Studying abroad can be a great way to get your feet wet and experience the world while also working towards finishing your degree. Sounds ideal, right? But wait! There are some downsides.
Here are some pros and cons of studying abroad, and how to tell if studying abroad is right for you.
- Endless Program Possibilities: Want to live in Spain and finish your Spanish major or minor? There’s a program for that. Want to experience Semester at Sea, visit between 10 and 15 countries in a semester and live on a boat for 4 months? There’s a program for that too. Interested in living in China, Brazil or France? Possibilities are practically endless! All it takes is a little research to find your ideal semester abroad.
- Time: Very often, trips are shorter than we would all like, but the study abroad experience is typically between four and six months. This means you have plenty of time to learn and experience a new culture, and sometimes a variety of cultures, without worrying about cramming it all into two weeks.
- Weekend and Holiday Travel: You will have time to take a few, if not many, side trips. Suddenly, you’re not just learning about your host countries culture, but a slew of others. This is especially true if you choose to live and study in Europe. Spain, Italy, France… oh my!
- Structure: Programs generally include at least a few get-to-know-you nights out on the town with all students. There will also be one-to-two weekend excursions planned outside of the city, with events, dinners, hotel and transportation included. These activities are a great way to get to know your host country and fellow study abroad-ers, so no need to worry about making friends!
- Independence: Frolicking around the world with new friends, making your own informed decisions about where to go and what to see, all while studying and living in a new country is empowering. Your experiences abroad will not only ignite a love of travel, but hopefully a love of independence as well. Plus, it will look great on your resume.
- Cost: Studying abroad is expensive. Factor in flights, visas, cost of school, room and board, food, fun, and any additional travel you’d like to do while in your host country, and you’re looking at a pretty penny for one semester.
- Adjusting to a new way of life: It’s not a vacation, and transitioning to a new culture, lifestyle, routine and city can be stressful while in school. You will probably spend the first few weeks not only becoming accustomed to the time difference, but also figuring out how to get around on public transportation, making friends, and getting your class load under control. Expect to feel out of your element and overwhelmed at first. The transition phase can be difficult!
- Credit Transfer: Most people study abroad their third year of college, which is when you begin classes to complete your major field of study. This may mean that the classes you really want to take while you’re abroad will not transfer back to your home university. Do some research before you leave and make sure your credits will transfer, or face an additional semester of school back at home.
- The Living Situation: You will have the opportunity to choose whether you would like to live with a host family or in an apartment with other students. But what if you don’t get along with your new roommates? Living with people can be hard, and it’s very difficult to move to a new living situation after everyone is settled in. You may be stuck!
- Readjusting to life at home: You may not want to leave your host country. On the other hand, you may be dying to get on that plane. Either way, readjusting to life back at home can be as challenging, if not more challenging, than getting used to life abroad. You will have learned a lot and changed immensely, while things at home may or may not have stayed the same.