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Studying abroad & the doors it will open

Have you thought about studying abroad, but been discouraged by the cost, the added difficulty of maneuvering your schedule, or the sheer intimidating thought of stepping so drastically far out of your comfort zone? If you can answer yes to this question, then you’re not alone—we hear it all the time.

The truth is that studying abroad is much more attainable than you probably think, and 100% worth it in the long run. As a senior who just returned from spending the spring semester studying in Paris, I can personally attest to studying abroad being one of the most beneficial experiences you can possibly have.

We probably don’t need to convince you that traversing some of the oldest and most famous streets, sampling other countries’ fresh and exotic dishes, and immersing yourself in some of the most tangible opportunities for adventure are a good idea—we have a hunch that those benefits speak for themselves. Making the decision to study abroad involves the weighing of several complex factors.

Here are three reasons that the option of studying abroad is worth giving some serious thought:

1) It’s a Small World

You’ve no doubt heard this time and time again about today’s job market: that we’ve become a global economy. And it’s true—now more than ever, companies are doing business with each other over-seas and expecting new employees to step into that environment seamlessly. One of the crucial skill sets necessary to be able to do this well is to have the ability to work with diverse groups of people. It goes beyond being able to tell an interviewer “I’ve successfully navigated many group projects in school and have learned to be a team player”; it’s about keeping your mind open to all of the different cultural norms and expectations that you start swimming in when you’re tasked with working with someone who was raised on the other side of the globe.

After having spent five months in French classrooms—an entirely different atmosphere than that of the American school system–my ability to adapt to new working environments and sets of expectations in little to no time continues to surprise me every day. Not only have I picked up new methods of problem solving from my French peers, but I have valuable experience communicating and taking directions from superiors who have fundamentally differing ideas than me of what role authority should play within different types of relationships. I’ve had to completely relearn basic academic material from different perspectives, putting away everything familiar to me in order to see certain matters through the eyes of another. These enlightening experiences have prepared me more than anything else to be successful in nearly any setting that I set foot into today.

2) “I’m a Self-Starter”

As I already mentioned, taking the plunge and deciding to study abroad isn’t easy. That is why actually going through with the decision says something about the people who do. The fact that you’re determined enough to wade through the obstacles that living abroad entails shows that you’re driven. You test the limits, never settling for mediocrity. You’re curious and eager to learn. You’re willing to put hard work into something in order to find a reward at the end of the line. These are all characteristics that employers frequently tell candidates that they’re looking for. Studying abroad can give them to you.

Living in France had been a dream of mine since childhood.

When it came to actually making that dream a reality, though—filling out paperwork, planning for the financial aspects, and deciding on classes that I would have to sacrifice at Purdue to balance my credits abroad—the stress of it all made my dream seem like more trouble than it was worth. Looking back on the decision that I was faced with, though, I couldn’t be prouder of my choice to stick with my goal through every obstacle along the way. Had I have taken the easy way out, I would have missed out on the single most life-changing experience that I have lived through to date.

Because of studying abroad, I’ve become more independent. I believe more confidently in myself and my abilities. I’ve lived through multiple moments that required me to remain calm in the face of both minor and major crises. I have even more of a thirst for understanding the world and the people in it than I did when I left. Probably the most notable change, though, is that I learned to push myself to take chances; just when I think that I’ve reached my breaking point, I continue to reach just a bit further, because I’ve learned that the most beneficial decisions that you’ll make in life are rarely the easiest. Coming back to the US, countless friends and family members have commented that they’ve noticed these changes in me, proving that my time abroad really was the most genuine of learning experiences.

3) Grow Like You’ve Never Grown Before

It may sound cliché to say that studying abroad will help you find yourself, but that’s because it’s true. Living so drastically far out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to get to know yourself through learning what your limits are, or how you perform in high-pressure situations that go beyond the classroom setting; it helps you discover what kind of subject matter fascinates you that you’ve never been exposed to before (or fascinates you even more after understanding it from a culturally new standpoint); you can more clearly see what global opportunities are open to you for the future, and how you see the world from a functional perspective.

Discovering these things about yourself helps you to figure out what you want—out of both a future career and life in general. Once you understand yourself on a deeper level, you have a much more concrete path to follow, making planning for the future that much easier.

Studying as a Public Relations major with an interest in rhetoric and a desire to change the world, Parisian life couldn’t have given me a clearer perspective on the many opportunities that are available for me to do just that. Seeing Parisians protesting in the streets on a regular basis sparked my love for campaign rhetoric. Listening to my host mother and the baker down the street talk about their jobs helped me realize that I don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be successful or to fully harness my passion for what I do. Realizing how I feel about these different aspects of work and life in general is extremely helpful to me as I spend my senior year deciding which positions and which companies are the best fit for me, as I slowly transition to the real world.

If all of the personal and career-related benefits that I’ve listed so far still aren’t quite convincing enough to have you running to visit a study abroad counselor and plan your own trip, here’s an extra bit of financial incentive:

President Daniels recently announced his initiative to get more Boilers abroad by offering up to $3,000 to qualified undergraduate students who study abroad for a semester or academic year, and up to $1,000 for qualified undergraduate students who participate in a shorter-term credit-bearing program.

This plan will commence with the Spring 2014 semester, and makes studying abroad more affordable than ever. Students can contact the Study Abroad Office for more information here, or by contacting an advisor in their office in Young 105.

Though the majority of deadlines for studying abroad in spring 2014 have already passed, it is never too soon to start planning for a Maymester program, a summer abroad, or for fall of 2014. In fact, the sooner you can brainstorm what you want in a program, and what your options are, the easier the process will be in the long run.

For all of these reasons and more, the next time your study abroad wheels start turning, we strongly encourage you to give the option some serious thought, rather than a quick and disappointing dismissal. The Purdue Study Abroad Office offers programs for nearly every area of study, so it’s worth looking into to, no matter your major or concentration. Check out their fantastic site, or visit them in person to speak with a counselor.

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