As high school students approach the end of their high school education, and invitations to apply at various colleges and universities start inundating their mailbox, the looming question is “Where should I go to college?’ It’s the next chapter in their lives after graduation, and its understandable to see why they get so stressed out about it. There are so many options. I graduated from high school two years ago, and I still remember how hard it was to decide. First you have to decide where you’ll apply to, and then you have to decide which acceptance letter to accept (if you got accepted at more than one university, that is).
Looking back, it’s kind of funny how stressed out I was before graduation. Now that I have been in university for two years, my high school graduation seems so trivial. Yet, I’m thankful for the experience. Most of all, I’m thankful that I made what was then a very hard choice: Studying abroad.
That’s right, studying abroad. For some reason, students don’t think of this when they’re sending off college applications. I don’t know why, because there are so many opportunities and great schools abroad. You could study in France, or England, or Germany, or even Africa or Japan! Studying abroad is an amazing experience.
Studying abroad at a foreign college or university offers you more than just an education. Studying abroad gives you an opportunity to learn more about the way our world works, see things through different eyes, absorb a foreign culture (a great chance to learn a foreign language, too!), and have a lot of fun. The four (or more) years you spend in college is the perfect time to immerse yourself in another culture and enjoy life through the eyes of a Frenchman or an African or an Asian.
One of the major reasons people reject the idea is because, well, its so foreign! It sounds scary to go to another country where you don’t know anyone. However, once you are there you realize how amazing it is. Its so far removed from your home that you are forced to grow as a person. You become more adventurous and willing to try new things. You meet new people and make friends from backgrounds you’d never imagine.
Another reason people are put off by the idea of studying abroad is because of the cost. It sounds awfully expensive to go to a university in, say, France. However, people fail to take into account financial aid. There are numerous scholarships and grants for United States students who want to study abroad.
Once you are in your foreign country and enrolled in school, you’ll understand the depth of the experience. You might even start to pick up the local accent! I know that I’ve started sounding like my foreign friends and using slang or words unique to the area. That’s part of the fun! I’ve also been able to try new foods and meet some amazing people.
“Will I get homesick?” you ask. I’m sorry to say, but you probably will. However, that’s just part of growing up and you’ll get over it. Really. And suddenly you’ll fall in love with your new home and when you go “home” you’ll be homesick to go back to your foreign country!
How to Study Abroad:
Like in the U.S., you’ll want to search for schools that offer what you want to study. In Europe, many major universities offer courses similar to what you’d find in the U.S. Differences, such as studying European history rather than U.S. history, is obvious. However, they’ll offer degrees that are just as legitimate as degrees earned at schools like Harvard.
Contact their admissions office and tell them you are a U.S. student wishing to study abroad. The admission counselors are more than happy to help you. You’ll also want to get information from them about getting a student visa (the school will help you through the process), health insurance, and getting there.
Once you know what school you want to go to, and are accepted, it’s the same as studying in the U.S. You’ll want to book your transportation, and pack your luggage.
The latter is an important note: This should be obvious, but some people pack way too much. You’re traveling far, so don’t bring your entire room! Pack light, because you’ll be buying a lot of your stuff there. Also pay attention for things like electric plugs for your electronics; some countries use different outlets than in the US.
Once You Are There:
Your admissions counselor will help you in the transition. There will probably be some sort of transition help, such as giving you details on customs or practices unique to that country.
The most important thing is to not be afraid to try new things. The whole reason for studying abroad is to gain new experiences, so be bold and adventurous!