Why studying abroad is worth the challenges


It was only one year ago that the class of 2026–2027 was preparing their college applications. A decision that was going to determine their future and the next 4 years of their lives. Should you stay at home? Should you branch out and move an hour away? Should you move to a country on a different continent? Social media and Hollywood movies have frequently glamourized the idea of university life abroad, but is this lifestyle for everyone? The short answer is that studying abroad is not for everyone. However, it will offer thrilling life experiences that will mold you into a better version of yourself than you could have imagined. Though studying abroad has its perks, like everything else in life, it is not always sunny and perfect.

Freedom and maintaining balance

One of the most rewarding aspects of studying abroad for university is independence. Moving from your cozy and comfortable hometown to a new city where you do not know anyone can be intimidating at first. However, it is a journey of self-discovery. You will learn who you are when no one is paying attention—when your mother is nagging you to start your assignments or clean your room. However, some parents are skilled enough to do so from another country. This new independence implies that you have to make decisions on your own and determine what is right for you.

To some extent, freedom is both a blessing and a curse because you have more responsibilities. However, if you take it one step at a time, you will eventually learn how to be self-disciplined. When you live abroad, you will experience a variety of days. For instance, today you might spend all your time either in the library or attending lectures with no time to hang out with friends, but the next day might be spent outside because the sun has not been out in two weeks and you want to lay on the grass with your friend. Other days might be spent doing boring adulting tasks like cleaning your room, doing laundry, and buying groceries. You will learn when you need to say no to going out and stay in, and when you need to go out and take a mental break.

It is not an easy task to balance your social life, academics, and health, which is why you will not always be able to do everything. The key is to set your priorities on a day-to-day basis rather than thinking about everything you need to do for the next month. Ultimately, it is a learning curve, and you will learn how to be patient with yourself. For instance, as a first-year student, you tend to waste more money while trying to figure out which restaurants are worth it. Regardless of the chaos that comes with managing your money, every story comes with a memory and an experience.

Expanding your perspective on life

Moreover, studying abroad enables you to become more knowledgeable in a way that is not offered to you when you stay in your home country. The degree to which that is true depends on how international the university and country are. For instance, at IE, there is a wide diversity of people from various backgrounds. Meeting people from different parts of the world who grew up in multiple countries makes you more culturally aware. Every country has its own shared values, traditions, food, and other characteristics that distinguish it from others. This mixture of cultures broadens your perspective on life and forces you to get out of your bubble. 

It is very easy to stay in your comfort zone, but it is important to push yourself, and studying abroad offers many opportunities to do so. Ultimately, the exposure to an international scene will make you acquire new hobbies, grow a liking for certain foods that you used to hate, dance to music that used to give you a headache, and so much more. Despite the range of backgrounds at university, you will learn that people are actually not that different. Although our languages are different, we share similar values and traditions.


The best of both worlds

Studying abroad means that you will live a dual life: one at the university and one back home. This may be overwhelming from time to time, as you feel you have two personalities that represent who you are. Moreover, homesickness is a feeling that some people experience often while others only rarely. Studying abroad changes a person. It  is an opportunity to grow and discover what you like in life. You get the chance to build and design a new life that is completely yours. Your new life will look different than the one you had back home, which is why going back home during breaks brings a flood of feelings.

Despite the happiness you feel being back in the comfort of your home with your family and friends, consistently eating good meals, and not having to worry about managing your money, you will feel unaccustomed. You are no longer the same person you were when you left. You acquired new tastes, styles, and habits that you now need to figure out what to do with. How do you incorporate them into your old life? How do you avoid compartmentalizing yourself?

As of now, I do not have enough experience to answer these questions. However, I do believe that regardless of the challenges that arise when studying abroad, it is still worthwhile to have the privilege of doing it. The experiences that you live through while studying abroad will mold you into the person you aspire to be. In the best way possible, you might even become someone you did not expect to be.

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