There are a lot of reasons to study abroad – a desire for travel and new experiences, the chance to practice another language, the opportunity to find yourself and discover your capabilities in the world, to make new friends, to live in a different culture . . . the list could go on and on. However, the benefits center on three types of reasons:
- Personal growth
- Career enhancement
- New perspective on world affairs
There are important questions to consider before you make any plans to study abroad and your answers will hopefully help determine the type of program you pick, the country you live in, the places you travel, and even the type of housing arrangements you make.
Studying abroad is one of the great liberal arts traditions. The concept of studying abroad as we know it dates back to early German universities; German students would travel around in Europe for a year or more during or immediately following their formal university education. As a student of the liberal arts and sciences, you are privileged to be a part of this prestigious academic tradition.
Of course, there is a lot more to studying abroad than academics! Studying abroad is about much more than merely going to classes in a different geographic location from Truman. It is an opportunity for you to really think about and focus on an entirely different way of life; and more importantly, the chance to focus on who you are and how you fit into your own society. That is probably the true essence of what study abroad is about: being able to immerse yourself so fully in a foreign culture as to become a real and vital part of it, while maintaining and broadening your own sense of cultural identity. Of course, you will never be a native of that language or society, but to become a fully functional member of a new culture is an incredible rush. You will learn so much, not only about your adopted society, but also about your own; and not just about your new friends, but mostly about yourself.
It is such a cliché, but really – studying abroad is mostly about self discovery. You won’t have any idea what you are capable of when heading out, and you are guaranteed to surprise yourself – with both your limitations and your abilities. The world is wide and wonderful, the best possible stage in which to learn about yourself and discover what you really want out of life.
You never know – your dream could be just sitting there, waiting for you to come along and grab it. The more you know about yourself and your place in the world, the easier it will be to find and grab that dream. For now, the best thing to do is be prepared, open your mind, and relax. The possibilities are endless and right on your doorstep. So have fun and good luck! Just don’t forget to come home when it is over.