If you guys haven’t noticed it yet, I can tell you that next to my desire of wearing nice fashionable clothes, travelling is my top desire and priority. Because of this, I truly value vacation days now that I started working and it is also the reason why I miss my student days, which you can read about here. One of the great attributes of studying is the opportunity to study abroad, which I had to the pleasure of doing not just once, but twice during my degrees.
Going abroad during a degree has become an important component of a stunning resume and is a fast growing trend among University students. According to UNESCO, the number of international students has increased about 12 percent year by year in the 21st century, where the number of US students who studied abroad was 300,000 in 2016 while around 1 million students from other countries studied abroad in the States. Below, I’d like to share with you about why, when, and where I went abroad, which I hope will inspire you to consider doing as well if you’re in your student years and would like an international experience!
Growing up in a smaller city, I always wanted to see as much of the world as possible. It all began when I took the first leap after my high school years and went to England alone for 6 months. I packed my bags and flew to England without having secured a job or proper accommodation. It was my first and most chaotic experience abroad but it was also the most profitable one when it comes to personal growth.
After high school, I decided to go for a bachelor’s degree in Information Science, which would take me around 3 years to finish. Having heard that you could do a semester abroad, I of course researched into how I could make it happen. Fast forward a few semesters and I stood in the situation of having to choose the university at which I would spend the following 6 months. I always found Australia and especially, Sydney, interesting but so was California! In the end, I decided that Sydney could wait and booked my ticket to the city of Angels.
Needless to say, I had a blast during those six months in L.A. I did the classic California road trip, spent several weekends in Vegas partying, walked on the Hollywood Boulevard, and explored the Asian culinary scene in L.A as well as in Orange County. Those six months passed by in the blink of an eye. I met people who turned into great friends.
The Land Down Under
Two years after the incredibly memorable semester abroad in California, I had started my master’s degree and I figured that it was my last chance to do another semester abroad somewhere and take the opportunity to travel and experience another culture. I took a rain check on Sydney back then so it was obvious that the arrival destination on my ticket would say Sydney this time.
Having gone through the administrative hustle of doing a semester abroad once already, organizing the trip to Sydney was a walk in the park. Now don’t get me wrong..California was a GREAT experience. I simply love the L.A vibes and the States in general (especially the cheap clothes), but Sydney turned out to be nothing like I imagined. I did the mandatory Great Ocean Road trip, adventured in Middle Earth on New Zealand (any Lord of the Rings fans?), and visited cities like Melbourne all of which were extremely cool but the most amazing thing about Sydney? The people!
I simply LOVED how laid back they were. Everyone was so friendly, open, and fun to hang out with. Whenever I went to an event, I never got disappointed because it always turned out to be so much fun. I had not seen that kind of group “spirit” before where I could get along with each of the 20-30 people whom I went out with. I will always remember the laidback attitude and solidarity of the aussies that I met and will definitely visit this amazing country again.
Why and How I Did It?
Europe itself offers a high level of education with numerous Universities occupying the Top University Ranking list, so it may be of wonder why I chose to go through the trouble of organizing two whole semesters in places that are 10 thousand kilometers away from my home? The answer, besides being able to see more of the world, is the leap to personal growth. I first stepped out of my comfort zone with the trip to England and once you have tried to do that and have gotten the taste of it, you will want more. I gained so much confidence from my trips to England, USA, and Australia and I am certain that I wouldn’t grow into the person I am today if not for the experience there. There are numerous reasons as to why you should grasp the opportunity to go abroad but here are the ones that I found to be very accurate:
- Experience a different education system: You would think that the behavior in a classroom would be the same everywhere but think again. I was used to a European classroom being quite where only a couple of students would raise their hands when a professor asked a question. That’s why I was shocked during my first lecture in the states where more than half of the class raised their hands to answer a question. This is natural in the states to due to the “participation grade” that accounts for up to 20% of your total grade. So if you want to get good grades in the states, start practicing your hand raising skills!
- Improve your linguistic skills: Depending on your interests, travelling to a country to learn their native language is the best way to improve your language proficiency. I always wanted to up my English skills and living in the States and Australia has definitely done a great deal on that front.
- Become independent: Because you are abroad, especially if you went alone like I did, you will be forced to be independent. Yes, for many, independency in terms of having to do everything yourself (finding accommodation, friends, grocery shopping, cooking etc.) is very uncomfortable, but trust me..if that is you, going abroad will change your life. You will learn independency to take care of yourself in no time because well..you have to in order to survive. These skills are necessary when adulthood kicks in, so you may as well jump into the water now rather than later.
- Create unforgettable memories: Because you´re independent, you will be forced to find friends to do activities and to travel with. It may take some time to find some with whom you click but once you have, fun times will be had. My trips throughout California, Nevada, Mexico, and Australia are still bright and clear in my mind as if I did it just a few weeks ago. These memories will be stuck in your head forever, but of course it doesn´t hurt to capture them through pictures and videos as well!
- Give your resume a kick: International experience whether it is studying or working abroad has become more and more attracting on a resume. You can get great grades in your home university, but adding that experience abroad will indeed improve your chances of getting a job later. I have done several internships where the managers always showed an interest in my experience abroad during the interviews, so trust me when I say that it does make a difference!
Now that you are sold and are considering the whole going abroad experience, the next step is of course to figure out HOW you can make it happen. It all depends on your situation such as the degree you are doing, where, when, and for how long you want to go for. To limit the scope of organization, these questions should help:
- What degree are you doing? Are you doing a bachelor´s or a master´s? What is your major? Depending on the direction of your study, you may find it either easier or harder to go abroad. Business majors usually have it easy because of its popularity and thereby its vast number of courses that are offered to international students.
- Do you want to do a semester or a whole degree abroad? If it´s your first time going abroad, going for a whole degree may be too big of a mouthful but hey..go big or go home, right? For the rest us who think that a short term stay abroad in the form of a semester is enough, the organizing of the trip is somewhat easier, but can still be overwhelming if it´s your first time.
- Does your University have exchange programs? If your University has exchange programs with others then you could apply for that if they collaborate with a University that is located where you want to go. The advantage here is that you will get a lot of administrative help from the University itself because it´s their program and you won´t have to pay tuition. However, rarely does your University have a collaboration with one that is located exactly where you wish to go. Therefore, the other option is to find your desired University and apply yourself. This option gives you flexibility but you have to finance the tuition yourself – either out of your own pocket or by applying for funds.
These questions are merely some of the initial questions that you need to clarify. The planning itself requires much more work as well as planning. To make it super easy for you to organize, I have created a free “Planning Tool For Going Abroad” that consists of checklists, deadlines, and useful tips on how to make your trip happen. If you would like this free Planning Tool, please stay tuned for my upcoming post (click here) dedicated to the planning of a trip abroad! Until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend!