When I ask students if they would be interested in studying abroad, they often say something along the lines of, “I don’t want an international degree. I only want to go to college in the US… or maybe Canada” (it is the 51st state).
Studying abroad doesn’t mean “going to school overseas for four years and getting an international degree.” Typically, it involves studying at a university in another country for one semester to one year and getting credits toward a degree at your domestic university.
When I was in college at the University of Delaware, our school offered an exchange program with Bond University in Australia. We sent two students to their school each year, and they sent two to ours. Because it was an exchange program, I paid the same tuition, and the classes counted for credits towards my degree, just as if I was taking them at UD. On top of that, my scholarships still applied. I even qualified for a “discovery fund” scholarship that helped cover the cost of my flights and some of my adventures Down Under.
Not only did I get to live on the beautiful Gold Coast with clear blue waters and beautiful white sand beaches, but, thanks to Bond’s limit of no more than four classes per semester, I had Fridays off and just one class on Monday afternoons, which left me with lots of free time to explore.
I traveled all over the place. I rappelled down a waterfall in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney. I took a surf lesson in Byron Bay. I bungee jumped in Cairns (twice—the second time, backwards—it was awesome). I saw a waterfall pouring through the ceiling of a cave lit up by glow worms before watching the sunrise on Mount Warning. I sailed around the Whitsunday Islands and snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef. I camped and hiked in the Outback, swam beneath waterfalls, and ate kangaroo steak. It was incredible.
But a word of warning from my experience—because I’d had two or three statistics classes at this point, I figured I’d have no problem nailing the stats class I was required to take at Bond, and I skipped it pretty regularly. I definitely don’t recommend this because I just barely survived the final and skated by with a C. As a former straight-A student in high school, this definitely added an unnecessary amount of stress to my life. Would. Not. Recommend.
Besides seeing beautiful sites and eating interesting foods (meat pies, anyone? Man, I still crave those sometimes), I got to meet all kinds of interesting people. My roommates were from South Africa and Germany. When my German roommate’s friends came to visit us for a month and didn’t speak much English, I got to practice mein Deutsche. When killing time in a hostel in Sydney, I ran into two guys wearing t-shirts that said, “Mitch and Ted’s World Tour.” Naturally, I had to ask what that was all about. It turned out that they were a couple of 18-year-old Brits taking a gap year, which is really common in Europe. Students often take a year off between high school and college, work for 6 months to save up money, and then to travel for 6 months. And these guys were going everywhere. Even with all the traveling I was doing, I still found myself totally jealous. I never knew something like that was an option. In the US, I always felt like I was simply expected to graduate from high school, go to college, and then start my career. Travel would be reserved for the two or three weeks of vacation I would get each year.
But this does not and should not have to be the way.
Travel has value. It expands our minds. We gain a new understanding of the world around us, appreciation of its beauty, and new perspectives from our global neighbors, who often turn out to be more like us than they are different.
I highly recommend visiting your school’s Study Abroad office and researching the available opportunities. Some schools will even allow you to create an independent study abroad. You simply have to find international universities from which they will accept credits.
See if studying abroad is right for you. You never know what adventures await.
College, Career Coach, and Avid Adventurer