You are probably reading this because you are uncertain if you should study abroad or even where to study. Well, we all think you should! Both Jack and I studied abroad. I studied in Melbourne, AU, and Jack had the privilege to study in both Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Talk about well traveled!
A study abroad is only what you make it. You can do anything you want, meet incredible people, travel places you have never dreamed of—and if you don’t like something you can change it, if you love something, you can do more of it! It is all what you make it.
From our experiences, we have gained a new perspective on life, a new appreciation of the little things, a love for all things new, a touch of culture, and an incredible sense of confidence and wanderlust. What may have seemed as an uneasy and scary opportunity at first to change your city, be on your own, to make new friends and to basically start on a blank slate, has become one of the best experiences of our lives. It is one of the most gratifying experiences of your life!
Prague, Czech Republic
CIEE in Spring 2012
Drew Goldberg // The Hungry Partier
My program was called CIEE, and it was amazing! The workload was minimal, and we had lots of time to explore Prague. The only downside was that attending classes was mandatory, but we never had any homework and the tests were very easy!
The entire program was made up of about 100 kids representing 25 universities. It was very ideal – not too big and not too small. All of the students were randomly placed in apartments around the city, with 3 students and 1 local Czech person. Being paired up with a local Czech was great for cultural immersion!
I think Prague is the best place to study abroad. It is centrally located in Europe, so you can travel anywhere on weekends. The culture is unique. The city is beautiful. And the nightlife is so much fun! My friends and I partied 6 nights a week (seriously)- which is what led me to starting a travel blog about nightlife around the world. I highly recommend Prague!
NYU program in the spring of 2011
Ashley Hufford // Under the Ash Tree
I wanted somewhere completely different from NYC- and Florence, in it’s beautiful, tiny and historic ways, fit the bill. Florence is a great city to live in, most places are walkable and everything is easily accessible by bus. It’s not cheap, but cheaper than most of Europe and NYC.
There are lots of museums, which are free for students and hundreds of restaurants and bars to enjoy at night. Florence is central to the rest of Italy. You can take the train to anywhere in Italy and if you want to see the rest of Europe, there’s a 45 minute shuttle to Pisa, where there’s the Easy Jet & Ryan Air Hub.
The only negative is that because Florence is so great, it’s become an incredibly popular study abroad city, so Americans are everywhere. I was living with and had school with Americans and I disliked that wherever I went, I ran into more Americans. To avoid this, live with a host family. I would have had a more “authentic’ experience if I had lived with actual Italians.
If you’re thinking of studying abroad, do it! It will change your life in every way, but make sure you know what you want to get out of your experience and that will guide you in where you choose to go!
Masters Program at UvA
Agness Walewinder // Etramping.com
Moving to Amsterdam was a big change in my life – exciting, but also overwhelming. Suddenly, my whole life has changed. I moved to another country, I got back to university and started my Master’s program in New Media and Digital Culture at UvA. Believe me or not, but I have never been happier and more experienced in my life than I am today! Therefore, anyone who has even a remote desire to go abroad should decide to do it, in my humble opinion anyway. Why?
Perhaps one of the best ways to experience culture is to live it, which is exactly why I wanted to move to Amsterdam. Aside from gaining an understanding for cultures other than your own and learning a new language, you will also gain intangible skills such as time management, self-confidence as well as independence.
Another great advantage of studying abroad is meeting amazing people. It is a good idea to become friends with at least a few of the other students who are studying abroad. These students are going through the same things you are, and it is possible that you will stay friends with them after you finish studying abroad. My uni friends are awesome! We help each other with assignments and essays, go out sometimes and travel.
Finally, studying abroad can change your future plans because you never know who you can meet and what can happen to you. I found my love here and although I planned to stay in Amsterdam only for my studies, I am considering living here longer than 10 months! My partner and I explore different cities and towns across the Netherlands together, cook and bake and study Dutch from time to time. Although he is not a backpacker type, we always find a way and balance traveling together.
Don’t let your fears stop you from moving abroad to study. You can benefit from it a lot, trust me!
IES Program at Paris IV La Sorbonne in Fall 2008
Hayley Swinson // Savvy Girl Travel
You know that cliché – the one about the small town girl moving to the big city and returning with a cosmopolitan air? …Like in Sabrina? I lived that cliché. I went to Paris as a naïve 20 year-old who’d never even navigated public transit on her own. I returned with a short haircut, a love for modern art and red wine, and a Parisian accent.
Gosh, thinking about it makes me want to go back. It’s hard to describe exactly what it feels like – at that turning point in your life, those few years in college when you’re trying to discover who you are and who you want to be – to be living in a foreign country.
Your experience won’t be all good – I had a rather aloof host family – but it will expose you to a culture you’d never find at home. It’s that exposure that will help to open your mind to all the possibilities life has to offer. And, in my opinion, it’s not to be missed. Bon Voyage!
Webster University Geneva
Linda Kazmerski // Tripping Blonde
Studying abroad in Geneva has many benefits. You will get to experience life in a foreign city as a resident, while in one of the poshest cities in Europe. You’ll find yourself indulging on cheese, wine, and freshly baked bread each evening while chatting with new friends. You’ll pass beautiful sights like Mont-Saleve or the Jet d’Eau on the lake when commuting to class. You’ll catch yourself window-shopping at MontBlanc or Rolex while running errands in town.
Geneva is an expensive place for everyone, not just students. Furthermore, even though it is a cosmopolitan city, it’s rather quiet and reserved.
If you plan to attend a program at Webster University, you’ll have to commute to the campus via the regional train, as the campus is not in the center city. A short train trip will take you from Geneva’s city center to the small, serene, tree covered campus that offers an incredible view of Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, and the Swiss Alps. You can travel the rest of Switzerland and other European cities that are easily accessible by train.
With Switzerland’s incredible natural beauty, Geneva’s own sites to see, and the city’s proximity to some other fabulous places in Europe, studying abroad here will provide many opportunities to see and experience quite a few things. Although expensive, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth in memories and experiences that will last a lifetime. I certainly did.
Salamanca and El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain
Spanish Language Program
Kiersten Rich // The Blonde Abroad
“I had never been out of the country (with the exception of Southern California’s neighboring “state” Mexico). Studying Abroad gave me the opportunity to see the world, without compromising my education, all while I was still in school. To be perfectly honest I was really just looking for a reason to travel, but couldn’t find a way to justify taking a break from school to wander off somewhere in the world.
Solution: Study Abroad, see the world, get college credits! I decided to go to Spain. I ended up earning something like 9 college units in one month. (In case you’re wondering, that’s more than half the units I would earn each semester!) The education not only came from my Intensive Spanish Language Program, but through experiencing the culture.”
IES Study Abroad Program, 2005
Natalie Vereen-Davis // Cosmos Mariners
My college, Clemson University, didn’t offer a program based in London, so I found one that would allow me to live and study in that great city.
While I was there for a summer, I took two classes: Modern British Novel and Shakespeare. Since I was an English major, both courses counted towards my graduation credits! It was incredible learning about both recent and past works of literature in the city where they were written. How many other times would I have the opportunity to read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and then go see it as a groundling in the Globe?
While I was there, I experienced everything from a major terrorist bombing (7/7/2005) to my first taste of clotted cream, and I came back from those months abroad a different person. I discovered my love of British Literature and went on to get a Master’s degree in that subject. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without my study abroad experience, and it only further fueled my desire to travel more!
Sarah Ball // Satellite Eyes
I studied photojournalism for one memorable summer in Dakar, Senegal. SIT is perfect for the adventurous, self-motivated types who want to get off the beaten path and have an immersive experience. I figured, why go somewhere cushy like London or Florence when I can immerse myself in an utterly unknown culture that I might not otherwise get to be a part of?
Our program included language study (both French and Wolof!); Senegalese arts and culture study (driving all over the city to meet amazing artists!); and photography courses; as well as an independent study and a homestay with a local family. It wasn’t always sunshine and roses (actually, the sunshine was pretty relentless) but in retrospect I can see how both the challenges and moments of utter bliss shaped who I am today, seven years later.
After Senegal, I knew I’d never be happy living a life that wasn’t full of travel, adventure, and incredible new cultures to explore. Since then I’ve lived in three more foreign countries, traveled to dozens more, and built a life and career around my love of cultural immersion. So study abroad, it might just teach you who you are!
Ghana and Togo
West Africa; University of Oklahoma
Sabrina DuFran // Wander from Norman
Studying abroad in West Africa, Ghana and Togo, wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it was for me. My senior capstone at the University of Oklahoma was focused to raise awareness about the inaugural “Journey to Africa” study abroad program. The campaign was a success, but I decided to take my experience one step further and to join in on the adventure with the small group.
We studied the Social and Cultural Change in Africa and the Political Ecology. To sum it all up, we discovered why Africa is the way it is, third world and received so much assistance from countries around the world. We experienced two weeks of home stays to really acknowledge how to live minimally.
Overall, I feel like studying abroad in Africa filled in a lot of gaps where our American World History classes completely missed in grade school. I do plan to travel back to Ghana, brush up on my French to explore more territory in Togo, and enjoy the beauty of what Africa has to offer besides hearing the uproar about Ebola.
Masters Degree in Chinese-European Business and Economics
Veronika Hradilikova // Travel Geekery
Studying abroad was one of my first real experiences with long-term travel and ‘expat’ life. It incredibly widened my horizons. I spent a year in the city of Chengdu, Sichuan province. That was my first overseas experience and I loved it.
I studied there for my Master’s degree in Chinese-European Business and Economics. The main part of the experience was the life there, the friends –both Chinese and non-Chinese, and the incredible contacts. I gained friends for life that are now scattered all over the world and that I can visit anytime J Studying in China helped me become a traveler I am today.
I’d encourage anybody with even the slightest interest in Asian culture to go study to China! Not only you’ll have a unique possibility to explore the culture and the language, but also it’s one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deeply understand the very different mindset and way of life.
Physiology and Buddhism, 1997
Lance Longwell // Travel Addicts
In 1997, I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal for study abroad. I was studying high-altitude physiology and Buddhism. The timing of my journey was important – the Himalayas region was experiencing massive political change. Days after my arrival, a minor Maoist insurgency erupted into a full civil war.
My experience in Nepal was marked by breaking military-enforced curfews, while trying to comprehend the violence. Despite the chaos, I never seriously considered returning home. My education in Nepal was not about academic study, but it was about lessons in life. I struggled with questions of religious faith and cultural sensitivity, while seeing the impact of sex tourism, the drug trade, environmental destruction and the troubling aspects of NGO involvement in the developing world. Studying in Nepal completely shaped my life forever – I would not be who I am today without that experience.
The American Institute for Foreign Study
Casey O’Connell // Words of a Wanderer
I always knew I would to study abroad. I craved the experience of living and learning in a completely different country; I wanted to dive into learning a new language and be consumed by an unfamiliar culture, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same.
I was drawn to India; I had always been fascinated with its religious figures, old traditions like yoga and Ayurveda, and it’s bright, consuming culture. I studied abroad in Hyderabad, India at the University of Hyderabad, which was eye opening. India exposes you to so much of the world that we, in first world countries, are often sheltered from.
At times I was overwhelmed with the poverty, but this also came with the realization that I lead a very blessed life. India is raw, chaotic, and beautiful. It is one place in the world that overwhelms your senses with new smells and colorful sights every day. Not to mention, Indian food is the most intoxicatingly delicious cuisine out there.
It’s a place you will love, (and sometimes hate) and it will teach more about yourself than anywhere else. If you want a truly life-changing experience, India might be the study abroad spot for you.
Santa Ana, Costa Rica
Kelly Schwantes // Where in the World
The summer after my freshman year of college, I decided I was going to step out of the normal “European” study abroad craze, and into a little town in Costa Rica called Santa Ana. My main reason was because I really wanted to learn spanish, and living with a host family was by far the best way to do that.
I came to love the small town, my host family and the local residents. I loved that there was maybe two bars in total, and I could run up a mountain to get to my classes. I loved that there were only a few students there studying with me, and that we were fully immersed in the culture.
Santa Ana taught me so much about Tico culture, and I’m so glad I decided to go somewhere that not that many tourists had been to. It opened up my eyes to a new way of travel, and that is going off the grid a little bit and allowing myself to be open to new places and new opportunities. (Oh, and I learned Spanish!)
Los Angeles, United States
Loyola Marymount University, Spring 2012
Jack Paxton // Who Needs Maps
I did an exchange program in Los Angeles at LMU in Spring 2012. Los Angeles, although very spaced out, is a great place to study in because you have the beach just 20 minutes away and the snow at an hour drive. So you can have a beach holiday and a snow trip all in the same weekend!
LA is great because you can travel all around California easily. We did a lot of road trips in California, traveled to New York, Vegas, and Mexico. I also found that California was really health conscious, so the gym was huge (and free), the food was really tasty, and there were plenty of opportunities to keep fit like hiking, paddle boarding, and running. I also really liked the music scene—it was super cheap and there was always something going on. I even got to go to Coachella which was on my bucket list!
It was really interesting to see the college life in America as we see it in movies all the time and it was really cool to finally experience it. Even though we speak the same language, it was really different culturally. I definitely would recommend studying abroad in America.
University of Queensland program
Lexi Jackson // They Get Around
I chose Mexico for study abroad as I wanted to move somewhere with great food, affordable travel opportunities and it was a place that was completely different from my home in Australia.
Living in a country where you stand out like a sore thumb is an incredibly weird experience, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but always interesting. If you choose to study abroad in Mexico you’ll encounter amazing travel opportunities, legendary parties (especially as an exchange student), the beginnings of a new language and friends from all over the world.
Swinburne University in Spring 2011
Jenn Malka // Who Needs Maps
I studied in Melbourne, Australia where I can easily say my life has changed for the better. I was such a homebody, doing anything and everything my family ever asked of me and when the opportunity to travel came up, I took it immediately and never looked back. To me, it didn’t matter where because the experience is truly what you make it, so I thought “where is a place I’ll never really have a chance to explore?” And Australia was first to come to mind (which, is funny because I ended up moving there afterwards!).
I left the US being dependent on my parents, living in this small comfortable bubble I created, and found myself stuck in a routine comfort zone. However, I came back as a different person. I learned how to be independent, to budget, to do laundry (yes, it did take me that long to learn how!), how to use public transportation, to be more opened to meeting people, to love myself the way I am and the way others are, and I gained a confidence I never had.
Because of Melbourne, I met Jack, my partner of nearly 4 years, lived and worked in Australia for over a year, did my own taxes, backpacked Southeast Asia, and have become eager to travel more of the world. Study abroad. I can’t stress enough how life changing this opportunity is!
We asked everyone to send us their opinions on why or why NOT to study abroad, and we had only received positive responses. We hope this post either got you excited to study abroad or brought back some amazing memories of when you did. You will have the time of your life!
Do something crazy and embrace the world. There is no other time for an opportunity like this. Traveling while studying is an opportunity not to be missed. Universities and colleges offer programs, scholarships and assistance throughout the entire experience. Not only that, but the cultural enrichment, the friends you meet, the places you see will only give you the best gratification of your life!
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