Whilst a ‘study abroad’ programme does involve learning and attending your host university, you can absorb so much outside of your lecture theatre. Studying abroad is a huge journey of personal growth, and creating your own story…
Undergraduates at the University of Warwick can probably remember their very first term as being world’s away from their previous living situation. You’re suddenly chucked into an entirely new environment and confronted with so many new responsibilities. Whether that be doing your washing, cooking, enrolling for modules – these things all carry weight, and level of responsibility. They all aid your independence.
Do a year abroad, and you can multiply that by 10! Navigating a new accommodation system, university administration and other bureaucracy (e.g. banking) bring with it new complications. You may not know anyone in your new home, and this can be coupled with a foreign language, multiplying that pressure again by 10.
Whilst fostering your independence can be challenging, it is also extremely rewarding. I once read a quote that said ‘if you don’t face and overcomes challenges, you will always remain a child’. It’s true.
What’s more, facing these challenges aids your resilience.
Adhering to new systems is not always straightforward and may require you asking many questions or trying different things. At first, that can be quite daunting. When I struggled to find accommodation during my year abroad, I thought it was the end of the world. However, after realising the process I needed to follow, I was able to deal with the ups-and-downs of the process much more. I was reassured by others who had experienced the same thing, and I came to understand that it wasn’t so difficult. When you’re at Warwick, you take processes for granted and forget that it can be much more difficult in an unfamiliar system.
Without a doubt, integrating into a new country opens your mind and expands your horizons. A different political environment can spark an interest for you as to why people think the way they do in your study-abroad destination. You may question your own ideas and convictions as a result. Open-mindedness is all about considering the other side. Of course, you can do that without studying abroad, but there is something really powerful about living and breathing a new culture. Stepping into the shoes of a new history, a new ideology and a new community can take you on an entirely new journey.
What’s more, you may actually adapt your lifestyle for good following a year abroad. That might be your views, or it might just be what you eat! Whatever it is, experiencing new cultures leads to questioning your own and understanding your own identity…