A few summers ago I spent 4 weeks studying abroad in Turkey and it was without a doubt one of the greatest things I have ever done. I know a lot of people go back and forth about study abroad, so I thought I would share 5 reasons why you should definitely choose to do it.
1. Because Travel
When are you ever going to be encouraged to leave for weeks or months at a time again? Once you are out in the "real world" with your adult job, it is unlikely your boss is going to be pushing you to go spend a few months in Japan. College is the absolute best time to get these amazing experiences because you can do it without putting your life on hold, so to speak. After college it will be much more difficult to find the time to take a trip like this.
2. Expanding your Academic Horizons
If you didn't know (and you probably didn't), one of the historical research areas that most interests me is the history of international relations. I am looking at going to grad school and everything for it. And had I not gone on the Turkey trip it is unlikely I would have ever even been introduced the topic. I went to Turkey for history, but I got exposed to different aspects of history that I had never considered before, and I ended up falling in love with one of them. You never know what you might stumble upon if you take the chance to learn your field from a new perspective.
3. It Connects You to a New Part of the World
How many times do you see on Facebook or Twitter that something is going on in some other country and just completely scroll past it? We all do it. But you know what country I always stop for? Turkey. Because it is real to me now. It is more than just lines on a map and a name. I care about what is going on in Turkey and with the Turkish people because I experienced that part of the world and interacted with its people. Traveling will open the world to you in ways you might not expect. Unfortunately I did not get to spend much time with Turkish students, as mine was a faculty led study abroad trip so I was mainly stuck with the group of students from my university, but I feel the difference now nonetheless, and it will probably be even stronger for those who go for a full semester or longer on their own.
4. Major Boost in Independence
You wanna talk about real world skills? Independence; there's a real world skill for ya. When you get tossed into a new country you either get your shit together and swim or you drop like a lead balloon. You don't know your way around, the money is different, you might not even be able to read the menus at the restaurant you stop in at for lunch. But you will figure it out because you won't have a choice, if for no other reason. You'll figure out the train stations, or the subways, or in my case the dolmuş. You'll discover- largely by trial and error- which foods to order and which to avoid. You'll learn to ask for help when you need it because otherwise you might never find your way home. You'll do things you never imagined yourself doing and that is something that sticks with you long after your trip comes to an end.
5. Experience New Cultures
It is so easy to get caught up in our own world when we don't have any experiences outside of it. Studying abroad lets you experience a culture outside of your own and reminds you that your normal is not everybody's normal. Learning to understand cultures different from your own, and interacting with the people of those cultures makes it easier for you to be empathetic towards those who are different from you. I think this might be the most important thing anyone could gain in today's world. There is too much hatred and anger based on misunderstandings, cultural differences, and ethnocentrism. Exploring new cultures helps us break this cycle and remember that we are all people. Our cultures might vary, but we're not so different. The world needs more people who recognize that.
Unofficially, if I were to add a sixth reason, it would definitely be all the pictures you get to take! I took well over a thousand pictures in Turkey, but here are just a few of my favorites!
I really hope you will consider studying abroad. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Is there anywhere you have thought about going? Or have you studied abroad before and if so where did you go?