For me, it was never a question of whether I would study abroad, but where. Travel has been an extremely important and formative part of my life since age 11, when I lived in Spain with my mum. I grew so much as a person during that year, expanding my horizons and deepening my understanding of the world. I have now lived in six different countries and traveled to many more, and each experience abroad has continued to shape who I am and what I want from life.
Why Study Abroad: Finding My Passion
Toward the end of high school, my mum began encouraging me to consider taking a gap year. I was hesitant at first, wanting to go to college at the same time as all of my friends. But my mum reminded me of how formative my time in Spain had been, and I decided to take her advice. It was, without a doubt, the best decision I’ve ever made.
Before my gap year, I had a tentative interest in pursuing medicine and becoming a doctor, although to be honest, I really had no idea what my passion was. I felt caught between what society wanted me to do, what my family and friends wanted, and what I wanted. Not that I even really knew what I wanted to begin with! The possibilities before me seemed endless – how would I know which path to follow, which career to pursue? What was it that I wanted in life?
While studying and volunteering abroad during my gap year, I fully embraced each cultural exchange. In India, I ate with my hands, wore kurtas and drank chai with the guest house kitchen staff, trading English and Hindi lessons and learning about their lives and families. In Central America, I played soccer with the local teens I mentored and listened to stories told by elders in the community. Through these interactions I came to appreciate perspectives and concepts that were initially quite foreign to me, such as arranged marriages in India and political murder in Guatemala. I felt extremely privileged that the people I met opened up to me about such personal and controversial topics, and I grew to appreciate the importance of forging meaningful connections across cultures.
Spending ten months studying and volunteering abroad completely transformed my life. Suddenly I had clarity – my passions, my strengths, my goals, my dreams. I returned to my “formal” studies with a renewed intensity and a new sense of purpose.
Why Study Abroad: My First Semester Away
As with my previous experiences abroad, my first semester studying away helped me gain independence, self-reliance, and confidence. I cultivated my skills of problem solving, adapting to challenging situations, and cross-cultural communication. I developed a sense of global fluency, and I learned to see my own culture through a new lens.
Studying abroad has allowed me to see a side of my major that is simply not visible to anyone studying in the States. While in Jordan, I have had the incredible opportunity to study the history and politics of the Middle East with local experts and scholars in the same place where these events took place. I am very excited to take similar courses on North Africa while studying abroad in Morocco next semester. And of course, both semesters provide a unique opportunity to study a language intensively and immersed in local culture.
Living abroad is completely different than just traveling: it allows you to put down roots and really develop a sense of intimacy with a new place, a deeper understanding of its history, a profound appreciation of the culture. It’s a unique experience that helps you grow and discover your passions, develop a stronger sense of independence, and take your university studies to the next level. Not to mention, study abroad looks great on your CV or resume! In summary, my experiences living abroad have shaped who I am as a person and defined my future goals. To anyone who is considering studying abroad, I highly encourage you to take the plunge – I promise that it will be one of the best decisions you ever make!
Want to know more about study abroad? Click here to read all my tips for studying and living abroad. And don’t forget to read about the other countries where I have studied and lived abroad, including India, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Morocco!