By guest blogger Noella Schink
Noella is a travel writer from Portland, Maine. She received a BS in Geology from Skidmore College in 2006. Studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand was definiteling the highlight of her education (and life!). Nowadays you’ll find her on the beach with her husband and two shih-tzus or glued to the computer, plotting her next journey abroad.
Travel is undoubtedly precious, no matter how long the journey. What makes studying abroad special, though, is the opportunity to really live somewhere new. It’s rare chance to fully immerse yourself in the local culture, learn the language, eat authentic food, and befriend people from another country in a meaningful way. A semester is a long time to get acquainted with a place!
Once you are settled into your apartment and signed up for your classes, you’ll be itching to take advantage of your new global coordinates. If you are in Europe, you’ll see how easy it is to get around by train to see all of the highlights, from the Eiffel Tower to Pompeii. If you study abroad down under, it’s just a hop across the pond to see Fiji, or the Great Barrier Reef. Many study abroad programs actually include trips for student, so take advantage if you can. I was lucky enough to spend a week in Tonga when I studied in New Zealand!
What may surprise you about university students abroad is that there are few who live on campus in traditional “dorms.” You’ll most likely live in an apartment. This can be an eye opener for students who have always had the dining hall to cater to their every whim. You’ll either grow up and figure it out, or get very comfortable with nachos and PB&J! It’s new responsibility. You’ll learn that if you burn your popcorn in the microwave and trip the fire alarm, it’s your neck on the line.
I know how clichéd this sounds, but it is true; the friends you make abroad will endure forever, while your usual college crew will most likely go their separate ways after graduation. Bonding over your world experience will never get old. For years to come you’ll meet up to reminisce about the crazy road trip before you knew how to navigate roundabouts, that time you slept on a beach or accidentally snuck into a museum together. Added bonus: you’ll have connections all over the world.
This is possibly the most important aspect of studying abroad. Are you really going to Barcelona to study hard? If you stay in on a Saturday night for schoolwork while your friends take the train to Portugal, you are doing it wrong! Confirm that hotel booking in Lisbon – you have to spread those proverbial wings and explore! Studying abroad is a melee of fun, fright, intimidation, growing up, making mistakes and absolutely getting messy.
If you have the opportunity, take it! No matter where you venture, you’ll return a seasoned, worldly, badass senior who can handle anything!