Why wait to study abroad? Here are 10 reasons not to! When you start applying to colleges, you are most likely not thinking about studying abroad right away. Perhaps you have thought about studying in another country at some point in your college career, maybe during your sophomore or junior year. However, you are probably expecting your first semester at a university to be traditional, starting with orientation, move-in day, and adjustment to the typical college life. I am here to tell you that the ordinary freshman year experience is not the only option and not even necessarily the best.
Whether or not you have heard of people studying abroad so early on in their college career, it has become increasingly popular. Northeastern University’s N.U.in program sends students to one of six international locations his/her first semester. The University of Delaware World Scholars Program includes studying abroad freshman year in Rome, Italy or Madrid, Spain. Countless other institutions offer spring admission to their universities as well, with the option of spending the fall semester abroad at one of their partner institutions. There is also always the option of seeking a degree at an abroad university.
When I was applying to colleges, studying abroad first semester had never even crossed my mind. Truthfully, I hardly even knew that it was a possibility. However, I was informed of this opportunity when I was admitted to my top university second semester. I have always loved travelling and knew that I wanted to study internationally at some point during my four years at college, but going abroad my freshman year definitely seemed daunting at first. When I finally enrolled for the spring semester at my university in the United States, I applied to three different colleges abroad where I would potentially spend my first semester and ultimately chose to go to Rome, Italy. I have been here for three weeks so far and have already discovered many of the benefits of studying abroad first semester. Here is a list of the ten things I have learned so far about studying abroad and why I believe you should do so if you can, even your freshman year!
- The growth in maturity you experience while studying abroad is impressive. I have already noticed a change in my level of maturity, and I have been in Rome for less than a month. You will find yourself adapting to your new environment every day, and you will grow confident that you can continue to do so while travelling on weekends. If I could learn how to do laundry, cook, and navigate so quickly in Rome, you can too.
- Another benefit of studying abroad in a country with a different main language is that you get the chance to practice this language with locals! I took Italian for three years in high school and am taking it again this semester in Rome. Being exposed to Italian speakers every day has helped me immensely in my study of the language. Even my friends who only knew two words in Italian upon their arrival here have improved so much over these past few weeks. If you are really concerned about the language barrier, you are bound to find people who at least speak a little English. Plus, the majority of the music played here is American music, including great throwbacks, which is a major plus.
- One of the best parts of studying abroad is the ability to travel on weekends. Living in Europe or on another continent in general for four months makes it much easier to see the places you have dreamed of visiting. Also, when you make friends who want to travel as well, they will often introduce you to new places that you might have never otherwise seen. For instance, two of my friends and I wanted to take a day trip during our second weekend, and one of them found a place called Tivoli in Italy, which was only an hour train ride away, costing a mere two Euros. We went the next day, had a great time, and left with amazing new memories. The chance to be spontaneous in travelling is one of the highlights of studying abroad, and it gives you not only a crazy story but also a sense of independence.
- You will find that your sense of direction has improved dramatically within days. Living in a place with different types of roads and fewer street signs, you have to learn to get around somehow early on. Within my first three days here, I learned to find my way around pretty well. Now, having already taken weekend trips, I have realized that this skill has transcended Rome. I am now able to navigate my way through a new town or city within hours.
- One of the most enjoyable parts of studying abroad is meeting locals on a daily basis. They are often very friendly, welcoming, and willing to try to communicate with you. You are bound to have a bunch of local friends on Snapchat by the end of your semester! It is incredibly interesting to live temporarily in the place they have lived their whole lives and to see how this place has shaped them. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them and to practice your language skills! You just might gain an Instagram follow or a Facebook friend in the process.
- When you study abroad, you are introduced to a group of people with whom you are bound to have a lot in common. You will meet people with such interesting stories and will have the opportunity to build strong relationships with them, especially since you will most likely travel with people you meet while abroad.
- You will have such unique opportunities while studying abroad! I can go to class on a Monday afternoon and hang out and enjoy gelato at the Trevi Fountain on Monday night. I was introduced to an app called Scooterino, which is essentially a type of Uber used in Rome. However, instead of picking you up in cars, drivers pick you up and take you to your destination on a vespa. When I had to go to a bookstore to buy my textbooks, I was dropped off on a vespa. It was insane.
*Spontaneity is key. On a Sunday night, I got out of bed to grab a water bottle from a vending machine downstairs when a few girls told two of my friends and I about a music festival taking place down the block. I sprinted to my room, grabbed my purse, and we ran to the festival in our pajamas. We ended up spending the night dancing and singing outside in a piazza next to the Tiber River and making one of our favorite memories so far.
- You will be exposed to some of the best food in the world while abroad! You can find unique, delectable dishes no matter where you choose to go. Some of the most delicious pizza and pasta are down the street from my apartment. Trust me; I take advantage of this daily. Then, there’s the gelato. Enough said.
- Another really cool aspect of studying abroad is the chance to take on-site classes. My art history class is based on the art and architecture of Rome and Florence during the Renaissance period, and we get to go as a class to visit the monuments we learn about in class. We even have a mandatory weekend trip to Florence with the class! These classes are not only interesting, but also incredibly informative. The feeling of walking down the streets of your new home, recognizing different buildings, and knowing about their past is nothing short of incredible.
Learning Outside the Classroom
Classes are important, and you should still do your homework, even if you are in another country for the semester. However, I have found that I have learned even more outside the classroom here than I have in my classes. Literally, I have been able to visit and learn about museums and sights like the Coliseum and the Spanish Steps, but I have also learned so much about myself and my ability to adapt to new settings. My confidence has grown in my capability of balancing my time and keeping myself on track in my daily schedule while living on my own in a foreign country. The best part is that these skills I have been developing will surpass my time here and my time in college as a whole. Being thrown into a foreign country, especially when you are a freshman in college, might sound intimidating, but with the help of friends and mentors, you will be in for one of the greatest experiences of your life!