World Wednesdays - Why should you study abroad?

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World Wednesdays - Why should you study abroad?

(5 minute read)

Part 1 of 3 in a series dedicated to studying abroad on why you should, how to do it, and what to expect.

It seems obvious that everyone would want to study abroad and I agree with that. If given the chance I believe 99% of people would go for it because why not. For some people though it never crosses their mind either for financial reasons, scheduling conflicts, or general lack of interest or awareness of such opportunities.

I know that was the case for me five years ago when I first discovered the ESA Paris program. During this month five years ago I was not technically even considering such an option, since I was still seven weeks away from obtaining my residency (aka the green card), which would allow me the privilege of going in and out of the country.

I was attending my local community college in East Los Angeles when I came across a flyer in the hall, which I took down for myself I admit. In that flyer was a list of upcoming informational sessions for Summer Study in Paris. This was now a possibility and also a surprise since I had no idea such a program would even exist at the local level, only at the university one.

Well, I took that flyer with me to that first date listed, which is where I would take my notes in and the rest as you say is history. I decided I had to go for it even if it seemed impossible right at that moment. I wanted to do this, I needed to do this. I had been living in Los Angeles for 17 years without having been anywhere else and really wanted to start seeing the world, Paris seemed like a good idea. I decided not to tell my parents until February when I had financially secured the trip all by myself. I waited to tell them since I wanted to do it without their "permission" and if I paid for it all they had no reason to say no.

Five months later I was on a Lufthansa flight to Paris and a month later I was coming back from an experience that forever changed my life. That was only for one month during July. I repeated the program in 2016, that time as a dorm assistant, and finally in 2017 I did a full semester as an exchange student. All three times were special and significant in their own ways.

So why did it change my life and why should you consider studying abroad.

1. Independence
Most people in the US usually move to a university away from home when that time comes. For others though specially those attending commuter colleges we live with our families. Studying abroad gives you the option to get some independence that will really allow you to grow in more ways than one. It will give you a chance to taste a different kind of freedom when your parents aren't calling you at 3am asking where you are. It gives you that taste of adulthood without having you commit to it yet. For some it might be the only chance to explore independently since the next time you visit a country for pleasure it might be with your family 20 years in the future, or worse when you retire in 40 years.

2. New Experiences
This may sound redundant since visiting new places will always give you new experiences, but studying abroad will offer you experiences you can't get anywhere else. It is the perfect combination of exploring a new city, meeting new friends, using another language, and so much more that simply cannot be replicated. These experiences can range from the incredibly fun and crazy nights, too getting lost in the metro system and finding your way back. It allows you to discover how other people live, what other cultures are like, what they value, and it opens your mind to new ways of seeing things literally and metaphorically. All of this again just helps you grow and challenges you to seek new adventures. 

3. Opportunities 
Studying abroad is not something unfortunately everyone can do in their life times. If you can do it, then do it. Trust me you won't regret it. You might look back on that chance in the future and really wish you had done it. Studying abroad will give you opportunities for networking, learning about new cultures, career paths not considered, and moments that can only happen by being at the right place and the right time. It is hard to go wrong with taking such a chance.   

4. Friendships and Memories
Lastly, whether you are a people person or not studying abroad will give you new friends. Some will become lifelong friends, others might just be temporary ones but that won't take away the memories forged by the trip. Those friendships will have long lasting bonds of the time shared together, whether you were roommates, classmates, or just strangers. You'll have stories that you'll never get tired of retelling with shared memories you will relive over and over again. It is incredible how strong those memories will be when you look back on them and how hard it will be when you realize those moments can never be duplicated ever again. You'll yearn to go back in time and relieve those moments. Thanks to social media you'll be able to stay connected anywhere around the world waiting for the day you can see them again. You might even be tempted to consider a new life in that country.

That to me was why studying abroad was so impactful. It left a mark on me so deep it is why you are reading this now. In the next part I will discuss how to make it happen. 

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