch with your ancestry.

There’s nothing quite like getting to learn about where you can from and I’m not talking about childbirth. That’s a different story for a different day. I’m talking about getting in touch with your roots. Who planted the seed for your family name? Who was the first to travel to the states? Where did your ancestors reside? Learning about my heritage was absolutely incredible. I got to study abroad in Ireland and being Irish made the experience that much more mesmerizing. You discover a whole new side of yourself that you never knew about. You truly feel a deeper connection to where you came from. You may even find yourself like me, constantly craving more information in a desire to become more grounded in what stream of miracles led to you being here today. Furthermore, you’ll grow more connected to the land your ancestors came from. Still to this day I feel a sense of connection to Ireland. I still carry Ireland with me from the profound silence of Mt. Errigal to the breathtaking views off of the Cliffs of Moher.

 

4. Learn a new language.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, nobody gets anything out of a language course except hoping to scrape by the semester with a B. The only way to truly learn and become fluent in a different language is to be submerged in it. This goes hand-in-hand with driving. You can read as many pamphlets and do as many virtual simulators as you want but the only way you’ll ever learn to drive is by doing it. I can’t begin to stress the importance of being able to speak multiple languages. Knowing a foreign language will dramatically improve your learning process, communication skills, and present you with a whole new world of opportunities. Did you know that over 880 million people speak mandarin as their primary language? Go out and ask 100 random American’s if they speak mandarin fluently and see how many respond yes. My guess is less than 10. My point with this is being, you become 10x more valuable simply by knowing another language. Not only that, a whole new world of opportunity opens its doors to you. Imagine if you knew 3-4 different languages…

 

5. Looks great on a resume.

International experience is a crucial trait that cannot be undermined in our current era. The world is growing more connected every single day, and in correlation the necessity to being able to interact and communicate with others across the globe is imperative. A study abroad experience is a resume goldmine. No volunteer service, or work history can come close to comparing to having study abroad experience in the eyes of an employer. Companies are constantly seeking out the next best candidate for their new positions. Holding a manager position at your local grocery store is great, but that isn’t going to jump off the page. You know what will? Being able to say you experienced a new culture, studied a new language, made global connections, learned to be completely independent, and did it all in a foreign country. Nothing says hire me quite like “studied abroad” on a resume.

 

6. Take control of your life.

Although studying abroad is a great resume builder, I think it is a far better personal development course. Forcing yourself to sum up the courage to study in a country where you know nobody will make you mentally and emotionally stronger than you could ever imagine. I can’t emphasize how beneficial forcing yourself outside your comfort zone can be. Nothing can make you a stronger you than having to face your fears because when you triumph (and you will) you come out more confident, optimistic, and driven than ever before. Yes you will face many trials and tribulations. At times you’ll be discourage, but you’ll be amazed at your own ability to overcome adversity. No matter how hard a task may be you’ll come out on top. You’ll be astonished by your ability to persevere to the next challenge. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself seeking the next big challenge with a get-up-and-go attitude and that’s when truly you begin to realize your full potential. Furthermore, constantly learning how to interact with people in a culture your unfamiliar with will force you to pay attention to detail. The communication skills that you will acquire are priceless and can’t be taught. Studying abroad will teach you what it truly means to overcome adversity. Although college is a great crash course, it doesn’t teach you to how to communicate or find transportation without quickly typing in the address on Google maps. College won’t teach you how to get by with nearly nothing like studying abroad will. College won’t show you how to be organized and manage your time like studying abroad will. You’ll think you only have a minute to spare in the day and then you’ll study abroad and learn how to turn that minute into two hours. Studying abroad for one semester will teach you how to manage your finances, work, school, and social life faster than any four-year college can. Studying abroad will teach you to be completely independent and take full control of your life.

 

7. Make friendships that will last a lifetime.

The relationships you form while you study abroad are arguably the deepest bonds you will ever develop. There is nothing quite like meeting people with different backgrounds as well as cultures from that of your own and taking on life changing experiences. Studying abroad will force you outside your comfort zone.  It will encourage you to engage with people you may never otherwise have. It allows you to open up your mind to different people and ideas. Studying abroad will teach you to condemn any subjective thoughts you may have previously held. It encourages understanding and compassion. I never knew anyone I studied abroad with and now I consider them all some of my closest friends. I had no idea who any of them were or if we had the slightest bit of common ground. Now… now I can tell you all about them. Despite not knowing anyone on my trip I came back having discovered that we share so much in common and care for each other regardless of our differences. Additionally, studying abroad will put your companions and yourself in the face of trying times but it is through these times you build a friendship unlike any other. The bond you will build with your companions will be nearly indestructible as you mold it over the course of your time abroad through experiencing a new culture, language, and landscape together.

 

8. Build a global network.

The relationships formed while studying abroad won’t just be with those traveling with you but people from all walks of life. You’ll quickly find that there are endless amounts of people that wish to travel and learn about other cultures just like yourself. I made so many friends through my travels simply by sharing my experiences and lifestyle back home. It felt as though we were feeding off each other’s energy asking question after question, constantly comparing the lives we led. It was humbling to meet so many people that were genuinely kind and interested in me. I didn’t feel like a stranger in a local’s only bar, I felt like a regular. People were excited to hear about my story and were more than open to sharing theirs. I was amazed at the kindness and generosity of so many. I made friends with a team of RNLI members. I got to see all different parts of Ireland because I met so many amazing people that were more than willing to show me around and put a roof over my head. I received complementary meals for genuine conversations; I got to experience the Galway Film Fleadh, I even raised my glass with Dubliners in celebration to good health (sláinte). These memories are ones I will never forget. Furthermore, these relationships are ones I’ll hold and cherish forever. Not only that, I now have numerous friends from all over Ireland that I know I can always reach out to. It’s absolutely critical to have a quality network to be successful and having a global one puts you ahead of the pack. I now have friends I can contact for insight, business opportunities, global ventures or assistance in whatever my next undertakings may be. It’s not about what you know but who you know.

 

9. Find your passion in life.

To me life had always seemed to have a designated path. I was told time and time again that I could do anything I wanted. Sadly, I never knew what I wanted because I never got to find out for myself. All my life I was taught that I had to get through high school, go to a good college, get a degree, and then get a quality job. First off, I didn’t want a job I wanted a career. I wanted something I would look forward to doing everyday but I had no idea what that would be. I knew I was proficient at writing and relatively athletic but even in high school I was pretty aware there wasn’t an occupation for that. It wasn’t until I traveled abroad that I truly found my passion for writing, photography, and videography come alive. Furthermore, it’s why I’m writing this for you today. Traveling abroad put me in a place I had never been before. I was completely independent. I didn’t have outside voices trying to make my life decisions for me. Pop culture and mainstream media wasn’t ringing in my ear. I was finally able to think for myself and discovered what motivated me and truly made me happy. I was astonished at how much I learned about myself in such a short period of time compared to the years of confusion I had back home as I constantly juggled the opinions of others instead of taking the time to acknowledge my own. Traveling abroad is the perfect opportunity to truly discover yourself and define what you’re passionate about.

 

10. A life-changing experience.

I’ve already ranted for long enough about studying abroad and if what I’ve previously stated hasn’t given you food for thought, I don’t know what will. To put it plain and simple, there’s nothing like it. Studying abroad was an unforgettable experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I know you may be worried about the things you’ll miss out on back home as well as being thousands of miles away, I know I was but trust me when I say it’s beyond worth it. Studying abroad will give you unbreakable bonds. It will teach you so much about yourself and your untapped potential. It will build your character beyond proportion. It will open your mind up to endless possibilities. It will allow you to take full control of your life. Studying abroad truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity so don’t let it pass you by.

Good Shooting,

 Kal