The pros and cons of studying abroad
This is the time of year when many students are considering studying abroad for the following year. For those who have already decided, applications to chosen universities are soon due. For most, it is tough to decide if studying abroad is right for them.
Of course, the idea sounds wonderful to many, but once the application process begins it is can be tiresome and stressful. It took me about a year to finalize my decision to study in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as I had to be nominated by Brenda Riley, the international exchange advisor, apply for permission from StFX, and then apply to the international school of my choice. It’s important to consider the pros and cons of going before you embark on this journey.
Let’s start with the most obvious – living in another country. While this may seem scary at first, when else are you going to be provided with the opportunity to learn for 6-12 months in a foreign country? It is the easiest way to experience a new culture and immerse yourself in a new way of life.
Depending where you go, the food is a pro. When you study abroad you will be eating authentic cuisine from the country you’re living in and the neighboring countries. If you live with a host family, you will be blessed enough to have a delicious home cooked meal every night.
You will also meet amazing and interesting people. You won’t like everyone you meet, but you will make friends that last for a very long time after you come back home. Studying abroad is an excellent way to get to know locals and make friends from other countries.
Living with a host family is usually a pro, and if you encounter problems with yours, most schools will help you switch families or find an apartment with friends. Most of my friends who studied in Europe loved their host families, but in South America not as much. Having host siblings and hanging out with their friends is a great way to engage in social life and get to know more locals and their way of life.
Living in a country where you don’t speak their language is the best way to learn it. A French or Spanish class a few times a week at X won’t get you to be fluent, but studying abroad will. Immersing yourself in another language is without a doubt the best way to learn it. I was even dreaming in Spanish halfway through my exchange in Argentina!
Furthermore, you will travel to amazing new places that you might not have even known existed before you arrived. Travelling is a humbling and educating experience that will help you become more independent and blossom into the person your mom always knew you could be. Plus, your Instagram posts will be on a new level.
Language can also be a negative aspect when studying abroad. Language barriers are tough to overcome at first and can inhibit what you understand in conversations, in class, or when ordering at a restaurant. Language can make it difficult to get to know your local peers or host family at first, but I found that most people are sympathetic and willing to help you out.
If you are a picky eater planning to study abroad in a country where their local cuisine is vastly different from your regular old mac ‘n cheese or ham sandwich, maybe you should reconsider said country.
Overcoming culture shock is also quite difficult. You are far from home, speaking another language, trying to fit in in another culture, don’t know anyone, have a new (host) mom, and forgot your favorite teddy bear at home, but you WILL get through the initial shock period, no matter how much you may second-guess your decision to go. Culture shock coming home is also very real. When I got back from Argentina, I was uncomfortable hearing English spoken everywhere, shocked at how fat people were, and was used to my Argentinan schedule and way of life. Leaving your new country can be just as difficult as it was leaving Canada.
Leaving behind your family and friends is difficult as well, but they will all be there waiting for you when you return (assuming your friends don’t suck). It can be hard to leave home if you have never really travelled before deciding to study abroad.
So should you study abroad? My answer for you is yes, go! You are most likely never going to have this opportunity in the palm of your hand again. Would you rather spend every Saturday night next year at the pub, or be hiking through the mountains of Patagonia, visiting the Eiffel Tower, or climbing Machu Picchu? I trust you will make the correct decision.