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Studying abroad in Europe had been a dream of mine since I was in high school, and it was actually one of the main reasons I chose to attend the university I did. Then, during my junior year, my wish came true and I was on a plane to England, ready to start a crazy adventure – and a crazy adventure it was.
Spending a semester or a year of your college career in another country is one of the best decisions you can ever make because you learn more than you ever would in a classroom, but even more than that, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have.
1. The FOOD
Decadent Nutella gelato. Melty cheese fondue. Succulent handmade ravioli. Fluffy Belgian waffles. Need I say more?
2. The SIGHTS
You can never, ever replicate the feeling of lying in the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower at sunset, or standing at the summit of one of the tallest mountains in all of Europe. Ever.
3. (Legally) Drinking Before You’re 21
There were literally two liquor stores, a bar, and a club on campus at our university in England. Drinking is a huge part of European culture, so bottom’s up!
You have the opportunity to stand inside the Colosseum, gaze upon Michelangelo’s masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel, listen to the Pope speak at St. Peter’s Basilica – and that’s only in one city!
5. Classes = Piece of Cake
They are seriously easier than high school classes. I’m convinced they do this on purpose so you can travel on weekends instead of slaving over homework.
6. Shorter Semesters
If you go during August, you can laze on a beach in the French Riviera, sipping on Mai Tais and Pina Coladas, while all of your friends back home are already a couple weeks into classes. All because your classes don’t start until September.
7. Student Discounts
As long as you have your university ID card or an international student card, you will get amazing discounts EVERYWHERE. Museums, cultural sights, you name it.
8. Exposure to New Cultures/Languages
You’d be surprised at how much Italian you can pick up after spending only 10 days in the country and simply listening to people speak. You also get a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of real people in other cultures, especially if you travel off the beaten path.
9. Faith in Humanity Restored
Because of studying abroad, I came to the realization that people (most of them, at least) are inherently good. Complete strangers will go out of their way to help you out of a jam with absolutely nothing expected in return.
10. A Taste of Complete Independence
You don’t have your parents or anyone else hovering over you and telling you what to do and how to do it, so you’re entirely on your own. Sink or swim, baby.
11. Learning How to Not Get Screwed Over
Taxi drivers in particular will try to overcharge you or trick you into paying more, but after this happens a couple times, you’ll learn. You won’t ever be afraid again to call anyone out on their bullshit.
12. The Hostel Experience
I probably won’t ever stay in a hostel again, but I’m so thankful I did when I studied abroad because it’s an adventure in its own right. You simply won’t get the same experience in a hotel of meeting travelers from all over the world, sharing a room with 15 other interesting people, and treasuring when a hostel has reliable wi-fi.
13. Collecting Cool Shot Glasses
They’re cheap, portable, extremely useful, and can be found in every city, so they’re pretty much the best souvenir ever.
14. Public Transportation
Metros, trains, and trams will ruin you for transportation. You can get anywhere without a car (you’ll never want to drive one again), and it won’t take you long to become a public-transportation-navigation-god.
15. Bonding With Fellow Travelers
Yes, you can meet people during college at home, but you will meet and become connected with much cooler people abroad. These fellow travelers obviously have similar interests and goals, so you may find yourself a lifelong friend who lives across the globe.
16. Weekend Trips to Other Countries
This will be the only time when, “Let’s go to Switzerland for the weekend!” is a realistic possibility for us Americans.
17. Lowering Your Maintenance
After backpacking during breaks, you’ll be totally okay with only showering every 2-3 days because you want to use the questionable hostel showers as little as humanly possible.
18. Resume Booster
Whether you’re planning to go to graduate school or you’re looking for a job, having “Study Abroad Program” on your resume will set you apart from the crowd. Employers and admissions staff know the kind of independence, motivation, and courage studying abroad teaches you, so they’ll be impressed for sure.
19. Managing Your Finances
Even if you’re terrible with money before you study abroad, you will have budgeting down to a science once you return home. You have to live on a fixed amount of money, so you can’t afford to shop every weekend and eat five-star meals and still have enough money to pay for your checked luggage on the plane ride home.
20. Facing Your Fears
I am terrified of biking, but I (with the help of my travel partner) forced myself to join a biking tour in the Bavarian Alps in southern Germany, and it was so worth it. Fear? Conquered.
21. Catching the Travel “Itch”
Once you have the experience of traveling abroad, your passion for seeing the world will never cease. It’s the most fulfilling activity you can participate in, and you will always yearn for more.
22. Realizing Who Your True Friends Are
Communicating with people back home is tough, especially with no cell service and slow wi-fi, so it’s a good way to see who really wants to keep in touch.
23. Seeing the World Differently
Before traveling abroad, you really have no idea what the rest of the world is like. It’s not like the movies, and it’s not like the media. It’s better, more real, and more like home than you thought.
24. Seeing Your Hometown Differently
I always wanted to go as far away as possible from my hometown, but after actually leaving for four months, I realized that the place where I grew up is not that bad after all. There really is no place like home.
25. Seeing Yourself Differently
Every mental, physical, and emotional aspect of your being will be challenged on this trip, but you will surprise yourself with how much YOU are capable of. The confidence of planning out and executing an entire trip abroad, powering through the havoc at airports and train stations, and keeping yourself alive for that amount of time is something that a lot people simply cannot do. You should be proud.