I have just started my Masters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week (dec 2010) so studying is on my mind. Moving to a new country and getting immersed in education has really got me feeling positive so I thought therefore, while it’s fresh and real, it would be pertinent to sing the praises of studying abroad so here are a few reasons why it’s such a good choice…
Learn a new culture: You can read the Lonely Planet until the cows come home but the only true way to understand a new culture is to move to a new country. Without getting too ‘tie-dye tshirt and dreadlocks’ on you guys, this is a seriously enlightening experience. Everyday becomes an adventure, it shakes up the status quo and suddenly every meal time, every shopping trip, even every bus ride is an adventure. You’ll go to festivals you didn’t know existed before you came. You’ll eat delicious food that you can’t even pronounce the name. You’ll sit in the womens carriages of trains and everyone will laugh at you (sorry, a painful personal memory there… twice). You’ll be blown away by the hospitality and welcoming nature of your new country, prepare to open your mind because it will change you in ways you can’t imagine.
Study a new language: Spend 4 years struggling to study French at university if you want, go to Paris for a year and you’ll be fluent. It’s no secret that the best way to learn a language is to move to the country so you’re entirely immersed in it, you have no escape so you learn it or you starve (that’s a tad dramatic, but you get the picture). People are so willing to help you out and they’ll be delighted at you for having a crack – with a bit of work and a readiness to learn you’ll be conversing in no time. Before you know you’ll be discussing the fundamental flaws of Keynesian economics in colloquial French/Chinese/Spainish/Swahili over a mocha frappuccino at Starbucks
International friends: We all (hopefully) are lucky enough to have a great friendship network around us already and I’m very thankful for mine however, you can never have too many friends. Furthermore, friends from other countries, whether they are locals of your new adopted home or other international students, look at things differently to how we (and our friends) look at things. The friends that you will undoubtedly make in your new university look at life through the lens of their nationality, as do we, and together that’s a great thing to see how other people interact with the world today. Not to mention the host of new drinking games you will learn (probably the hard way).
More exciting: Going to university is fun and during my undergraduate degree I had the opportunity to study a year abroad which I stupidly turned down. I didn’t want to leave my friends, didn’t want to be a year older than everyone when I came back, was too scared etc. That’s one of the few major regrets I have in my life – soooo now I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to remedy that by studying my Maters overseas. DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID. If the option is there, take it with both hands and don’t look back, you won’t regret it. Sure you might miss a few parties back home, but think what you’re missing if you don’t go… Song Kran water festival in Thailand? Carnivale in Rio? Tomatina in Spain? Wherever you study, there’ll be experiences waiting for you that will outshine another generic pub-golf session in your local uni I promise you that. The ‘opportunity cost’ of not going is massive so take plunge, get wet and have no regrets.
International experience on your CV/résumé: We go to university to further ourselves and our career right? Well, there are few things to match international experience when you apply for a (graduate) position. You’ll automatically jump to the front of the queue when people are running through reams of applications, who would you choose – someone who had done nothing but study for the last 3 or 4 years or someone with the confidence, social skills and life experience who studied for a year in Peru, or Russia or Egypt for a year. Easy choice – get out there and get ahead.
Increase your self-confidence: I’m 26 years old and this is the 6th time I have moved to another country to work, study or live. From Ireland to England, to the US, to Thailand, to Korea, to Australia and now to Malaysia and you know what? I’m still scared. It’s daunting to move to a new place, little or no friends, strange sights and smells but if there’s one thing I have learned is that change brings positivity, it brings opportunities, it brings new experience and it always moves us forward. Fear is normal but it’s better to be scared and progressive than comfortable and stagnant. Embrace the fear and you’ll reaps the rewards.
Cheaper: I was deliberating as to whether to include this or not – but if you’re careful, you can save a lot. If you’re taking a year out from your standard university, you don’t pay any extra fees – it’s simply a transfer. That’s not cheaper of course. What about the cost of living though? Depending on the country you move to, suddenly for the $150 a week rent and food you’re currently paying you could be in a city centre apartment, eating out 3 times a day for half that. Sound appealing?! Also, if you’re considering undertaking your entire programme abroad then you have options depending on your budget. You can study for free (as an EU citizen, sorry everyone else!) in most of Scandanavia. Furthermore, nearly every larger country around the offers programmes in English and their fees are a fraction of what Americans, Europeans and Australians are required to pay at home. Do you homework, get researching and use that wonderful thing that is geoabritrage* to free yourself, and some funds.
Travel: Ok, you’re in a new part of the world, the time you’re required to be at University is famously (notoriously?) short, less than 35 weeks I think, so you have all this free time to explore the area you’ve moved to. Whether it’s eastern Europe, central Africa, Asia wherever. Get your backpack on, travel cheap and you can go for the whole holiday (all for the same price as going home). With bargain airlines popping up all over the world, and tips galore on the internet on how to travel cheaply – you’re good to go. You may even be able to refine that new found language of yours while you travel.
Ladies and gents, there you have it. I hope that even if you weren’t considering studying abroad before then you may consider it now. Or if you were considering it, I hope this tips the scales and the application is almost now in the post, and remember transferring colleges may be easier than you think! You’re young, you’re free, you have opportunities that many nationalities and other generations never had – lets make the most of those and truly live. I hope to see you on the road, international graduate qualification in hand and ready to use! Happy studies.
Spend 4 years struggling to study French at university if you want, go to Paris for a year and you’ll be fluent. You may want to enlist the help of a French tutor online at takelessons.com or another site to give yourself a solid french foundation.
* Geoarbitrage: Using the strength and weaknesses of various currencies to your advantage. In practical terms, living in a dreary 1 bed apartment in a generic city in the west while you study – costs approx $100 per week. Move to another country, spent $90 a week and live in the sort of luxury you thought was only achievable through the old notion of ‘wealth’.