Skimming through the archives of one of my go-to news sites, PolicyMic, I was aghast to come across an article that goes against everything I believe in: 5 Reasons College Students Should Not Study Abroad. At first glance I assumed this was a pressure point piece, being controversial as a way to assure a rush of comments and readers. Scrolling down to the comments my belief was affirmed by the 50+ responses to the article from outraged wanderlusters like myself who shared the opinion that living abroad is the experience of a lifetime.
Still there is something to be said for the reasons listed for not going abroad. They are the same excuses I heard time and time again from friends in college defending their decision to stay put. While I understand that there are numerous factors that go into the decision to live abroad I think it is important to differentiate between reasons and excuses.
So in defense of travel, self-exploration and discovery, here is my response to the 5 Reasons College Students Should Not Study Abroad:
1. You probably will not get a better education overseas
First off, to claim that American universities are the best in the world is quite an arrogant assumption (a glance at the World University Ranking shows that the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada, China, Australia, Japan, Korea, Denmark and Germany all have universities that rival those in the United States). More importantly however, it is important to acknowledge that an education cannot be confined to things learned in a classroom. Living abroad you are immersed in a new culture which allows you to develop skills important in the modern, globalized workplace. In fact, a report published just last year by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs found that businesses are putting increasing emphasis on the importance of intercultural skills and that job seekers benefit from international experiences when competing for jobs (See Why Do An Internship Abroad).
2. It's expensive
Debt is a pressure most college students face and budgeting for going abroad can be intimidating. When it comes down to it, interning or studying abroad is similar to the investment you make in going to college. It requires research and planning but in the end you come out being a more confident, self-aware person with experiences that will give you an edge when looking for a job. Living abroad is an experience that allows you to develop a global network, broaden your horizon and learn intercultural skills that will follow you the rest of you life. My colleague Alex does a fantastic job in summing up the benefits in his post, Why Should I Pay to Intern Abroad? You can also check out the Top 8 Tips to Save Money Abroad and the equally important Traveling on a Budget: Drinking Abroad for more ideas on how to reduce costs.
3. You can step out of your comfort zone at home
There are always opportunities to step outside your comfort zone no matter what environment you’re in. However, joining a campus organization or finding a new hangout spot hardly compares to the challenges you face traveling independently in a new country. It is scary to leave behind everything you know for a foreign place full of unfamiliar faces. The stages of going abroad remind me very much of that one crazy time I decided to jump out of a plane. There was excitement, followed by fear, followed by, “What the hell do you think you are doing?” It all came to a pinnacle when I was in the air feeling excited, nervous, awestruck and immensely happy I had decided to take the leap. What’s more is that being abroad allows you to see your own culture through the lens of another country which helps you to develop a keen sense self-awareness and an appreciation of the world around you that is impossible to hone from inside the U.S.
4. Now is not the only time in your life you can travel or live abroad
This may not be the only time in your life you can travel or live abroad, but it is certainly the easiest time to. Freedom is a luxury afforded to 20-somethings that quickly disappears as you get absorbed in a career, find a serious partner, and eventually start a family. The ability to pick up and go is one that we tend to take for granted. This is a time in your life where you are learning, growing and becoming comfortable with yourself. What better place to do all of that self-discovery than in Dublin, Sydney, Barcelona, Florence, Milan, Paris, or (my personal favorite) London?
5. You miss out
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a common ailment of those avoiding the abroad experience. Let me just show you a few of the things our London interns have done the mere two weeks since they’ve been in the UK:
Who has FOMO now?
Mallory is a former Washingtonian studying in London, working towards her MA in Global Media & Transnational Communication. As a Program Coordinator for Global Experiences she gets to share her love of London with interns and help them to make the most of their experience abroad. She loves good food, good wine, and good company. She suffers from chronic wanderlust.
Photo Credits: Melissa Alavro, photography intern in London