Studying Abroad: Is it a Good Idea?

Choosing to study abroad is an exciting decision to make as a student. Depending on what programs your university offers, there are countless destinations for you to choose from. But the big question is: how do you begin to think about where to study, what kind of program to choose, etc.? There are many factors to think about for a decision this major. As someone who has gone through the process, I can provide some advice based on my own experience to help you feel more confident about your decision. Before choosing whether or not to study abroad, there are some different things to consider.

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What are the advantages of studying abroad?

There are plenty of advantages to being a student somewhere other than your home country. Firstly, according to an article from The Independent, you are exposed to a new culture and way of life. Living in another place for an extended time exposes you to new traditions and other small things. Personally, living in London was an extremely interesting experience because I saw the ways that people went about everyday life. Something as mundane as the morning commute to work was different, as the etiquette of mobile transportation is different from here in Philadelphia. It was also different to see the way that alcohol is consumed over there. People tend to go to pubs after work for a casual drink with friends or colleagues, but we don’t really have that here. 

Another advantage of going abroad is the proximity to other countries. It’s extremely difficult to travel to European countries here in America because the continent is so far away. Depending on where you go to study, you’re just a short plane ride away from many excellent cities. 

You can also make new friends when you study abroad. These can be people on the same program as you, or people in the area that you’re living in. When I went abroad, I ended up befriending people from the city that I had met when I attended different concerts around town. I still talk to these people, and whenever I go back I plan on trying to meet up with them.

This sounds great! What are the drawbacks?

While studying abroad is definitely an incredible experience, it isn’t always sunny. There are a few drawbacks about going away for an extended period of time. First, there’s the issue of homesickness. I didn’t really experience it, but I know plenty of people who did. It’s not uncommon, and can make you feel like going away was a mistake. 

Going off of the homesickness factor, you might also get lonely while you live in another city. I had friends on the same program as me, but there were days where I felt lonely if everyone was doing their own thing. I’d go to museums alone and wonder if anyone else was feeling the same way. It didn’t last too long, but it was definitely something I thought about a lot during my time abroad.

Lastly, and quite possibly the biggest drawback, studying abroad is expensive. There are budget airlines and hotels to stay in while traveling (which I’ll talk about in another blog post), but it all adds up. Especially depending on where you go, it could be more expensive than other cities. London is known for being unfriendly to the wallet, so I had to plan and think about how much money I was going to be spending. In an article for the New York Times, a former ambassador says that studying abroad can be a waste of time and money. He says, “studying abroad is not essential to a good education or to helping one better understand the changing world we live in.”This is a good point, since not everyone who studies abroad necessarily takes away from the program what they might have expected. In this case, it might be a negative use of their time.

In later blog posts, I’ll go more in-depth with specific aspects of going away, like what to pack, things to do, and budgeting for other parts of your time away. Not everyone wants to go abroad, but if you’re thinking about it, definitely consider the advantages and disadvantages to your decision.