6 Things You Shouldn’t Say When Deciding Whether or Not to Study Abroad

While conducting social media outreach, I read so many enthusiastic tweets about study abroad. I also read a lot of tweets about why someone is NOT going abroad. Here are six of them and why you should not say these things when deciding whether or not to do it:

“I’ll only study abroad if I can go to __________.” Alternatively, “I’d study abroad, but only in __________,” or “If I don’t get to study abroad in __________, I’m not going.” I understand having a clear idea of where you imagine yourself living for a semester or even a year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t consider other options. This “all or nothing” mentality is going to be very limiting, especially since it may already be difficult to go abroad due to finances, academics, or simply the timing. Additionally, you may like the idea of a country, only to visit or actually study there and find out you don’t like it at all. On the other hand, you might warm up to countries you initially felt “meh” about, and wish you’d studied there instead. So remember to be open-minded and flexible. Even if you have a dream destination that you can’t get to, don’t let that stop you from going abroad at all. (Confession time: when researching programs, I was determined to avoid Spain at all costs because I figured I’d end up there at another point in my life, so I wanted to use my study abroad semester to explore another destination. When I didn’t find a suitable program that I was really interested in, I decided to give Spain a chance. I went to Barcelona and absolutely fell in love with Spain.)

“I want to study abroad, but I don’t have anyone to go with.” You’re basically saying, “I can’t study abroad alone.” YES, you can! I already wrote about great reasons to study abroad alone. You won’t regret it.

“I’d love to study abroad, but I can’t imagine being away from _______ for so long.” Fill in the blank with things like my boyfriend/girlfriend, family, friends, dogs, CHIPOTLE (yeah I’ve seen that), and so on.  Study abroad isn’t limited to semester/year-long programs. There are short-term study abroad programs for a few weeks, if you don’t feel that you could handle being homesick or being away from your loved ones for so long. Trust me, once you get out there, though, time will fly by and chances are you’ll wish you’d picked a longer program!

“I can’t study abroad; I’d miss (insert sports team here) playing!” I don’t understand this one. Maybe it’s because I’ve never been into sports, but I can’t imagine giving up the study abroad experience to watch sports. You can find ways to watch the games abroad, whether in a pub or via internet streaming.

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“I’d never study abroad. Why would anyone want to leave the US?” One thing I’ve learned: as Americans, we are quite ethnocentric and xenophobic. Newsflash: we’re not the best at everything. One important reason to study abroad is to dispel myths and stereotypes, especially about what life is like outside of the US. Traveling to other countries will also cause you to reflect on your own culture and country, and will bring a new perspective.

“I’d study abroad if it weren’t so expensive.” Studying abroad doesn’t have to be expensive! In fact, my semester abroad with ISA cost roughly the same, if not slightly less, than two quarters at UCI would have cost. If you receive federal aid, you may be able to apply it towards your program. There are also scholarships and grants you can apply for to help cover the tuition. (Don’t forget to check out IIE’s Study Abroad Funding directory too!)

Have you heard any other reasons against going abroad?

Jennifer

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7 responses to “6 Things You Shouldn’t Say When Deciding Whether or Not to Study Abroad

  1. When I studied abroad I had some of these thoughts cross my mind (except the sports team one…I can’t believe someone would even say that!). I always recommend to anyone thinking about studying abroad to just do it. Life back home will not change that much in the time you’re gone. In fact, the people who study abroad are the ones who change the most as they experience more than others too scared to do it can even imagine.

  2. “I’d only study abroad if I didn’t have to go to class” – that’s what I’ve heard when someone asked me about my upcoming program. Like, seriously? I mean, my program is unique in that I should only be in class two or three days a week, but honestly it’s not a free vacation? But then again, that’s the type of person who doesn’t really value the experience and probably isn’t emotionally ready to go anyway.

    • You brought up a really good one that I’d forgotten about! (On Twitter it’s usually something like, “I’d love to study abroad, but without the study part.”) I definitely agree and it’s not supposed to be fun all the time, or else why not just pay to travel instead of paying more for classes you’re not going to attend?

  3. I love your blog! I leave to study abroad in Madrid in 2 days! While I’m slightly terrified, I’m insanely excited. I’m leaving a boyfriend and a huge loving crazy family, along with my beloved Indiana Hoosiers basketball team (there’s no online live streaming available, I’ve researched it extensivly :( ). All that’s okay, but there is one thing that almost kept me from going.
    My “almost excuse” was that my dad has been sick for the past 2 years with an aggressive cancer. This past summer (after I’d applied, paid the deposit and booked a nonrefundable flight) he took a turn for the worse. It’s a real possibility that when I leave, it will be the last time I see him.
    But I’ve talked about it with him, cried about it with him, and he’s a adventurer like me. He would jump at the chance to study a foreign language in a foreign land. He would never want me to sit at home and hold a vigil for what might been instead of going out and capturing what can be.
    And so, my bags are packed, I’m holding the ones I love close, and I’m ready for a new stage in my adventure. Thank God for skype and the internet.

  4. The last item may be valid as finances can be an obstacle to traveling abroad. However, with scholarships and the likes, they’re making study abroad more accessible to a lot of people. Moreover, crowdfunding or online fundraising is the newest option now to gather funds for their overseas trips. You can also check out how we (www.FundMyTravel.com) can help students set up funds for their study abroad journeys.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for your comment! I definitely agree that finances can be a challenge, but many students seem to toss out the idea without researching their options, thinking that it’s too expensive to go abroad. You brought up a lot of great points about looking for scholarships and other funding.

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