These aren’t your mom’s reasons for studying abroad
Published: Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2011 10:11
Two years ago at my freshman orientation, I remember walking around the student organization fair visiting various groups, as well as attempting to ignore my parents' "helpful suggestions." One of the unwanted tips came from my mother, and that was to visit the study abroad table. "One of my biggest regrets of college is not studying abroad," she told me, as I reluctantly walked over to converse with the people displaying an overwhelming number of pamphlets.
Two years later, as much as it pains me to admit this, my mother was right: studying abroad in Oviedo, Spain was one of the best experiences I've ever had. And with International Education Week coming up, I feel there's no better time to put in my endorsement of this invaluable experience.
Now, I'm not naïve; I know you, like me, have probably heard it all before. You get to experience a new culture, travel, learn about yourself — you get the picture. I'll try not to bore you with what you can find in the pamphlets, and instead give you a less obvious look at what study abroad can offer.
One the coolest things for me was meeting my host mom, whom I still talk to on a regular basis. Sharing our lives across the Atlantic, with all their similarities and differences, is one of the highlights of my week. I got lucky, in that our personalities easily mesh; we quickly found out that we both liked politics and quirky TV shows, among other things. However, even those who don't get so lucky can meet new friends in other ways.
Which brings me to my next reason why you should study abroad: the nightlife. That's the one thing the study abroad office WON'T tell you. At least in Spain, you start out by socializing with lots of people in big, outdoor areas, and then go bar hopping the rest of the night. And in Spain, the night doesn't end at 2 or 3 a.m., like in the U.S. Instead, you don't even think about going out until midnight, and stay out until 6 am. Now, I know I'm only talking about Spain, but from what friends have told me after studying in other European countries and in South America, U.S. nightlife still doesn't even compare.
On a more serious note, another good reason to study abroad isn't just to experience a new culture, but to be able to examine our own culture from a different perspective. When all you've known is the U.S., you start to take certain things for granted that perhaps deserve more thought, such as certain political ideologies and social mores. For me, I know it was eye-opening to be in Europe during Osama bin Laden's assassination, in that I could view Americans' reactions to it from the point of view of an outsider.
While I could mention the countless other reasons to study abroad, like I said, you've probably already heard most of them. However, I would still suggest taking into account both the more obvious reasons to study abroad, as well as the few points I've laid out, and give some serious thought to this opportunity. Ask yourself: when else in life can you just pack up, go to another country and return back in a few months with little hassle?