Is studying abroad worth the hassle?

Victoria Fordham '15, Staff Writer

I’ve been staring at my blank screen for a while now, all in the attempt to answer one very simple question: is studying abroad worth it?

There’s a lot of work [and money] involved in studying abroad, and that’s before you even get to your chosen destination. There are meetings to attend and paperwork to fill out for your home school, and applying to your host just like applying to college all over again – personal statements, references, etc.  You have to choose which classes you would like to sign up for, before even knowing if they’re running, and then make sure those classes are acceptable at home. You’ve got a passport to get, to accept your place and to organize a visa.

And only then do you buy your plane tickets, pack your bags and go on your way.

And then everything really begins.

Studying abroad is like an adventure. It’s an adventure solely for you.

This was my first time travelling alone, my first time living by myself and my first time in the U.S. [actually, it was my first time out of Europe in general]. Doing all of these things alone was daunting, but also gave me a sense of freedom that I have never had before. It has taught me about myself. It has shown me that I am capable of being responsible for myself in this ‘strange and mysterious land’, and that I have impeccable time keeping. It has taught me that I’m pretty paranoid about quite a lot of things, and that I worry too much.

It hasn’t been easy being here, either. It’s only been a month, and already I’m missing home; I miss my friends, my family, and my easy workload. I also miss just listening to people with the same accent, and not having to translate what I’m saying so that people can understand me.

Sometimes, it can be lonely. Sometimes you feel at odds with everyone around you, and you’re more aware of the differences than the similarities.

But despite all of this, despite how all I’ve done is moan about paperwork and complain about homesickness, if I could go back in time and choose, I would do it all over again.

It’s a once in a lifetime experience. You’ll be in a foreign country as a student, free to enjoy the best of both worlds: a college experience that’s different to your own, opening your eyes to the world outside what you’ve known; but you’ll also be able to relax and not have to worry about maintaining a job or a home [unless you so choose].

You’ll meet fantastic people, both locals and other internationals. The locals will be interested in your accent, and the fact that you’re exotic and exciting. The international students will give you a base to work from. They will be your first contacts, most likely, and someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through. You’ll have a great time in between the sporadic ‘down’ moments. You’ll socialize and do things that you would never have done purely because you’re not at home. If you go to Britain, you will discover the joys of the student union and the pub.

The food will be different. And at first you’ll probably hate it, and wish for home cooking. But once you settle in and realize it’s not that bad, and you’ll come to like it. Being immersed in a culture that is unfamiliar is exciting, and soon enough you’ll be Skyping or messaging your nearest and dearest and telling them how you love it, how you’re doing strange things that don’t happen at home and you really wish they could see it for themselves [and you’ll take plenty of pictures for them].

Studying abroad is an experience, and like most experiences, it has highs and lows. Some days will be a high, others… not so much.

But when you’re in your old age, reminiscing about your life and looking over your achievements and experiences, knowing that you had the chance to immerse yourself in another culture and live a life so very different – even if just for a little while – wouldn’t you kick yourself for not grasping it with both hands?