study abroad

When I first decided to study abroad my first semester of sophomore year everyone thought I was crazy. The staff at the study abroad office were confused and repeatedly told me I would be the youngest one there, which was fine with me because I was beyond ready to go. Studying abroad truly is an experience that everyone in college should take advantage of because it will change your life.

At first, it was just an opportunity to finally visit London and travel, while still getting college credits (all pass/fail which made life less stressful). I also lucked out because I went to an English speaking country and I didn’t have to worry about taking another language and instead got to take an Intro to Photography course. Even without having to learn a new language it’s a chance to immerse yourself in another culture and learn a different way of life.

Traveling abroad is a great way to develop some independence, you’re now placed in a foreign country (most likely without knowing anyone) and have to stand on your own two feet. This is a “skill” on your resume, you are able to adapt in a new environment, work independently and communicate with people from different cultures and viewpoints.

In case you’re not worried about the practical application of study abroad for jobs and just want to get away, travel, drink and meet new people, study abroad is still for you. Some of the best memories I have are from my time spent abroad and I’ve made friends for life. I still keep in touch with many of the people I met and they continue to be my go-to support team. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to someone from my undergrad study abroad experience.

You go through so many experiences with the people you study abroad with that it’s only inevitable you’re going to become fast friends. After all you’ve gone through culture shock together and probably bonded over missing home, in addition to all the adventures. Not to mention the fact that you’re going to classes with these people, living with them and going out with them on a daily basis. And if you’re anything like my group, at the end you’re so attached and depressed to be leaving one another that you will actually see how many mattresses you can fit in the room (or the hallway) so you can spend your last nights together.

These people are more than just friends to me, they’re my family. We’ve celebrated birthdays, organised trick-or-treating for our English friends and hosted an American Thanksgiving. We shared the chores of cleaning, gave sisterly and motherly advice when our family wasn’t there to skype because of the time differences and we became better friends because of it.

In addition to it being all fun and games it’s a unique life-changing experience and I can speak from personal experience, studying abroad has completely changed not only my life but who I am as a person. When you’re forced to live in a new place with a different lifestyle and possible language differences, you find deep down you have a different personality. Typically, this is the cause of “reverse culture shock,” which hit me hard, but when you find a way to combine your new self and your old self to create a “third culture formation” you’re set. This third culture formation will help determine how you deal with situations in the future, be it cancelled fights home, relationships, jobs, etc.

Many people (especially parents) have this misconception that studying abroad is a luxury that doesn’t help further your future, unless you’ve become fluent in another language in this ever growing global world. However, studying abroad is so much more and the benefits are there even if you don’t see them immediately. For example, you’re more open to change and willing to adapt when you get a job offer across the country or in a different country because you’ve done it before and survived.

What I’ve learned since going back abroad for my MA and going on different job and internship interviews is that my study abroad has given me a lot of life skills that I’m able to spin into marketable workplace skills. It’s all about perspective. I might be biased but I think everyone should take advantage of study abroad programs as an undergrad because it’s an invaluable experience.

Life was meant to be lived and how many chances in your life are you going to get to pick up and move to another country for a few months, while still working towards something bigger. Go and find adventure and discover a new personality without yourself (you might like them better) and when you move back home take the experiences back with you. Study abroad can change your life if you give it the chance and stay open to the possibilities.


Read this post and other stories on Staci’s personal blog

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  • Hello Staci, I came across this post because my daughter will be going to study in London in the fall. She is only 19 and I was trying to find some support for her and for myself (maybe I should be writing to your mother??). This post made me feel better, but then I went to your blog and started to read about the whole human trafficking. I had to stop after the first few sentences to calm the panic attack I was having, and I confess I could not finish. So I am confused in your position, why are you writing about that? Did you come across it yourself? Your friends? How dangerous is it going to be for her?

  • As a mother’s outlook on studying abroad I was not on this page at first. After Staci had some very serious talks with me , I decided she truly wanted to do this. She was always a determined child and had a great head on her shoulder. She is very mature and I had to let her go. As a mother you want to keep them under your wings at all times but it was her time to fly. I do recommend going over with your child. First it gives all a piece of mind where they are staying and a safe feeling they will be ok. Walk around the campus and nearby areas. It was my first time in London as well. After a week we said our goodbyes. Staci had a wonderful experience. Wonderful friends. I love her telling me how she made a full thanksgiving dinner in such a tiny kitchen. She does still keep in contact with her friends and last year one lovely girl stayed with us for several days. As I wrap this up we as parents have to remind ourselves that we chose our life, now we must let them live theirs. As I’m not thrilled she is in London for her MA I know it is her dream. She’s more than excelling and turning into a wonderful woman! Isn’t this what we want for them. Well, I do.

  • First let me say congratulations for your daughter on taking this exciting step in her academic career, I too was just 19 when I first studied abroad in London. While it can be daunting for the parents, just see my moms comments above, you should in no way be worried for her safety regarding human trafficking.

    My writings about trafficking on my outside blog are a reflection of my academic career (and current dissertation) researching human trafficking all around the world, which includes both the U.S. and UK. I want to note that my interest in this area is purely academic and not a reflection of having a personal experience or even knowing someone who was effected.

    I chose that post as a type of educational awareness for those who didn’t realize it occurs in every single country in the world. I choose to focus on the UK solely because that’s where I’m currently studying and researching. That being said, I’ve never once worried about the threat of human trafficking whilst in London just like I wouldn’t when visiting Atlanta, Georgia (the second largest trafficking center in the U.S.).

    While I could get into the statistics of trafficking, I won’t, but I do want to reasure you that trafficking while a real problem in the world is not something you should be concerned about while your daughter is abroad. However, like any city you need to keep your wits about you, both in London and traveling around Europe.

    I hope this explanation has put you at ease as to why I have posts about human trafficking. At the end of the day I hope you find some ease and support about your daughters choice to study abroad because it is truly something I would never trade. It’s not only a wonderful opportunity for travel but for growth and independence.

    Warmest wishes for you and your daughter.

  • Thank you for the kind response. I was joking about asking your mother, but I’m glad she took the time to write, too. I am glad to hear you have not experienced anything yourself. I hope you understand that I was in search of some information that was going to make me feel better. I though your blog was going to be about how it was for you, how you figured out things, your experiences and that kind of thing. So for me to see “human trafficking” was a bit of a shock. It’s been a hard week because we took the time (and expense) to visit the campus and the dorms earlier this year and that gave me more peace of mind, but now they are saying she will have to stay in another town we haven’t been and things are not going as smoothly as we hoped. A friend suggested I find someone who had been through it and could answer questions. I appreciate the kind and understanding manner in which you responded. Thank you. All the best to you and your mom 🙂

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