Eating in front of the Eiffel Tower, galavanting through Greece on spring break, sleeping in the same city as St. Peter’s Basilica — all while going to school? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s a reality for those who choose to study abroad. While there are so many incredible benefits to studying abroad, some people find every excuse in the book not to take advantage of the opportunity.
Here are five excuses people use to not study abroad, debunked:
1. “I don’t know the language.”
First of all, many people around the globe speak English — it’s one of the most studied languages in the world. That being said, even if you can’t find someone who speaks English in the city where you’re studying or traveling, you should take the initiative and gain some competency in your host language. Your host university will more than likely offer courses in the language, giving you the opportunity to learn a new skill as you develop confidence maneuvering through the city. You can also make friends with the locals. There is no better way to learn a language than through full immersion and studying abroad will give you just such an opportunity.
The long-term benefits of learning a language are clear: speaking multiple languages gives you the leg-up in many career fields, with employers looking to reach an international audience. There are also proven cognitive benefits to learning a language, like improved memory and attention span. Plus, it’s just fun!
2. “I can’t afford it.”
Another frequent reason for not studying abroad is finances. Studying abroad can seem like a daunting fiscal feat, but there are a lot of resources available to students. One of the most important things to remember is that financial aid can be applicable to semesters abroad. Be sure to check with your school’s Financial Aid Office.
There are also a multitude of scholarships available to students looking to study abroad. A quick Google search will provide a selection of scholarships, as well as online databases full of scholarships and grants, all dedicated to studying abroad. AIFS offers several scholarships, as well, including the Generation Study Abroad Scholarship and the Sir Cyril Taylor Legacy Scholarship.
3. “I don’t want to go alone.”
Traveling to a foreign country can seem frightening, especially if you’re going by yourself. Don’t let that fear stop you! The fear you feel about going abroad alone is the type of positive fear you feel before beginning something that will take you out of your comfort zone. Traveling alone gives you confidence, a sense of independence, and time to go on your own adventures.
You won’t always be alone, though. You’re guaranteed to make friends at your host university and through your program. Going alone also implies that you have to make new friendships, rather than relying on the ones you already have.
4. “I have all I need here in the United States.”
When I asked people around me why they had not chosen to study abroad, one of the most common responses I heard was along the lines of, “I have all the classes and resources I need in the States, so I never felt inclined to go abroad.” For me, it has little to do with a need for further resources and is more about the enriching experience of cultural immersion. Beyond taking courses, there is so much to living abroad that one can’t experience by staying in their home country. As I’ve already mentioned, learning a new language is one such benefit, as well as gaining independence and confidence. Stretching your worldview to its limits and reshaping your beliefs to fit an intercultural context is an experience that will change your life forever.
5. “I don’t have the time.”
Some people feel that their obligations and responsibilities in the U.S. imply they can’t take the time to study abroad. However, the misconception that underlies this belief is that you’ll have time later in life to travel in the same fashion. The reality is, there is no time like your college years to go abroad; the opportunity to live in a foreign country for several months isn’t usually realistic for someone post-degree with a full-time job. Also, your status as a student means that getting a visa can be much easier.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, when you’re out of school, financial aid and other resources won’t be available to help cover the cost of extensive travel.
It may seem like everyone would choose a semester abroad versus one in their home countries, but these five excuses can sway them from taking the leap. Don’t let fear stop you from experiencing the world, and make the decision to study abroad.