Studying abroad is worth the risk

By Maggie Pluskota

Study abroad has a bad reputation. Parents hear the phrase “study abroad,” and automatically replace “study” with “party.” They see horrible visions of their child with a pint in hand, hunkered down at an Irish pub instead of hitting the books.

In actuality, study abroad’s benefits are inclusive of experiences both in and beyond the classroom. It’s not just some extended vacation. If anything, it’s the same beneficial combination of academic and social the University provides, amped up in the context of a foreign culture.

I’m studying abroad in England in the fall, but my parents never fought me on it.

My mom is a University alumna. During her time as a student, she left campus for her entire junior year to study at Lancaster University in Lancaster, Lancashire, United Kingdom. Looking back, she recounts her academic experience as excellent, but it was always the people and the places that had her wishing she could go back.

She went abroad and came back a better version of herself.

You know why you should study abroad? Because it will scare the living crap out of you.

Think about it like this: The moment you graduate from college — which will be sooner than you think — you’re thrown into the deep end. College is a cushy, carefree version of adult life. The closest we get to being real adults here is the few mouse clicks it takes to file taxes on the “You’re Broke,” free version of TurboTax.

Whether you’re studying abroad for a few weeks, a few months, or a whole year, you’re going to learn an important lesson or two on how to fend for yourself. You might have to navigate your way through a foreign city. They might not speak your native language or that language you learned half-heartedly in high school. Or maybe they do, and it sounds like a foreign language anyway. They use strange slang. They do strange things. And then there’s school. The grading system might be radically different from American grading, or classes in your area of study might be significantly harder there.

And maybe, worst of all, you can’t call your mom for help. Your best friend isn’t a quick phone call away. You miss your dog, your significant other, good, cheap Mexican food. You’re in a strange place with strange people, and man, will you feel all alone.

So there’ll be that initial loneliness and that fear of the unknown. But you’ll be okay. You’ll be great. You’re going to learn how to ask for help. Or just what a natural you are at making friends. You’ll gain confidence with every bad gracias. The fear won’t get you down.

The fear won’t get you down, plus you’ll be exploring the catacombs of Rome or acing a Spanish literature class in Barcelona with actual Spanish classmates. It’s not going to be easy, but that’s the best part. It’ll be like figuring out some impossible trig proof, all that satisfaction after the blood, sweat and tears — plus a camel ride in Morocco.

You know what will get you a job someday? Being able to think on your feet. Being confident in yourself and the choices you make. Get to know yourself, and you can do anything. Honestly, I’m excited for you already.

Study abroad because getting ready for the real world has never looked so good.

Maggie is a junior in LAS

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