Why you NEED to study abroad
As I approach the end of my year abroad, I am more and more grateful to have had this opportunity. Whilst university fosters depth and specialised skills, it has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience to take a step in another direction, broaden my horizons and nurture skills that not only previously I never really had, but rather ignorantly never really valued.
I have always chased tangible achievements, and therefore a soft skillset did not at first seem a worthy reward in exchange for delaying graduation by a year. However, whilst the “best year of my life” may not be the right words to describe this past academic year (albeit pretty up there, despite – well: Covid), it has undoubtedly been the most enriching.
Here are (a few of!) the reasons why I think you NEED to take a year abroad:
- It’s difficult to change in a fixed environment
We are always changing. Whom you were on the first day of university, is probably not who you identify with today. However – understandably – the person we were as we made our university friends is most likely the person they hold us to. When we’re surrounded by a certain perception of ourselves, it can be difficult to step away from it, even if it’s an outdated model.
A year abroad is the first page of a new chapter, much like the transition from school to university. In the first two years of university, there’s no doubt you have learnt more about what you value, what you want to protect your time for, and what types of people you would like to surround yourself by. In this new chapter, there’s a new opportunity to introduce yourself aligned with exactly who you want to be in that moment.
- Diversify your friendships
How many of your friends go to Warwick? How many are from England? How many study your subject?
On a year abroad you enter a melting pot – you become part of the international student community and you will meet people from all over the world, not just your host country.
The society around us inevitably influences what we value. In being exposed to and surrounded by a diverse group of people, we see all the ways it is possible to live our lives, and it may just put your priorities into question. It may make you rethink how you want to live your life now and may well make you revalue what is possible for your future.
- Get lost in a new city
The combination of the finite and novel nature of this experience thrown in with tourist-tinted lenses, have made this year full of adventures. New culture, new food, new friends, new strangers, sunrises over new skylines, new galleries, new books, new gardens – this year hasn’t had one stay-at-home weekend!
This year has been one for making the most of the city I’m lucky enough to have around me. And, in learning this city better than I know my own, it has given me a new attitude towards how I spend my time.
- Make friends for life
This year has been a year where I’ve made invite-to-my-wedding level friends! The shared experiences of challenge and adventures have made for deep friendships and unforgettable memories.
- Go for breadth
University teaches us many things. But arguably we learn the most in first year, and then we spend the other two years nurturing the skills we have planted and watching them grow. In changing your environment and the challenges you face, you will find the need for a new toolkit of skills that will broaden your capabilities and opportunities.
- Find the limit of your comfort zone, and cross it
This year hasn’t been enriching because it was easy. It’s been enriching because it took me away from everything I knew. It made me start again in many ways. It made me feel small and lost at times. But, when I finally found my way, I knew I would always be able to find it no matter what life throws at me or where life puts me.
My year abroad has given me a newfound perspective of life and a newfound appreciation for home. I can’t recommend the opportunity enough or express what a privilege it is to be offered it!