Making the decision to study abroad

Kelly Smith

What is it about studying abroad that so many people find appealing? Is it the chance to travel and see other cultures? Is it being able to relate to the people of other cultures? Or is it just needing a break from the same everyday life of the U.S.? There are many reasons why someone would choose to study in another part of the world, and they’re usually pretty open to share them with you. 

I remember coming to orientation during the summer approaching freshman year, and as expected, my group started with the simple icebreaker of going around the table and saying our name and our short and long-term goals. While I was listening to others introduce themselves, I noticed that quite a handful of the others wished to study abroad. At the time, I didn’t really know what it meant, though I could guess. Studying on an international level? That’s quite a decision to make, isn’t it?

I’ve never really had the desire to study aboard, mainly because I don’t see the need to, but I can certainly understand why people do. The world has an amazing diversity of different cultures and historical landmarks.

Some people might consider studying abroad for the education, the chance to study a different culture and its history through first-hand observation and experience. It’s certainly an entirely different experience than reading about it in a textbook.

Speaking of education, a great benefit of international studies is becoming more familiar with worldwide languages. TopUniversities says “the appeal is likely to be a combination of gaining a high-quality education, experiencing immersion in a new culture (and often a second language).” More information can be found on TopUniversities’ FAQ page on “How to Study Abroad.”

Now, I remember back in high school when many of my friends would groan at the thought of having to spend two years learning a foreign language. To them, it just seemed like a waste of time. And to their credit, I believe some of the foreign language courses offered in public schools don’t do many students justice by the way they’re taught, but that’s another story.

Still, knowing another language definitely has its benefits. I took Spanish all the way through high school, a decision my dad wasn’t too fond of at first. He even admitted to me that his first thought was, “Do you really need to take all that Spanish?” But he later reconsidered those thoughts after realizing that Spanish is quickly becoming a very common worldwide language. That being said, there’s definitely benefits of knowing other languages.

Some people might be more interested in the cultural aspect of it, being able to integrate with the people and learn their stories. In a previous article, I talked about battling prejudice and stereotypes by building relationships. And what better way to do that than spending time living among them?

Now that’s certainly not to say that studying abroad is right for everyone. But if you are on the fence and considering it, from what I’ve heard, Grand Valley has a great program for studying abroad, and you can find out more information on the website under “Study Abroad.” Choosing to study abroad is a big choice that shouldn’t be made lightly. But regardless of what you choose to do, I wish you the best of luck in your studies.