Why bother? It’s a question I am often asked by friends and acquaintances about studying abroad. It is true that it can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive to embark on an academic journey far away from home, but every single person I have met who has taken the leap into the unknown abyss of studying abroad has found it to be one of the single best decisions he or she has ever made. There are three main reasons why I personally think it is worth going through the often rigorous application process and spending a significant amount of money for a study abroad stay.
The first reason is that Studying abroad will fundamentally change your outlook on the world. Although it sounds like a cliché, being exposed to a different culture in a host country together with people from all over the world will undoubtedly influence how you interact with people who from the offset appear different. Coming from a very homogenous country, studying abroad enlightened me that I could bond with people very different from me. The experiences also made me appreciate positive sides of the Danish welfare model I had not previously consciously thought of and it made me aware of cultural aspects of the Danish society I had also taken for granted. In essence, my study abroad trips have both enlightened me on foreign cultures and at the same time they have made more aware and appreciative of my own culture.
The second reason is that you will make friends for life. When studying abroad you will meet people who are all in the same boat as you, which makes it easy to bond. Back home it can be quite difficult to make new friends, but when you go abroad you most likely do not know anyone, which forces you to engage with other people. I have met some of my very best friends abroad and some of my best memories come from these trips.
The third and final reason is that your appeal to employers will increase. Going abroad is an instant boost to your career! Apart from obtaining knowledge through courses, you also demonstrate independence and curiosity. Choosing to stray from the well-trodden path will automatically make you stand out to future employers. Furthermore, you will learn a lot about working in different cultural settings, which is valuable in international corporations, where cultural clashes are inevitable.
In summary I cannot recommend going abroad enough! It does not matter if it is for summer school, an exchange semester or a whole degree – just do it! Reach out to people who have done it previously, as they are often eager to help you out.
by Andreas Elkjaer