Last year I decided to go for a semester abroad to Oklahoma. I have long wanted to study in the US and was beyond excited to get this opportunity. I spent four months in the US, from mid-August to mid-December.
I would 10/10 recommend this experience to anybody who is at least a tad adventurous and curious. I know it might be scary to even think about it but it’s definitely worth stepping out of your comfort zone for a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Moreover, it’s best to travel and try living in another country while you’re still a student. Once you get married and have kids, it gets harder to leave for a couple of months. Here are some of the top reasons why you should consider studying abroad:
1. To get to know a different culture
When you live in a new country for a few months, you have an amazing opportunity to fully experience a culture different from your own. For me, that was seeing and experiencing Greek life, going tailgating before home games, and dressing up for Halloween. There are no sororities and fraternities in Slovenia, and Halloween is not a thing here so you can imagine how novel and exciting it all was for me! Similarly, Slovenian universities don’t have their own sport teams and (maybe because of that) university spirit is largely absent. When I look back, the spirit of the university and OU fight song were one of the coolest things. I miss them already. BOOMER SOONER!!!
2. To meet people from all over the world
How cool is it to have friends from around the globe??? My flatmates were from Japan, France and Germany so we already covered different parts of Europe and Asia just in our apartment. Meeting people from all over the world has many advantages, including getting to learn about their culture and customs. For example, my friend from South Korea told me that even though at home she is already 21 years old, in Oklahoma she was only 19 at the moment. Babies in South Korea are 1 year old the day they are born and then everyone turns a year older on January 1. This means that everybody’s birthday is on the same date! How interesting is that?!
3. To make new friends
On an exchange, you will likely be placed in homes with other international students who are just as lost as you are. Make the first step and introduce yourself because believe me; they are also looking for somebody to hang out with. Having international friends is cool because even though you might seem very similar they sure have some unique aspects of themselves that originate in their culture. And having friends around the world that you can visit and ask for private tours of their cities and countries is the best!
4. To become more independent
Even though you might have already left your hometown to study in another city that’s nothing compared to studying in a new country. You will have to do the dishes, wash your clothes, dry them, vacuum, and shop for groceries on your own for a couple of months. No help from your mamma. Also, if you get sick, you need to actually get up and go to the pharmacy to get some meds. (Except if your friends are really nice.) But I promise it’s not too exhausting, you get used to it quite fast. This means, however, you can make all the choices for yourself. You can choose which weekend and where to travel, how long you’re going to stay up in the night, where and who with you are going to party, when you’re going to clean your room and which courses you want to take. It’s a good kind of independence that you should definitely experience while still being a student!
5. To broaden your horizons
One of the most important reasons why I wanted to study abroad was to pick the courses that are not offered at my home university to get a chance to broaden my knowledge. I especially wanted to gain knowledge in areas that interest me, and for me that’s clinical psychology. Therefore, I chose the course Abnormal Psychology and I enjoyed it immensely! Another cool thing about picking your own classes is that, especially on American universities, you can choose courses from other departments as well. Therefore, some of my friends chose a guitar class or a dance class and I thought that was phenomenal since I could never do it at home. Studying abroad can then also be a possibility to learn something new you’ve long wanted to try.
6. To get to know yourself
When you live abroad by yourself, you’re away from everybody that knows you. It might be the first time in your life when you find yourself in a place where nobody knows your name. You can take the chance to recreate yourself and be who you always wanted to be. It’s also a great time to get to know yourself better. For example, in the US I realized that going home at 2 AM (when clubs and bars close) is the perfect time to get to bed at a proper time to have a good day when you wake up. It’s hard for me to stay up later now when I came back to Slovenia where clubbing starts at about 1 AM.
7. To travel
A semester abroad is the best excuse for traveling. Okay, definitely don’t forget to go to lectures and lab classes but all students get a couple of days off throughout the year. And don’t forget about the weekends! The coolest thing about living in a new country is that you get to explore it in detail. You can drive to a different town every weekend and it will be a unique experience. Another advantage is that you really get to discover each and every part of the country. If traveling isn’t a reason good enough, I don’t know what is.
8. To build academic connections around the world
It is very valuable to have friends around the world who are also your colleagues. I met some wonderful people in my stats class that is offered to doctoral students at OU. This way we can learn from each other later on as building connections with experts from all over the globe always pay off. You can also work on projects and research with them. I met an amazing professor that I kept working with even after coming back to Slovenia. I met students who did some prosperous research and I’m excited to maybe colaborate with them in the future.
9. To make unforgettable memories
This will be a very special chapter in your life, I promise. All the days and moments abroad that might be hard in some aspect will be something to laugh about later in life. It will just add to the overall absolutely exceptional experience. The midnight laughs and talks with your roommates will become the most beloved memories. And I have a great idea for you: buy a disposable camera at the beginning of your semester or year abroad. At the end of the semester, submit the film to be processed and voilá! You will have some of the most memorable moments caught in the photos will almost zero effort. And believe me, you’ll be glad you’ve done it.
10. To step out of your comfort zone
I know even traveling to a new country can be scary and stressful, let alone living in one by yourself. However, I bet you heard that sometimes we have to do the things that scare us. At the end, these are the things that will define who we are. The thought of living in a new apartment with new roommates that don’t speak the same language as you do, meeting new people and making friends can be terrifying to some. But I promise, as soon as you get out of there, you will love it. The hardest part for me was to leave. To leave my friends and family behind. But from the moment that I stepped foot on the first plane (I had connecting flights both ways), I knew I made the right choice. And I was beyond excited for what the next four months will bring.
These are some of the top reasons why you should decide to experience a semester abroad, be it in Europe, America, Asia or even Australia! Share you study abroad experiences with me as I'd love nothing more than to hear them. Has this persuaded you to apply to study abroad?