Monday, December 18, 2017

Studying Abroad

These days, it seems like schools are really encouraging students to study abroad for a semester or two.  And it seems like many/most students are taking the bait and doing it.

There are a lot of reasons to do it.  When else in your life will you find another stretch of several months in a row where you can pick up and move to another country without losing ground with your job, education, etc.?  In college seems like the perfect opportunity to do it.  You can entirely immerse yourself in another culture, another city, another language (if that's your thing).  Rarely is a vacation to a foreign land really sufficient to experience this kind of immersion.  You're young. You're adventurous.  I'm a big believer in gulping life (rather than just sipping it) and studying abroad is yet another way to do this.  Several people I know who did it in college reflect on that time as one of the best experiences of their lives.

All of that being said, I have to admit that I didn't choose to do it.  My lovely wife (before we knew each other) didn't do it either.  And our reasons were pretty much the same.  I was having too much fun in college and it seemed to be going very quickly.  By the end of my sophomore year, it dawned on me that I only had 4 more semesters as a college student and there were still so many things at my school that I wanted to do.  I don't regret my decision.  I had a blast those last 4 semesters.  And since then, I've done a fair amount of traveling.  I feel like I've gotten my fair share of other cultures.

Now that my son is a sophomore in college, the conversation occasionally rolls around to studying abroad.  We encourage him to go if he wants to, but also tell him that we would understand if he chooses not to.  He has traveled extensively even though he is only 19, and we believe those travels have ingrained in him a deep curiosity about, and appreciation of, how other people in the world live. If my wife and I had regrets about not going ourselves, we would probably encourage him more strongly.  But he's a smart, creative and responsible person who will ultimately make the right decision for him.

Would be curious to hear what people felt about their study abroad experiences (or decisions not to go).

-- Frosty


  1. Study abroad was a transformative experience for me. It opened many doors for me - socially and professionally. I would imagine it is quite different nowadays, but back then I had almost no contact with my family while I was away. Phone calls were reserved for special occasions and I stayed in Europe for the Christmas holidays. I was lucky to have some family friends to visit during that time. It was special to see how the "natives" celebrated Christmas. After the first few months the homesickness was gone and the language experience intensified. My life was changed forever by my study abroad experience.

  2. I did it for a year in college. I can't say it was always easy, but I think it made me a much better person. Maybe not everyone needs to go live somewhere else to get a better understanding of what is good and bad about the USA (although listening to the news I think maybe most people do), but I definitely did. I had to get smacked by my own assumptions and preconceptions a few times before I really started to think.
    The only question is whether to do such extended travel through school or on your own -- I probably wouldn't have done it on my own so having the school take care of some of the basic things (where to live, initial language classes, etc.) was helpful. The downside was that for six weeks all the Americans were hanging out together improving their language skills before school started, so a lot of people never made any non-American friends.

  3. It wasn't an option for me, since I had a dying parent while I was in college. I can only imagine the fits my mom would have thrown at the idea of me being that far away, the money, being behind on graduating in 4, etc.
    I really don't care, to be honest. Far away travel is just never going to be a part of my life for money reasons and these days I can't afford to travel to another state for a week, much less Europe. If you've got the funds/time/whatever, nice for you, but it's just not an option for me so I don't think about it as one. For me it's like dreaming of going to space. Not happening in a billion years, so why pine and whine about it?

  4. It wasn't an option for me or my husband, but my oldest daughter studied in Germany her junior year. It was a good experience for her, and I was proud of her exercising her independence. None of my other kids did it.

  5. Like the first poster, living abroad was transformative for me. I met a new set of friends, learned and spoke a new language, was immersed in a culture, became more courageous by traveling solo and going to places where I did not speak the language and so much more. I hope my kids have the opportunity to live abroad. It's a time of my life that I treasure.