With the risk of sounding very ‘gap yaaah’, I did a study abroad in Sydney and can honestly say it was the most life-changing experience I’ve ever had. I’ve wanted to live abroad since my early teens, but was slightly terrified at the thought of leaving behind my friends and family to move to the other side of the world. It didn’t help that at the time of leaving London, I had no one with me, nowhere to stay in Sydney and no one to greet me once I got there. 5 months later though, and I didn’t want to leave!
Since, I’ve known a lot of people who’ve taken the plunge to move to a different continent (including my BFF – shout out to you in Sao Paolo!), but I know it’s not an easy decision to make. This post is for everyone who’s debated the opportunity, wondered if it’s worth it, or is trying to look for reasons to study abroad. Here are some of my reasons why everyone should consider studying abroad!
Travel – see the world
Although I didn’t have as much time as I’d wanted to travel, I still managed to fit a lot of exploring into short weekends away and my mid-semester break. Living in a new continent means you’re close to places you may otherwise not have the opportunity to visit. I spent 10 days travelling the East coast of Australia – scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling in the Whitsundays and hiking the Daintree Rainforest.
I also made good use of societies to travel with, and I wholly recommend doing the same. We had a Watersports society within our uni that often did weekends away to places a few hours outside of Sydney. I spent a weekend in Jervis Bay with them, met my first kangaroo and learnt how to surf!
Clearly, studying is an important part of doing a study abroad, but it can be really great doing this abroad. You can develop skills and gain experiences that you may not have had in your home country, whilst also being exposed to a different style of education. It’s also great if you’re thinking of applying to grad school, because it shows you’re dedicated to your education and curious.
In Sydney (or perhaps this is just for the University of New South Wales), for example, students have much less independent learning than we do here in the UK. Seminars are compulsory. You fail the module if you don’t attend 80% of them, and there’s homework to complete between each week. Your readings get checked and marked and, again, you need to complete 80% of them or risk failing the entire module. This was obviously quite a shock to me when I first joined, but it was a really interesting experience!
Experience a new culture
Learning to adapt to new cultures and traditions, and having the flexibility to do so, are incredibly important life skills. They’re also ones that are quite fun to do! If you study abroad in a university that’s vastly different to your home country, I can guarantee you’ll come back with a greater understanding of other cultures and some cool stories.
The best part of university in general is being self-reliant and learning to become an independent adult. When you study abroad, it’s that times 10000% (especially if you’re travelling far from your home country)! Nothing has tested my independence more than landing in a foreign country with no family, no friends, and no accommodation. Eventually, I loved my independence so much that I went travelling alone (something I never thought I’d have the courage to do), and it drove me crazy moving back home with my parents!
Make new friendships
Studying abroad is a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people, and expand your social circle. Whether from lectures, seminars or societies, you’ll meet new people from your host country, home country and even some international students! The best part is that you may even gain some holiday homes across the globe.
I was incredibly lucky and got to meet up with my friend Dana, who lives in the Gold Coast. We’d first met when we were about 7 years old (so a good 13 years ago at the time), while our families were on holiday in Austria. Amazingly, we’d managed to keep in touch all those years, and finally met again when I went to stay with her! We had the best time, and I’m so glad I was able to see her again. We still got on so well that she came down to Sydney for my birthday celebrations!
I had major FOMO when I first went abroad, and couldn’t stop thinking about all the times my home friends would get to hang out without me. It’s important to remember that your friends will still be there once you return home, but you only have one chance to make friends abroad – it’s worth pushing yourself to get out there. I’m so glad I did, because I wouldn’t have had the same memories otherwise!
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve spent almost my entire adult life wanted to work abroad. Doing a semester at the University of New South Wales was perfect practice to help me understand whether that life was for me!
Many students find they love their host country so much that they’d like to return to work there permanently / semi-permanently. I know at least two people that have moved to Australia since ending their study abroad, and it’s something even I’m considering. When seeking work there, you’ll find that having a local education experience will prove very valuable!
Learn a new language
As I’m sure you’ve heard a thousand times before, the best way to learn a language is to fully immerse yourself in it. By being surrounded by the language daily, you’ll hear (and learn) it in a cultural context with colloquialisms. You’ll also get to practice speaking it on a daily basis – as great as your Spanish class is, there’s no better way to learn a language than hailing a cab in Mexico or ordering a meal in a Peruvian restaurant!
Do it for the CV
Doing a study abroad shows firms that you’re independent, willing to embrace new challenges, and able to adapt to new environments. It’s also something unique and interesting you can discuss in interviews, which can offer a slight competitive edge. I’ve always wanted to work abroad in the future, so it’s great on my CV as it proves I have the intercultural awareness and adaptability necessary to move abroad.
Grow as a person
One of the best, and possibly most daunting, aspects of studying abroad is having the opportunity to push your boundaries and challenge yourself in new ways. I used to hate change, but studying abroad has helped me work on this weakness. By pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I became more able to adapt, gain invaluable life skills, and grew in ways I may not have been able to had I stayed at home.
Ultimately, studying abroad isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok. It’s worth remembering that it’s one of the biggest regrets of those who forego the experience, and is genuinely invaluable for those that have gone. It gave me enough stories and memories to last a lifetime, and is an experience I wish I could relive again. Make sure you keep photos, tickets and momentos to reminisce on when you’re back home, because you may not realise how incredible you experience is until you’re back.
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