Many of us are confronted with the opportunity to study abroad during our university studies, but what happens if we have an opportunity to study abroad more than once?
My first reaction: Go for it! I was blessed with the opportunity to study Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan. I also spent an extended spring break in Chile, Argentina, and Brazil as part of one of my corporate growth strategy classes. Now, I am studying French in Paris as a part of my International MBA program at the University of South Carolina.
Why should you study abroad more than once?
Your first study abroad experience is likely going to include a lot of adjustment. It may be your first time outside of your home country or at least away from home for an extended period of time. With this adjustment comes a lot of time spent on learning how to travel alone, how to adapt to a new culture, how to speak a new language, how to stick to a budget, how to be spontaneous, and the list goes on. You gain a lot of wisdom about yourself and the world around you when you first study abroad. By studying abroad a second time, you can apply that wisdom you gained to make your next journey smoother and more fun.
With less adjustment related to some of the administrative details of travel, you will be able to focus more on on introspection and personal growth. Studying abroad provides with more time to work on “you” – changing your dietary habits, improving your fitness habits, becoming more multicultural and globally aware, and learning a new language. I have been actively working on enjoying each morsel of food rather than feeling the need to indulge. I am also becoming trilingual and adding France to my list of places where I can live and work one day.
While studying abroad a second time, your priorities will likely change, as every year we grow older (and hopefully wiser :). For example, life circumstances, such as relationships, may make you less focused on dating in your new country and instead experiencing places alone or with your significant other. Perhaps your first study abroad experience you learned that you can’t travel every weekend without feeling stressed. You may realize that you want to travel more or less during your study abroad experience. After my time in Salamanca, where I traveled every weekend, I realized that this time I would prefer to travel less and become fully immersed in the Parisian life. My friends in Paris have also discussed blogging and how they forgot to write about their experiences the first time studying abroad and would like to share their experiences with their families. In my case, I have decided to change my approach to blogging. While in Spain, I wrote a blog post every day about my agenda and travels. Now in France, I prefer to focus on stories, personal reflections, and lessons that I can share with others.
During my second study abroad experience, I have been much more comfortable with alone time, planning solo travel and visiting sites independent from my school field trips. This is the result of learning how fascinating solo travel can be, as you can shape your trips according to your own personal interests, you can pause when you want, and most importantly, you can reflect about the world around you. Learn more about why you (especially women) should travel alone in one of my previous posts here. I especially enjoyed last weekend when I traveled to London alone, experiencing the Chunnel for the first time. I stayed with one of my good friends, but she had already visited many of the tourist sites that interested me, so I explored solo. Together we did a Sandemann’s walking tour of London (which I highly recommend!), attended the Phantom of the Opera performance at Her Majesty Theatre, played trivia with the Belsize Rugby Club, and enjoyed fish and chips and Indian cuisine. Then, I visited the Tower of London, Westminister Abbey, and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London alone. I also went on a solo day trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury. I was fascinated to learn about the royal history in London, the primitive culture in Stonehenge, the Roman influence in Bath, and the democratic influence of the Magna Carta at the Salisbury Cathedral. I was able to reflect about all of these curiosities while walking around the sites, taking photographs, and riding on the bus between destinations. I also felt encouraged to meet new people and spark conversations with others attending the tours with me. While on the Golden Tours trip to Stonehenge, Bath, and Salisbury, I met an interesting woman who considered herself to be a global citizen, with a background in Spain, England, the United States, and now Israel. We had a fascinating discussion about life in Israel and the importance of serving your country in order to develop stronger patriotism and respect for all that your country does for you. Had I not traveled solo, I may not have sparked a conversation with her!
My conversation with the woman from Israel reminded me the importance of being a global citizen in today’s interdependent world. Studying abroad more than once will demonstrate to your future employers that you are globally aware, multicultural, adaptable, and potentially multilingual. As companies continue to expand to more countries and we all become more connected through the wonders of modern technology, it is important for all of us to develop global understanding. Studying abroad provides further depth of understanding about the world than a quick vacation, so I strongly encourage you to search for these opportunities while you are a student.
When you are faced with the choice and you have the budget, I hope that you will study abroad at least once. The world is at your finger tips if you are willing to do the research to find affordable travel, housing, and education options! If you are considering studying abroad in Europe, you can learn more about how to travel Europe on a budget here.