Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad

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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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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.

Did you study abroad while in college? Was it hard to come home? What advice do you have for solo travelers who are planning a semester abroad?

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About Author

Ellen wanders. She wandered her way through Europe in 2007 during a semester abroad in Madrid, then through parts of the South Pacific after college graduation, and spent a year in South and Central America during 2010. Most recently, she went on a solo adventure south of the border to research and write the travel guidebook Go Girl Guides: Mexico.

8 Comments

  1. I studied abroad with ISEP in Kansas for a year and it’s been one the most amazing experience in my life so far! I had a great time, met lots of different people, traveled through the US and experienced a different education system! If I have one advice to give about coming back home after an amazing year, it would be to make sure you have things to do when you return, call your friends, schedule days-out, even go on a little trip, because there’s nothing worse than coming home to an empty house.

  2. Definitely agree with all those pros and to add a few more… a more international resume makes you look better to employers, you might improve your language skills, your Facebook profile will be more interesting (kidding), and the amazing memories will last you a lifetime!! Do it, you won’t regret it!

  3. Yes I love all of those pros! Studying abroad hooked me on travel. I had some of the most memorable experiences that semester, and my faceboook definitely got more interesting! Had to untag/take some photos down when I started looking for a job though… haha

  4. The first week of my study abroad experience was awful – I was homesick AND physically sick, and felt completely at a loss. But once I got past that… I didn’t want to come home. And the adjustment coming back was WAY worse than the adjustment of the abroad experience. I’m still trying to find a way to get back…

  5. If you are studying abroad for a semester (but getting your degree in the U.S.)
    Pro: You get exposed to a new culture.
    Con: It is expensive.

    If you are studying abroad to receive your degree from a school outside of the U.S.
    Pros: It’s actually cheaper to go to college abroad (at least in the U.K.), especially if you are comparing private colleges. A Bachelor’s degree also takes less time (about two years) than one in the U.S. (about four years).
    Cons: You will be in an unfamiliar land for an extended period of time, and you may experience difficulties with finding employment while you are abroad.

  6. Pro’s overweight the Con’s when it comes to studying abroad. In my case arranging for the finances was the only problem that I had to face. All other problems were just a part of the experience. Studying abroad is certainly the best thing I have done in my life. Everything changed once I got the job.

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