My name is Brian Cronin and I am a final year student at University College Dublin in Ireland. I spent a semester during my third year studying at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain.
This is what I learned from my experience studying abroad and why I believe it will be one of the smartest decisions of your life.
1. You will grow.
I have no doubt that studying abroad provides the ideal platform for you to grow and to help you on your journey of self-discovery – be it mentally, emotionally, spiritually, even physically. The combination of being placed outside of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to so many new experiences and new people, forces you to engage in introspection. Consciously or subconsciously, you will start to develop and evolve as an individual.
I gained an enormous amount of self-confidence and self-esteem from studying abroad. Studying abroad also helped me formulate many of my long-term life goals, define who and what I wanted to become, and gave me insight into what my purpose in life may be.
2. You will learn that what’s meant to be will be
Believe it or not, I wasn’t even going to submit an application for the studying abroad program at my university. Who would want to go to Pamplona? Were it not for the intervention of some wise friends and family, I would not be writing this article and I would not be where I am today in regards to my own personal development.
Studying abroad proved to me that what is meant to be will be. Wherever you are meant to go at each point in your life, things will transpire to make that happen. Take it from my experience.
If are considering applying for a semester abroad, just go for it and trust the process. Trust your intuition and take that leap of faith.
3. Living abroad opens your eyes up to the world through different cultures and different ways of thinking.
I have found travel to be one of the greatest educations you can receive in life. This is especially true for university students who are at the cusp of beginning their adult lives and are forming their values and opinions of the world.
Experiences abroad expose you to people from all over the world. I made new friends from New Zealand, Bolivia, Greece, the Philippines, the USA, and Canada to name but a few. The benefits of this are unquestionable. You will learn new cultures, new ways of thinking, and new approaches to life. Not every country promotes the same societal values or conventions that you have grown up with and that is a huge catalyst for personal growth. Exposing yourself to these different ways of thinking will give you a more well-rounded view of the world and assist you in forming core values to embrace and believe in.
Furthermore, meeting people from other countries is simply a lot of fun. When a variety y of cultures mix, it makes for one heck of a party! I think that perhaps this is one of the greatest aspect of studying abroad. When I reminisce on my time abroad – which is accompanied by deep nostalgia – the memories center around time spent with those friends from all over the world. I recognize that I may never see some of these people again for a long time – if ever – but I derive comfort from the fact that these memories and experiences will stay with me for a lifetime.
4. Places you outside of your comfort zone.
Our natural inclination is to remain in a place of comfort and familiarity. However, growth only really occurs when we are in a state of discomfort. Think back to any experience that invoked fear, apprehension or nervousness in you. 99% of the time you will look back on those experiences and realize that they had a profoundly positive impact on your life.
When you are walking the streets of a foreign city, unable to speak the language, looking for your hostel address as it pours rain, you quickly develop the necessary skills, resourcefulness and initiative to adapt.
This is a simple example of the kind of challenges you will invariably be exposed to when studying abroad. While at the time these experiences may seem negative or aggravating, you will acquire skills and memories that simply cannot be attained sitting behind your laptop screen in a coffee shop in your hometown or among the familiar lecture halls of your home university. After you survive these experiences (or even thrive!) you will reflect on the benefits you have obtained. Studying abroad enhances your independence through sheer necessity.
If there is only one takeaway from this article, it is this: if you get the opportunity, STUDY ABROAD. You will be amazed at the ripple effect this decision will have on your life. Don’t over-analyze your decision or what your experience may or may not entail. Make your decision to go, and let the rest take care of itself. Be open-minded. Say yes to new experiences. And most importantly go with no preconceptions or expectations. You may just have an experience that you will cherish for a lifetime.
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