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Feature Photo: uib Photo: juanflauta

Laziness, paperwork, fear…there are plenty of reasons why people opt not to study abroad. But none of them really justifies missing out on a potentially life-changing experience.

THE DECISION TO STUDY abroad didn’t always seem like an obvious choice. In fact, there are several reasons it didn’t make any sense.

I delayed my graduation by six months. It took a four-page persuasive essay to change my dad’s opinion on the matter. I put my ever-ambitious career on hold. Most of all, I broke the bank… and then some.

In spite of these deterrents, my semester of international study was still the best investment I’ve ever made. We’ve all heard the classic excuses not to study abroad; I had some of them too. But they simply don’t offer compelling reasons to miss out.

1. It’s too much work to apply.

You applied to college, didn’t you? Study abroad applications are a far less arduous process. While some more competitive programs may require recommendations and essays, they’re generally not even close to as time-consuming. If your school has a study abroad office, have an adviser walk you through the entire process.

2. I can’t graduate on time.

Got history or art requirements? Language classes you need to take care of? Almost every international university will offer equivalent classes. If you take courses for your major early on, you can hold off on general ed requirements and take them abroad instead.

Photo: naixn

If all else fails, embrace the extra semester. Who’s rushing to graduate in this jobless economy anyway?

3. My parents / friends / significant other don’t want me to.

Going abroad is an incredible opportunity that builds maturity, worldliness, and independence. The people who want the best for you will encourage you to take the opportunity to go, and there’s nothing that can test the strength of a relationship like a couple of months apart.

4. I’ll get homesick.

You’ll undeniably have to give up certain things for a couple of months: heaven on earth in the form of your multiple down comforters, those bangin’ banana pancakes from the diner across the street, cuddle sessions with your chinchilla…

Photo: nuomi

However, you’ll be able keep up with your friends’ and family’s lives via Facebook, probably down to what your roommate had for breakfast. And hey, cuddling might be out, but you can still blow your chinchilla kisses over Skype video chat.

5. I can’t afford it.

Plenty of college students don’t have the means to drop several grand over the course of a few months, especially when most are just scraping by on a college budget.

However, studying abroad really doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think, especially if you’re not adamant about studying in a major European city. Sometimes you’ll find that the cost of a semester at an international university is comparable to the cost of a semester at your home university.

Moreover, many study abroad programs allow you to use your financial aid, and there are scholarships galore available for students who need a little help.

6. I can always travel after I graduate.

Photo:powi

Of course you can always travel later, but studying abroad is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture for several months and experience an entirely fresh educational system (while experiencing an equally fresh nightlife, should you so desire).

Let’s be honest; most people only have the stamina for the globetrotting lifestyle when they’re young. Once you’re tied down with real-life bills and obligations, it won’t be so easy to drop everything and go.

Which all means that your excuses simply don’t measure up. Liberate yourself from them, and hit the road.

Community Connection

Not interested in the conventional study abroad semester in Paris or Seville? Why not try Cyprus, Chile, or China?

Need more motivation? Ask yourself: What am I waiting for?

Or have a look at what Pico Iyer, one of travel’s foremost advocates, has to say about why we travel.

About The Author

Teresa Wu

Teresa Wu is from the San Francisco Bay Area. She's visited over 20 countries by the age of 20. Her interests include travel, cake, and the internet — in that order. Read more about all three at her blog

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  • http://www.illadvisedadventures.com Adam

    Hear, hear! I’m about to start my semester (or possibly year) abroad. The funny thing is, it looks like its going to be a lot cheaper than my school in the U.S. Like, about half the price.

  • kr

    moving overseas for university was the best choice i ever made. seeing as much of the world as i can before i’m tied down with a job and bills is one of my top goals in life.

  • http://www.ieatmypigeon.wordpress.com Liv

    Really helpful article! I will always regret not doing Study Abroad in college. Traveling appealed to me, but what always stopped me was the idea of missing something important at home. Then three of my friends went to Buenos Aires and Paris for the semester. When they returned, they asked: “What did I miss?” and I was forced to reply: “Um, we watched a lot of TV.” They, on the other hand, had hundreds of amazing stories to tell. I eventually began traveling a lot in my mid to late 20s, but when I hear my friends tell the stories of crazy things they did when they were 19 and exploring the world, I can’t help but be a bit envious.

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/rsw Tim Patterson

      Yeah…you can always travel, but you can never be 19 again. *sniff*

  • Scott

    To echo Adam’s reply I am headed for my Master’s Degree in Holland this fall. It’s cheap even though I am not an EU citizen (in Scandinavia its free, if you can afford to live there). Plus it shows that number six can be a good excuse for not studying during your first university experience.

    Oh, I had real life bills and worries and I still traveled for a year when I was 31.

  • Allessandra

    Im so happy I studied abroad. It opened my mind up not only to other cultures but also to my own abilities to adapt and deal in various situations. I learned alot about myself as well as my host country.

  • Rachael

    I’m thankful I never made those excuses! I studied abroad for two semesters (Florence and Bangkok) and interned abroad for a summer. Best decisions I ever made! And a great answer to many of these excuses: study in Thailand! Insanely cheap (I guarantee you will save/make money just by the amount of tuition you WON’T be paying to your university at home), gorgeous landscape, interesting culture, super friendly people….win-win-win situation!

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/rsw Tim Patterson

      I agree. Thailand is a great place to study abroad because it’s cheap, interesting and safe.

  • http://evaholland.com Eva

    Great post and good points! I have to nitpick a little at #2, though. My school had a ton of fantastic study abroad options, but didn’t accept any courses taken overseas as equivalents for degree prerequisites (except in cases where, say, you were studying international development and arranged an IDS-specific exchange).

    So as a Classics major, I couldn’t just take my Greek and Latin language prereqs elsewhere, and doing a study abroad would have absolutely cost me an extra year. (Cost being the key word – I was in no huge career rush, but obviously five years of university cost more than four.) That’s not to say it isn’t worth the sacrifice if you are able to manage it financially, but at plenty of schools, it will require that extra year of tuition.

  • Meliss

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. I studied abroad for a year in New Zealand when I was in college and loved every minute of it. I paid for my program entirely through loans and will most likely be paying those loans back for some time. Even though it was a bit more to study abroad than stay at my university in the U.S. I wouldn’t change my choice for one second. Every month I write that check to the bank and think back on all of my great memories! Coming home with more developed independence, flexibility and a better sense of self gave me an advantage when it came to looking for jobs. Studying abroad was the best decision I’ve made yet and I highly recommend it to anyone.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/eahutton Erin

    Great article! My semester abroad was an experience I wouldn’t exchange for anything. I wish I’d had this article to show a few friends that still whine about “not getting to study abroad.” It would’ve helped my argument for them to go!

  • Kyla

    “To echo Adam’s reply I am headed for my Master’s Degree in Holland this fall. It’s cheap even though I am not an EU citizen (in Scandinavia its free, if you can afford to live there). Plus it shows that number six can be a good excuse for not studying during your first university experience.

    Oh, I had real life bills and worries and I still traveled for a year when I was 31.”

    This statement actually made me feel alot better. I’m in the process of going back to school for my second degree and I’ll be 26 when I go. I still have dreams of studying abroad and will probably be 27 when I do it, I feel that 27 is too old and that perhaps I shouldn’t even bother, but since you said you still traveled for a year while being 31 made me feel alot better. Granted, I know studying abroad when I’m 27 won’t be the same as if I had done it while I was 19 but atleast I’ll be able to say I still did it.

    • bj

      Kyla,
      Don’t worry about your age at all. A lot of times you can’t even tell the difference in age between a 19 year old and a 27 year old anyway. I plan to study in Spain for my final senior semester next year and I will be 34! That doesn’t mean I have to hang out with kids 15 years younger than me all the time. I’m sure I will be able to find some people my own age and I’m there to learn about the culture anyway.

  • http://www.gooverseas.com GO! Overseas

    All very valid points. The theme here is to not let fear of the unknown deter you from achieving your dream of studying abroad. If there is a will, there is a way, no matter the obstacles.

    @Kayla. I believe that studying abroad at 27 will be a very unique and rewarding experience. At a younger age we sometimes cannot appreciate the opportunities that are given to us, and are then unable to take full advantage of the experience. I will wish you the best of luck in your upcoming adventure!

  • Audrey Tensen

    I am 29 years old and a returning student. I have bils and responsibilities, but I leave in February for a semester in Greece! If you get the chance, you should go!

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