If like me, you find yourself bored after countless semesters into university, you may need a change. I decided to study abroad in my third year; the tedious routine of paper after paper just wasn’t doing it for me and I needed a change. On top of the monotony, I didn’t feel like I was really experiencing university. I still lived at home, I didn’t pay rent, I only worked part-time, and I wasn’t a part of any clubs. My parents wouldn’t let me take a semester off, so I did the next best thing - I moved to Perth, Australia for a semester and continued my studies at Murdoch University. This may be a scary thing to first comprehend for all the shy folk out there who feel uneasy at the thought of moving to a different country by yourself; however, I assure you that SFU has a great Study Abroad program that provides you with plenty of support and knowledge to ensure that you have an easy and enjoyable transition to your new university experience.
The following are the top 5 reasons why I think the study abroad program is something that everyone should experience before graduation:
1. You Get a Sense of Adventure While Working Towards Your Degree
I arrived at my dorm room at 3am, lugging two huge suitcases up a flight of stairs feeling nothing but fear and loneliness! But these feelings quickly pass. The first day is the scariest, and it’s all downhill from there. Moving by yourself quickly becomes an exciting and fun learning experience. Exploring a new country that you get to live in for five months is exhilarating. I went surfing, enjoyed 28 degree heat in Australian “winter” and I took a side-trip to Bali with my roommate where we rode elephants.
Many universities also have trips specifically for international students, so you get to meet others who are also studying abroad from around the world, while following an itinerary with tour guides and activities. And yes, you attend classes in between doing all of these things! I found that my workload at Murdoch University was actually significantly easier than SFU’s, and I had no problem balancing all this adventure with the little homework I had to do. Researching the university before you apply is obviously a good idea to get a feel of what your academic life will be like when you go overseas.
2. You Can Add Substance to Your Resume
Employers like to see that you take chances and have gained experiences overseas. It is a great idea to volunteer some hours, or work a job in your field while overseas! It can add that something special to your resume when you get back home. International experience also gives you new perspectives on various issues and helps you see outside the box. You can see things in a completely new light while being immersed in different cultures. Certain overseas universities also have interesting courses related to your major, which SFU may not offer. Another perk is that in some countries where English is not their first language, you will gain firsthand experience at speaking another language fluently.
3. You Might Discover Things About Yourself you Never Knew
It sounds cheesy to say that you “find yourself” while traveling abroad, but it’s true! Shy people have to come out of their shell when they’re alone in a completely different country. You have to try new things, because food, sports and leisure activities are totally different in other places, and you can find something new you like. You may not even want to come back home and realize that perhaps you want to continue living there for even longer and extend your stay. You realize you can do things you never risked trying before! Studying abroad enables growth, independence, and self-confidence you may have lacked before.
4. You Feel a Huge Sense of Freedom Even Though you are Doing the Same Thing as you are Now - Just in a Different Location
It’s odd how much more fun life can be when you just move locations. You sort of have to start a new life, but having the same routine of university that once drove you crazy now keeps you grounded. It might be the first time you are living out of your parents’ house, and although you have to pay the bills, the sense of freedom is something you will probably not want to give up when you move back to Vancouver. Sure you may be a little low on funds, but learning to manage your money so you don’t eat packs of ramen noodles every night for dinner is certainly a necessary experience. Living away from everyone you grew up with back home is leaving your comfort zone, which makes you feel so invigorated and liberated. You essentially start from scratch in creating yourself a new home. And don’t worry if you ever get homesick, social mediums like Skype and Facebook can always connect you back home.
5. You Will Make Lifelong Friends
Let’s be honest, you’re not studying abroad just to heighten your academic experience. Meeting friends is thankfully, something which is inevitable as you study abroad. Even if you’re a shy wallflower type, you don’t need to worry about the lack of friends as you travel. As you settle into your university life abroad, you will meet others who are doing the exact same thing as you. When you arrive at your host university, embrace the fact that you are an international student, and go to the international events!
You will meet people from all around the world, and find yourself leaving with friends from almost every continent. Not to mention you will also meet lots of people from your host country who will surely be eager to show you around their city and give you sound advice of what highlights to see and experience. I recommend living on campus in a large dorm, I personally lived in a flat with seven other people! I figured that it would be nearly impossible for me to not make friends with at least one of them, and some of my very best friends were my flatmates.
The overall experience of living in a different country is something you will remember for the rest of your life and will help you shape your future goals. You will learn and live in different cultures, and you will meet friends from all around the world. You will make lifelong memories - some good, some bad, but all meaningful nonetheless.
On top of the valuable life lessons and experiences, studying abroad also makes you think a lot more about your future. It can really help you narrow down career-oriented goals as well as your personal goals. You may decide traveling is something you want to do more of and adjust your plans accordingly, or you may decide you want to take time learning a new language. You may even find that you want to change your major completely! The things you can learn are endless, and you will never really know what you can gain out of studying abroad until you do it.