Travel is a way to fit multiple lives into your one, short life.
BEFORE I even entered college I knew that one of my top priorities was to study abroad at some point during my academic career. I figured why wait, went to my counselor and set up a study abroad to Vienna, Austria for three months.
I could list 100 reasons why you should also pack your bags and suffer a ten hour flight with someone kicking the back of your seat, but I’ll keep it down to 10.
1. It’s Not as Expensive as You Think.
I actually saved money going on my abroad trip. A lot of colleges have a study abroad office, where their soul purpose in life is to make studying abroad affordable for you. I chose a program that fit my budget, then the scholarships I received through school were applied to my fees. In addition, I applied for a stipend & was granted an additional chunk of cash. All in all for the three months I was abroad, I only had to pay 1/3 of what my tuition would’ve been if I stayed. The dollar is strong right now, so traveling to Europe is more affordable than it has been in a long time.
If you aren’t in college & still want to travel or study abroad, there are a bunch of volunteer or teaching programs, just get to googling. There are ones where your housing is paid for in exchange for work, or you even get to earn some cash! For earthy babies check out WWOOF, a site where you can work on farms all across the globe, from France to Hawaii. For those who are good with kids, being a live-in nanny is a great option! A lot of families in Europe want native English speakers to help nanny their kids & teach them proper English. If you love pets, then opt for a house sitting job. Some sites set you up with a family with dogs, cats, even horses for you to watch while they are away. Are you imagining yourself in a chic New York apartment taking a Yorkshire terrier for a walk?
Money is the smallest road block to overcome when thinking about studying abroad or traveling abroad.2. Learning a New Language
When I was taking my German class at University in the states, there were so many times when I was so frustrated. I couldn’t get the articles down, and my mind would switch to Spanish mid sentence. I went through decks and decks of flash cards in order to memorize basic vocabulary.
But within two weeks of being in Austria it just started to click. When you are forced to speak a different language every time you go outside, yeah you make a lot of mistakes and you embarrass yourself a lot, but it is the most authentic practice you can get. As long as you are willing to TRY, the language will come to you a lot easier.
3. Perspective Shifter
Wherever you choose to go, you are going to experience a way of living that is completely different from your own. It really made me understand that there is not one defined “right” path to live. Each country, even each city you visit will have different rules as to what is acceptable. The way we live is so relative, and traveling helps you not to get caught up in just one way.
4. New Friends
Whatever journey you choose to go on, you are not going to be alone. My program had twelve other students from my school traveling together. We had to quickly help each other out, learn together, live together, and ultimately became friends.
Outside of my immediate study abroad group, there were other people I met through my school classes. On a lot of programs you will be in classes with students from all over the world. I met people from India, Mexico, Australia, Russia, Tanzania, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, and other places in America. Everyone is so eager to share their culture, their perspective, and learn from each other that it creates such an amazing environment.
History was always one of my least favorite subjects in school, because it felt so bland reading fact after fact from my textbooks. Traveling somewhere puts you in the place that history happened. I was able to go to concentration camps, museums, old roman buildings, 600 year old churches, and see history right in front of me.
6. Homesickness is Temporary
When you are thrust into a program, there is so much initial excitement in discovering what is around you that you really don’t have any time to be homesick. Even if you are the type of person who gets homesick easily, your family is just a skype call away, and they are waiting for you when you return.
7. If You Go to Europe, So Easy to Travel Around More
Guys. There are student train tickets for $20. You can be in another country. In two hours. For $20. I went to a different place practically every weekend and bunked in hostels for $12 a night.
8. Be a Local, not a Tourist
Studying abroad gives you this unique opportunity to LIVE in a foreign country. You get a whole different experience than you would if you were just visiting. When you stay for months, even a whole year, you are truly a local.
I learned how to weigh fruit myself at the grocery store, bring my own bags, and was forced to forgo peanut butter from my diet. I made friends with people who worked at cafes, and they would help me understand the menu. After going there again and again, I would be able to order perfectly and they would be smiling, so proud that they had helped me learn. I had morning runs around palace gardens and parks. I became a pro at the subway system and could get anywhere in the city. I learned what clubs to go to, what clubs not to go to, and which restaurant has the best wine. I went to local art galleries and farmers markets. I had to pay a $80 fine for forgetting my monthly subway card. I learned there and lived there.
9. Learning Environment
As I have mentioned before, the classroom has so many students from all over the world, all coming together to learn. There isn’t that typical stress that is associated with school. Your professors want you to go out and experience, not sit in your Hostel with 30 pages to read. So much of my learning was immersion learning, I had one class that was held only in museums!
10. Good Days
When I first started researching study abroad and going to meetings, talks, and information sessions, I realized a lot of kids are afraid. The questions portion would come along, a student would raise their hand, and ask something along the lines of “What if something goes wrong?”
I get it, if something does go wrong, you are possibly an ocean away from home. Stop and realize that stuff goes wrong all the time, no matter what location you are in. I had mishaps, lost my subway card, got really sick one week, missed a train to Munich, and was 5 stops away from my Hostel when I realized the trains stopped running 2 hours ago. There are going to be people there to help you, numbers for you to call, and doctors to go to.
There are going to be bad days. There are going to be good days, great days, days where you experience moments you never thought you could, start crying because of how beautiful a Cathedral is, and days where you order food perfectly and maybe they don’t even detect that you are a foreigner. Don’t ask what could go wrong. All you can do is prepare for what could go wrong, and be totally excited about could go right.