One of my biggest regrets when I was in college was that I never studied abroad. I had traveled a lot on my own, so my rationale was that I shouldn’t spend that much money to do something I could do myself for cheaper. Besides, who wants to be in class when you can be off exploring a new city? But there’s nothing like living in a place for an extended period of time instead of just seeing the sights for a few days. Many people worry about what they will miss while away, but when you get back, study abroad is all you will be able to talk about. I asked my fellow travel bloggers and writers what they wish they had done differently when it comes to studying abroad.
It’s not for everyone.
If you don’t have the time or money to do it, don’t study abroad out of obligation. Lauren Fritsky, blogger at The Life That Broke, puts it best: “I didn't study abroad in college, but I did go on a one-week trip around Ireland with a religion class, which was terrific. I was super-focused on racking up credits and being involved on campus and, at the time, I felt like studying abroad would knock me off that course. I also worked through school and couldn't justify the extra expense of going overseas. Looking back, I don't regret not studying abroad -- I've gotten to travel extensively since college and have been living abroad for almost two years.”
It’s never too late.
Kristin Luna, accomplished travel writer and the blogger behind Camels and Chocolate is an expert on study abroad, having done it three times. She is now working aboard the Semester at Sea program with her husband, who she met during one study abroad stint, urging even more students to take the leap. “I studied abroad three times as a way to see more of the world before I was tied down in a career. This was before I had any intention of becoming a travel writer, before I knew my full-time job someday would be to travel, and seeing as American society is so stifling when it comes to taking any time off once you're on a job path, I thought living abroad as a student might be my only chance to do a large volume of travel in an abbreviated amount of time.”
Save enough money before you go or apply for scholarships.
Study abroad is expensive, as Candice Walsh of Candice Does the World will tell you. “I did a 6-week study program in England with my university and it was the best decision I've ever made. My only regret is not managing my finances better...I'm still paying for it.”
There is no “perfect” time.
Many people study abroad in their junior or senior years, but in all honesty, you could do it anytime, including your second semester of freshman year. You will always be scared of missing out, but until you take the plunge you will never know.
Pick a program that’s right for you.
Are you trying to learn a language? Are you trying to take classes that will enrich your degree? Or are you just interested in general education requirements? Studying abroad won’t necessarily get you ahead but you didn’t come all that way to take classes you’re not really interested in. If you would find it hard to pay attention back home, you will definitely find it hard to pay attention when you’re abroad.
Determine the amount of time you want to be away.
“I did a study abroad summer program. It was great but I wish I had done a full semester,” says Alison Garland of Ali’s Adventures. If you get homesick easily, there’s nothing wrong with a three-week program instead of a five-month program.
Get out of your comfort zone, says Brooke Schoenman of Brooke vs. the World. “Study abroad gave me the opportunity for my first solo travel experience and a heck of a lot of confidence to think outside my tiny little bubble. Best decision ever.”
Live your “real life” abroad.
Hanging out at backpacker bars and fellow study abroad students may be fun, but immerse yourself in the culture of your destination. Live with a host family or find yourself a flat. Annie Bettis of Wayward Traveller settled into life in Sydney while studying abroad. “While I was abroad I was scared I was missing out by not meeting fellow exchange students and not going to the same college bars with them and hanging out in Kings Cross at the trashy clubs like everyone talked about, but now that I have my friends from all over the world, I realize that I was making a life for myself rather than an experience like most others do during their time abroad.”
At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can make the best out of your time in college, whether you study abroad or not. If you decide it’s not right for you, you’ve got the rest of your life to get out there and explore.
- “My Biggest Travel Regret,” Nomadic Matt
- “How to Turn Study Abroad Regret Into a Positive,” C’est Christine