Studying abroad in a foreign country is becoming easier all the time with different institutions offering programs and scholarships to those who choose to make the time to apply. However, once you’ve made the decision to study abroad, how are you supposed to choose where in the world to go? I studied abroad for two semesters, 6 months in Spain and 6 months in Argentina, and after going through the process twice of deciding where to go, I have found that there are four main ways that people unknowingly limit themselves while making this decision.
Don’t rule out a place because you don’t speak the language.
Please don’t rule out studying abroad in a place that you would really like to go simply because you don’t speak the language! There are many study abroad programs that exist in non-English speaking countries that are designed for English speakers. These often include an opportunity to actually learn the language of the country, which is an incredible opportunity.
Take some time to reflect and find the balance between comfort and putting yourself out there.
Studying abroad is inherently going to put you outside of your comfort zone. You will be in a foreign country with different customs and values. Just how different can the culture be before you go from being uncomfortable to unhappy? But how can you get enough from being in a foreign country if it’s too comfortable and familiar? You need to find the balance between being too uncomfortable to be happy and being too comfortable to challenge yourself to grow as a person.
Beware of getting sucked into doing what your friends want to do! It is more than likely that you and your friends will have different comfort zones, as well as different interests and strengths. Don’t make a decision on a specific study abroad location just because you and your friend think that it would be fun to be in a certain foreign country together. Let yourself be strong enough to strike out on your own, without bringing a friend with you! Without meaning to you will limit each other because you won’t need to branch out to make friends in your study abroad program the same way that you would if you were alone.
Know what type of environment YOU want to be in.
This can depend on what you will be studying while you are abroad or where you’ll be. Urban areas will have different things to offer than rural areas, but that doesn’t mean that one is better than another. Do you want to be able to see feats of urban engineering or wonders of unspoiled nature? Do you want to have access to internationally acclaimed universities or significant works of art? Knowing what you want to get out of the study abroad experience will help you to narrow down your foreign destination.
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