Heed the extremely useful advice one of our students, Anna, as she reflects on the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone and embarking on the journey to study abroad.
The thought of leaving friends and family to study abroad for three months – especially if you’ve never been away from home for a long period of time – can feel scary, and maybe even impossible. But before allowing fear to overtake the tinge of adventure that sparked your curiosity in the first place, take a moment to consider the opportunities that studying abroad provides: new experience; new culture; new friends; adventure; excitement; growth; challenge; the opportunity to learn a new language; the opportunity to see beautiful and historic places on this planet; the list goes on.
Of course, sticking with the familiar is easier. But familiarity doesn’t always encourage growth. Growth happens when we are challenged – when we are pushed beyond our comfort zone into situations where we have to adapt and change in order to succeed. Studying abroad gives you the chance to try new patterns, to test new ways of living, to figure out that another way of life might even bring more health and happiness.
Life abroad is a big chance to learn about yourself – to figure out how you respond to life in a new country. It is a chance to hone your resourcefulness, independence, and problem solving. It is a chance to build patience and appreciation – to give yourself a break when you don’t immediately pick up a new language or understand new customs. And it provides many chances to celebrate, like when you finally understand what the woman at the supermarket is saying to you in Spanish!
Although bad news sells the news, it’s a distortion that can unfairly taint our view of the world. The negativity can fuel our insecurity and fear when we first think about leaving home. But it is this distorted, processed view that makes it more important than ever to reach for your own first hand perspective. Traveling has shown me how many wonderful people exist on this planet. When I have stumbled into sticky situations, I have been amazed by the people who are ready to engage, take care of me, or help me out, even though I’d only met them a short time before. Traveling has taught me how much care we have for each other as human beings despite our different backgrounds and nationalities.
If you are a little scared to study abroad, take a moment to lean into your fear. Ask “what can I learn?” You get one shot at life; how do you want to spend your precious chance? Do you really want to overcome your fear, or do you want to cave to it and hold back?
Overcoming your fear about studying abroad will build huge confidence. Then next time you are presented with a challenge, you will remember that you were able to leave your home country and live elsewhere for three months. Studying abroad helps you put other life challenges in perspective. It teaches that what may initially seem an insurmountable challenge actually has the potential to become an enriching and wonderful experience.
Studying abroad is also wonderful for spiritual growth. You can rethink your assumptions about yourself, your country, and what you consider good and valuable. International experience also pays when you eventually enter a competitive job market. It is valuable to employers, especially in a globalizing world. And if you are an entrepreneur, remember that experience and inspiration are both breeders of creativity.
So whenever you get the opportunity to study abroad, seize it! I promise you won’t regret it. 🙂