The Benefits of Studying Abroad

Hiking Perrito Moreno
Me climbing the Perrito Moreno glacier.

Life in another country. It sounds glamourous, right? As an expat I can tell you that it isn’t always exciting and new. Eventually, your adopted country just becomes home. You plateau with the language, get used to the customs and weather. And that’s okay– it’s the beauty of being an expat, a long-term resident abroad.

But lets go back to a time when life abroad was, in fact, more glamourous. It’s a time in my life that I wouldn’t change for anything, and an experience I’m lucky I got the chance to have.

Why I Studied Abroad (and How I Almost Missed My Chance)

Alpacas Argentina
Alpacas in Argentina.

I always knew I would study abroad in college. I worked all throughout high school saving money for the day I had the chance to spend it traveling. But when the time came to apply for a program, I had a problem. I was in a relationship. My boyfriend at the time wasn’t happy about the idea, but didn’t downright tell me not to go either. All the same, many people in my position wouldn’t have gone abroad. I always look back and thank my younger self for having a good head on her shoulders– I didn’t let anyone get in the way of my dreams at such a young age (and you shouldn’t either!).

I had wanted to go to Latin America to improve my Spanish and sip on tropical juices at the beach. But my school had a program that went to Spain and saved me the hassle of having credits transferred, etc. At the last minute I decided on a place I’d never heard of, Granada.

The Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra in Granada

Granada is possibly the most amazing place a student can go to study abroad. Small, safe, and beautiful, offering free food and fun nightlife, I can’t complain about anything. Even when my home-stay “Señora” turned out to be an awful cook (convincing me that I didn’t like Spanish food!) I was having too much fun to notice. The four months flew by, and I wasn’t ready to  leave.

I debated staying in Granada but my curiosity about Latin America wouldn’t go away, so I booked a flight to Buenos Aires. A far cry from the tropical juices and palm trees I’d once envisioned, Buenos Aires was an amazing and vibrant city. Much bigger than Granada, it didn’t offer the same degree of safety and nightlife as I’d grown used to, but instead offered incredible museums, parks, shows, festivals, art, and cuisine.

Argentina was also a wonderful place to travel, and I made the most of my four months there by taking trips to Iguazu Falls (the second biggest in the world), Mendoza (wine country and the Andes mountains), Salta and Jujuy (Salt flats and gorgeous desert), and Patagonia (to see the Perrito Moreno glacier). All I can say about Argentina is that I crave going back every day.

Iguazu Falls
A beautiful walk through Iguazu Falls.
Cactus in Jujuy
Cacti in Jujuy, Argentina.
La Quiaca
La Quiaca, on the border with Bolivia.
Perrito Moreno
The Perrito Moreno glacier.

The Benefits of Studying Abroad

The benefits of studying abroad are truly endless. Living in another country offers countless possibilities for personal growth that you don’t necessarily have back home. Studying abroad puts you in uncomfortable situations sometimes (even buying bread can be difficult!), allowing you to explore parts of your personality you may not know that you had.

Some of the major benefits of studying abroad:

  1. Having time for personal growth and reflection
  2. Challenging yourself on a daily basis
  3. Learning a new language
  4. Building a tolerance for other customs and cultures
  5. Increasing self-confidence
  6. Amazing memories, friendships and photos
  7. More career options upon return

Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t trade my time abroad for anything in the world. While there were some difficult moments, I truly believe that they helped shape the person I am today. I also hope to “study abroad” again in the future, by living in different countries around the world for a few months at a time. I’m not done seeing the world yet!

Have you ever studied abroad? Where?

Comments

  1. I studied in Valladolid, Spain for the same reason you did – avoiding the hassle of credits! I had wanted to study in Granada, so decided to move back to Spain when graduating. Still here and still loving the challenges that being away from home brings, even if Spain is home now.

  2. I think studying abroad is the most valuable education experience you can have! I studied in Granada for a month when I was in high school, which set me on this path where I’m now spending my third year in Spain. I learned way more in my year studying in Madrid than I did in the rest of college. When I talk to undergrads, I can’t stress enough how important it is to travel as much as possible.

  3. Great post. Studying in Sevilla changed my life and opened me up to the world. I’ve taken student groups back to Spain twice, hiked the Camino this past summer and I’m already planning on a solo trip back in March. I have made a point of sharing with my students how rewarding travel is. It is such a special thing to be able to see Spain again and again through fresh eyes.

  4. I plan on going back to university soon to get my degree (did 3 years and dropped out, which at the time was the right decision) and I would love to do this, I’m just not sure if I’d want to go for a Spanish-speaking country because I’d already be fluent in the language before going there or being a little bit more adventurous and going to a country where I don’t speak the language in order to learn a new language in addition to everything else I’d be doing.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  5. I really liked and appreciated this post. I’m moving to Spain in a few weeks to get my Masters after living in the same city in the U.S. my entire life. I’m nervous & excited all at once. I appreciate the insight of your experiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *