“There is no place like home”, an old saying goes. But is it really? The fact is, no matter where your roots are, going abroad and trying to build a life somewhere else, even if just temporary, is an exciting challenge. For some, it is even a revelation on what to do next with their lives. Wondering just how living abroad will change your life? Here are ten reasons:
Making the switch from high school to university is already a big step in everybody’s life. Suddenly you’ve developed from that person whose parents still handle their business, to the student who is solemnly responsible for advancing his or her studies by picking classes, signing up for projects and papers, and having teacher-student one on ones.
But even with those new challenges, other areas in life stay the same. Mum and Dad may still send food your way, wash your clothes, maybe even take care of a lot of your administrative duties. If you have a big family, you might even add grandparents, aunts, uncles or older siblings to that equation.
But abroad, you will truly be on your own, relying on your own skills and brains to settle into your new home. You will have to take care of your own paperwork, cook your own food, wash your own clothes, and map out your weekly schedule so that you can hang with your new friends, but also attend your classes to receive your ECTS. This thrill of suddenly feeling like a true grown up is a state of being that you will thrive for for the rest of your life. Many international students have come back home only to be told how much more mature they have become.
Moving abroad for a while faces you with a set of new bureaucratic challenges. You have to look for accommodation, sign an E-Learning agreement, register at the municipal authorities, get a public transport ticket, maybe open a bank account, go to preparation meetings with your host university… the list is endless.
Learning how to take care of your own administrative business is a huge step in anyone’s life. You have to figure out what institution is responsible for what tasks, where to get the necessary documents and signatures, and how to communicate when issues arise (and with paperwork, they always do). The rewarding feeling that you will get once you’ve registered yourself in a new city and got a stamp of approval on your university documents will teach you that with patience and knowledge, any pile of paperwork can be conquered.
Going to a university class abroad might not sound like a number one contender for opening up new horizons at first, but you’re about to experience a different school system with different requirements and probably also different approaches to your subjects.
Maybe you will learn about topics you might never would have heard of in your home university and they will provide you with new ideas and trains of thought. You might also get valuable input from the structure of the class on what can be improved back in your home alma mater. Depending on the country, some schools might ask for more projects and homework in exchange for ECTS, which will kick-start your determination and lead you to stepping your studying up a notch.
That one is a golden classic. When you go abroad, you are bound to make new friends. For the most part, those people will come from all over the world and within weeks you will feel like you’ve known these people forever. Of course, you can always find international friends back in your hometown too, but being abroad yourself, living that specific international lifestyle makes a huge difference. For many international students, it might actually be the first time ever that they really engage with a group of people that have a different place of origin than themselves.
Once you go back home, knowing people from all over the world and swaying in the fact that you have so much in common even though you were raised so differently will not fade away. You might start actively looking for international residents within your city, feeling that just having locals in your circle of friends doesn’t make the cut anymore.
Living abroad puts you out of your comfort zone and throws you into a new environment where things work a bit differently than from what you’re used to back home. More importantly, it can challenge your views on how you perceive the world around you. While growing up, you explore your surroundings in a view catered to the outlook and desires of your country. You are used to certain public services, a certain standard of living quality, certain foods and products, and of course specific political views and rights.
Going abroad, even within a close geographical perimeter, can turn those habits upside down. Apart from realising that not everything works the same way as back home and you having to adapt to it, it also opens your mind to the fact that the world is so much bigger than your own country. You will adapt attitudes, habits, tastes and maybe even political points of view that you never even knew existed before that. People doing things differently won’t be weird or alien to you anymore; they will become common.
Student life provides you with a lot of freedoms. Freedoms to choose your own classes and how to arrange your free time. But once you go abroad and spend all your time with your friends trying out new fun activities or travelling, you might notice that in the past you have solemnly focused on your academic transcript. Living abroad unleashes a desire to make the world your home, to see places, and meet as many people as possible.
In short, it gives you the tools and the motivation to increase your life experience and not only dwell on your academic goals. Later in life, you will see that often the experiences you made outside of school will matter just as much as your scholar achievements when you apply for jobs.
Looking back on your 20s at a later point in life often results in recounting some of the craziest experiences you made at that age. You will never be as free of responsibilities again, so you owe it to yourself to make the most of it.
Living abroad as a student just fuels this motivation. You’ll try food you never heard of before, travel to the most remote places you can find on a map, or have some crazy parties that become the stuff of legends. Basically everything you do can have a lasting impact. There is a reason people love to talk about their Erasmus experience even years later. The vast amount of new experiences in your life reaches one of its early peaks during that time.
When you apply for a job, there is a multitude of factors that give your CV a favourable impression. Clean style, studies, extra-curriculum activities, special skills, as well as previous work experience. The level for being qualified for a job is constantly being raised, asking of you to have a wide range in many different areas of life to be eligible. Having lived and studied or worked abroad has more or less become a standard that is expected of you.
Having lived abroad shows a potential employer that you are capable of adapting yourself to a new environment, that you are able to live and work within a foreign setting, and that you’re open-minded on changing location. Those are valuable assets you don’t have to specifically assure them during an interview; the interviewer can deduct that already from your CV before having even met you.
Once you’ve studied abroad, you’re hooked. You might even immediately start looking where you’re off to next. Doing a Masters, a PhD or an internship in another country suddenly doesn’t seem so scary anymore, but like a promise of adventure, fun and new possibilities.
This doesn’t only pay off on a personal level; some study programmes may even have a higher standard and international recognition in other countries. You would therefore be doing your CV and your academic transcript a favour.
Why only study abroad? Why not completely move somewhere for a while? Living abroad preps you for the daunting task of leaving your comfortable life back home and moving to a new country, to a new city, and into a new life. The world today is marked by globalisation — cities are packed with international people working for international companies, that’s why foreign language skills are an invaluable asset in any job. The single European market also gives you the freedom within the EU to move and work wherever you want with no pre-existing terms.
In the end, you might make a new country your permanent home, see it as a starting point to take your work all around the world, or keep it as a fond memory once you return to your home country. But spending an extended period of time abroad and not only a few months of studying definitely expands your adaptability in life.
Of course there are a million more reasons to take the step and move abroad, going far beyond those which make you profit as a student. There might be no place like home, but how will you know if you don’t make this experience first-hand yourself? Living abroad will give you the opportunity to prove this proverb either right or wrong. Either way, it will come with lasting experiences — and that’s a great payoff no matter what.
Thanks for reading this post!
Have you ever lived abroad? What have you felt you’ve gained from that experience? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation in Europe, you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces.