Over the past few months, I’ve written off and on about my experiences as an international student. Yes, it’s scary and daunting to feel so separated from your family, but there are a thousand and one reasons that make that tradeoff worth it. To round off this series on a high note, here are five things that I love most about studying abroad.
1. Expectation vs. Reality
Growing up I loved watching and reading about England on screen and in books. To me, the UK was a completely romanticized Harry Potter fantasy land. (It doesn’t help that a part of Harry Potter was filmed at my university.)
In reality (shocker!), the UK isn’t like that — it’s not all royal families, tea, and HP. But that’s not a bad thing. Through my experience in a new country I’ve learnt that the country is so much more than a clichéd image. It’s a place with a rich history and nuance, and I never could have fully understood those things had I not moved here.
2. Cultural Differences
To link onto my last point, these cultural differences have been so interesting. My friends all through my childhood came mostly from a similar background and culture as I did. (I’ve talked about growing up in Hong Kong in a previous post.)
Now it is amazing to me how everyone ended up at the same college here in the UK, despite having vastly different upbringings. To prove this, I like to ask people what primary school was like for them. I am always surprised at how much variety there is in that one experience. Only through deciding to study abroad could I gain access to these different cultural landmarks and a wealth of inside jokes that only now am I beginning to understand.
Yes, you can make friends at any college — you don’t have to study abroad to do it. That said, my study abroad experience has been a million times better thanks to the friends I’ve made here.
It’s hard to believe that a year ago I had not met the people who I now see on a daily basis. Going to college abroad has allowed me to meet people from all different walks of life, and still find things to bond over. Without studying abroad, I would not have met these people who I hope will stay in my life for years to come.
After living abroad for a while, I have finally gotten the distance I needed to see my own culture from an outsider’s perspective. I feel like many of us see our childhood as normal, and judge other people’s experiences based on our own. But moving outside that bubble, and experiencing a completely different culture, can give you a new outlook on what “normal” really is, and make you more open minded to different experiences.
Finally, living alone in a completely new country has shown me that I am capable of just about anything. Although I have made typical college student mistakes along the way, such as shrinking a load of laundry, or cooking a practically inedible meal, ultimately, the growth I’ve had by living in a country alone outweighs the mistakes I’ve made. The skills I’ve had to learn will be with me for the rest of my life.
Are you studying abroad? What do you love most about it?
To sum it all up, studying abroad has taught me so many things about other cultures, people, and myself, that I don’t think would have been possible if I chose to stay in my hometown. As I said in my previous posts, if your college has study abroad programs, or if you’re thinking about applying to one further away from home, do it! It will change your life.
Fellow international students, can you relate to this post? What do you love about studying outside of your home country? Any positive aspects I missed? Let’s chat in the comments.