Travel UK

How Studying Abroad Changed My Life

August is rolling on through, which means it’s back to school time soon. With that in mind, I want to reach out to any university students who read my blog. Now, I try not to make big sweeping statements, in general. So I’m going to ignore my own past record and make one now: studying abroad can change your life. I know that colleges try to sell you on the experience with claims like that, but I found it to be oh-so-true. If you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it. 

Many moons ago, when I was in college, I never planned on studying abroad. I was on practically full-financial aid and I didn’t think I’d be able to afford to. Nor did I think it was important to my education. Freshman year went past. Sophomore year. And then in my junior year, my sorority big (proud Gamma Phi!) went abroad to Sydney her senior year and it revolutionised her life. It planted the seed of doubt in my mind that maybe I had studying abroad pegged all wrong. Maybe it wasn’t just an excuse to  go to Octoberfest. So my second semester, I hastily cobbled together an application to study abroad fall my senior year.

I was very fortunate and my university applied my financial aid to my study abroad costs so I had to pay very little out of pocket. With that in mind, I set my sights on a semester in London….

studying abroad
The highly unflattering first photo of me in London. (Far left, in case the short hair confused anyone.)

 

How Studying Abroad Changed My Life.

#1. I fell in love with another culture. I’d always been an anglophile, but it was nothing like getting to experience England in person. I loved it so much that I knew that this was where I was meant to be. I love America, and I loved going to school in Atlanta, but I was meant to live in England.

As a spoiler alert for those of you who don’t read my blog, I’m an American expat in London. I succeeded in being able to move to England after graduation and have been here ever since. I’m near the 6 year mark which is absolutely insane to me. 

#2. It changed some of my political opinions. I count myself as a fairly political person, and I think it’s really easy to get stuck in one mindset (hello 2016 election!). But when you spend an extended time abroad, you break out of some of the political ruts that you get stuck in. I mentioned above, I love America, but you have a completely different political perspective when you are on the outside looking in on your country than when you are in the eye of the storm. In full disclosure, I am fairly liberal and I found my stances softening  in some manners, and becoming more liberal in others. 

Being abroad helped me define my own views rather than just accepting the norm that I grew up with. 

#3 I met my special person when I was a study abroad student. I’ve always been a relationship girl, but I went abroad single and planned on staying that way. Until I met a wonderful Yorkshireman at school in the computer room. It was an instantaneous connection. We’ve been together ever since; including some fairly dreadful and trying international long-distance relationship periods of time. Sam’s now my husband and if I hadn’t studied abroad, we wouldn’t be together now. 

It stresses my heart to think that if I’d never come abroad, we’d never have met. Despite the fact that applying for various visas has aged me prematurely, it’s been worth every cent. 

#4 I learned to be self-reliant and independent. I’ve always been fairly independent, but there’s nothing to push you out of the nest more than being abroad on your own. Only one other person from my college was studying abroad at the same place that I was, and we hadn’t known each other at all. From meeting all new people, to living on your own in a foreign country, to managing your finances in a currency you don’t quite understand – it all forces you to become your own person. Also I’d never lived somewhere so large and metropolitan as London, so coming to grips with a huge city was a massive hurdle in and of itself. 

spire

#5. I also learned to be more spontaneous. I’ve a very type-A person, and cannot function without lists and plans. Being abroad helped me learn to loosen up a little bit and go with the flow more. A decision to travel to Paris the next day became an exciting adventure and not something to stress over not having planned for. 

The life experience being abroad gave me was invaluable. I felt more like an adult when I was commuting around London on my own than I ever did in any previous three years of college. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of studying abroad, but if it’s an opportunity that you can seize, take it! 

*A version of this post first appeared on Kate the (Almost) Great as a guest post I’d written for her.* 

 

You Might Also Like

  • I studied abroad in Uganda my junior year and it was easily the best and most transformative experience of my life. Not to mention, the cost of living there was so low that I actually saved money that semester because I wasn’t paying an arm and a leg for room and board.

    I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad! Living within a foreign culture is completely different than simply taking a vacation- and the world is filled with too many amazing places to see!

    • What an amazing experience to have! You are right – living abroad is so different than taking a vacation and it really opens your eyes!

      I bet you have some incredible memories from your time in Uganda!

  • Such a good post!! I’m always so admiring of people who have gone to another side of the world to study or to work. I didn’t quite go so far – I’m London-born but raised in Luxembourg, then came back to the UK to do my degree and have ended up staying (admittedly for my husband’s sake!). Even moving from countries within Europe proved to be a little bit of a culture shock but I think it’s so rewarding and would urge anyone with the chance to do so to be brave and go for it 🙂 xx

    • Totally! All of my colleagues here at work are all from different countries: the two that I work most closely with are a British woman and a Dutch woman and between the three of us there are huge (but amazing) cultural differences that make us laugh, or give us something to chat about. It’s so rewarding to leave your comfort zone sometimes! x

  • I completely agree! While I didn’t study abroad as an undergraduate, I did work abroad in graduate school. It was essential to becoming who I am today.

    • Totally! Would you even be able to imagine your life now if you hadn’t done graduate work abroad? x

  • Kourtney Reece

    This post touched my heart. After doing my internship I’m itching to get back to London. It was the best experience I have ever had. On my 3rd day there I knew I was meant to live in the UK. I love America, but my heart belongs there. I’m about to graduate in July (hopefully) and I’ve started making plans on which masters program I am going to do abroad. Being in London made me more independent and it gave me a chance to get out of my bubble and explore on my own. And I can relate to everything about #3. It’s not something I planned, but I couldn’t imagine not meeting that special person if I hadn’t ventured overseas. =)

    • I’m SO glad that you had such a wonderful time in London. Hopefully everything will work out and life will bring you back to London quickly! xx

  • I am 100% with you. Without studying abroad and sparking my itch to move abroad, I never would have met my now boyfriend! 🙂

    • Haha, it’s pretty key! Imagine that without travel we wouldn’t be with the people who we are with right now- it’s crazy to think! x

  • I love this! I think everybody should travel abroad at some time.

    • I agree! I completely understand that for some people it’s a financial impossibility and I get that. But if there’s any way to make it work, then I say, go for it! x

  • I was in my 40’s before I ever went to a different country and now of course I love to travel

    • What was the first country you went to? I hope that first time abroad was a happy experience? x

  • My little sister just graduated from high school and I kept telling her and her friends how amazing study abroad is in college, it really did change my life! Everyone should definitely take the chance if they can:)

    • Do you think she would study abroad? Would she go to Australia too? xx

      • I think she will, she is really interested in it;) I am hoping for a European country so I can visit here but anywhere would make me happy for her to get the experience;)

  • Question: if I were to do some study in Britain, would this count as study abroad? I’m technically abroad. But I live here now. So maybe I’m not…

    Help me.

  • I also loved my study abroad experience and try to get people to do it all the time! I am always looking up ways for my sister-in-law to do one in the US! And of course while I did not meet Fredrik on my study abroad semester I did meet him on my work visa while in London which I would never of done if I had not first studied abroad!

  • I studied abroad in Wales and traveled all through Great Britain….it was a Welsh language and British history study. I left part of my heart and soul on that island.

  • Absolutely! I couldn’t agree more!
    I’ve been wanting to write about my time studying in Japan, perhaps I’ll tag you and continue the conversation!