BY TANJA PUSTET
SC STAFF WRITER
Studying abroad isn’t always an easy decision. “It’s too expensive,” “I don’t want to leave my family and friends for such a long time,” or “I’m scared that I will miss something important at home or on campus,” are just a few of the excuses that I’ve heard so far from other college students talking about my experience of going abroad and living in the USA for one year as an international exchange student from Germany.
In fact, I had similar doubts at first, although it has always been my lifelong dream to study and live in another country.
Compared to many other students who grow into this decision over their academic years, I knew right from the beginning of my university career that I would definitely try to take the opportunity to study abroad.
As a communication studies major with minor in English and American Studies, it was clear to me that the place of my dreams was America. Not only have I always loved to travel and to explore new countries, cultures, and languages, but I also knew that this was a chance that I would never have again.
First of all, this is the only time in your life you will have the help and resources of your home university to organize your time abroad, and to guide you in getting together the financial and legal requirements needed.
Only with the help of both my home and abroad institution, was it actually possible to realize this experience. So take advantage.
Secondly, financially, there is so much support out there, you just need to do research and ask. Scholarships are offered for almost anything these days and, therefore, studying abroad doesn’t have to be unaffordable anymore. Many exchange programs cost the same amount as the tuition fee at your home university or even less.
If you can afford your tuition, you can definitely afford going abroad. So expense is not an excuse! I thought the financial aspect would be the most severe reason against my dream of studying abroad until I took my time and asked the person responsible. I lived a year abroad for such a small amount of money, and I will never get that chance again.
Furthermore, studying abroad will give an immense boost to your résumé. The fact that not many students actually take the risk and study abroad, makes you a very interesting and unique job candidate compared to other normal students without any international experience.
Not only will you gain invaluable life skills and experiences that future employers value, but you will also improve your foreign language skills drastically. These aspects are just a few out of many more reasons why employers love applicants with study abroad history.
A recent study involving 135 Human Resource managers from 75 companies revealed that skills obtained by studying abroad are included among the top four important employee traits that are looked for. So, don’t miss that chance.
And if all these points are still not enough to convince you, let me tell you one more simple thing out of my experience: Studying abroad will change your life!
Applying for an international exchange program, called ISEP, that finally placed me at East Stroudsburg University, was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
During my time abroad, I have learned as much about the country and its people as I have learned about myself. I grew in many different ways as a person, and became more mature and independent from my parents.
Studying abroad expands your worldview and also gives you a new attitude towards your own culture and country.
If you learn how to immerse yourself in another culture and language, you will gain a new perspective by meeting people from your host country and all around the world.
During my stay in the USA, I was able to make many friends from four different continents. I found a “new family” for some time, friends for a lifetime and, unexpectedly, my current boyfriend.
My time abroad gave me the opportunity to travel, as much as I would have never been able to from home, for a very cheap price. During all my school breaks and many weekends I got to travel the complete US East Coast, to places like New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, the Niagara Falls, and even Miami.
I could also celebrate all the holidays in a new, traditional American way.
I spent my Birthday, Christmas, New Years Eve and Easter in the USA apart from my family, but with amazing people around me that made it a very unique experience that was totally different than what I was used to from home.
I also got to know some new holidays and common events that we don’t really celebrate in Germany, like Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, and Homecoming.
Something very impressive to me was also to feel what American patriotism and common sense is on the 9/11 anniversary, Hurricane Sandy and after the terroristic attacks in Boston.
I could get an impression of what living in America means, and I figured out myself if certain clichés are true or not. And mostly, I could perfect my English skills as much that it was possible to write and publish my first newspaper article in the USA as a non-native speaker.
The ESU campus became my second home over the last year and it is hard for me to say Goodbye after this semester to follow my old, but somewhat surely new routine at home again.
All I can say is that the time, even one full academic year, flies by way too fast with everything you experience and you will not regret your decision at all. So take the chance, leave your fears behind and make the best out of your time abroad! It’s worth it!
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