To study abroad or not to study abroad? That is the most important question

My name is Nicole Sheridan and I graduated from university in May of 2013 with a Bachelor´s Degree in Corporate Communications and a minor in the Spanish language. In spring of 2011, I made a life changing decision to pack up my bags and move to Seville, Spain for a semester. It was the most difficult decision I had to make but I am so thankful and happy that I faced my fears and did it. It was the best time of my life. Here is why you should study abroad, too!

I hear hundreds of cars and mopeds zoom past me in a hurry, see people from all over the world as I walk in the crowded streets, feel the heat beat down on my skin while strolling under the sun but get the chills when I pass through the shade, and greet friends with two kisses on each cheek before an outburst of loud, upbeat Spanish conversation and the consumption of delicious tapas. This is the beautiful life that I live today because I chose to study abroad.

Reason # 1: Leaving home is not as scary as you think!

Do you remember the feeling of when you were in kindergarten, absolutely terrified with no idea what was going to happen to you on that first day of school? That´s how I felt once my family waved me off at the airport and all I had was me, myself, and I. Before I could analyze what had just happened to me, I immediately met people from my program that would soon become life long friends. Everyone I met had felt the same way I did, nervous, unsure, and scared. That made it easier to relate to others and immediately click with people who were in my shoes.

Once we met our study abroad program leaders, the feelings of being scared were gone as they were professional liaisons who made us feel welcomed and offered support to us 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. They gave us advice for how to adapt to the culture, how to order food at a restaurant or buy food in the market, how to set up our mobile devices, and anything else you can think of. I went through the API program, but I also met many other students who studied through other programs who were provided with the same support system. If you decide to study abroad, you will always have someone to go to and guide you through the transition!

Reason 2# Weekend trips will allow you to become quite cultured!

Learning about other cultures may not be number one on your to do list, however culture makes people understand each other better. For example, different cultures express how people live, what they eat, how they dance, the different ways they communicate, and what is important to them. Understanding how people live throughout the world is essential today as travel and living abroad is becoming more popular.

While I studied in Seville, I was able to travel to quite a few different cities and countries. Every time my friends and I left to conquer a new destination we did research to know what kind of food we should eat, what architecture we should see, and what kind of activities were taking place. In Germany, sausages and beer for breakfast was the norm and seeing Gaudi´s beautiful artwork throughout Barcelona was an absolute must. In every city we went to, we learned something new about how others lived. To be able to witness that first hand was an amazing experience. Therefore, I hope all of you who are reading this and still have the opportunity to study abroad are about to do research and find a country to study in!

Reason 3#: You will grow as a person and have the time of your life.

When abroad, you will have to make decisions without confiding in your parents, siblings, or best friends from home, and though it is exciting, it can be nerve-racking, as it might be your first time living in a different country. I was very indecisive so it was not a piece of cake for me to make decisions. I asked myself the following questions all of the time.

I want to travel next weekend; do I travel by bus, plane or train?
What will I like on this menu because I don´t understand what anything is?
Do I go out tonight to a fiesta or do I get sleep because I have class early tomorrow?

You can always ask your new friends, but in the end you are the one that has to make the best decision for you. By the end of the semester abroad, you learn about yourself and your decision-making skills, which are very important, when it comes to choosing a job in the future, where you want to live, etc.

I studied abroad almost 3 years ago and can still imagine every experience I had like it was yesterday. Studying abroad is that one time in your time where you can drop that restaurant job at home and take a break, you can stop stressing about what your future career path will be, and you can focus on learning about a different culture, meeting new friends, eating delicious food, dancing to music you´ve never heard before, making travel plans, being responsible, and stepping outside of your comfort zone. That is exactly what I did, and I fell in love with the Spanish culture, and a Spanish man. I currently reside in Madrid, Spain where I am working as an English conversation assistant in a primary school. This is my second year and I love it. If I hadn´t studied abroad and taken that risk, I would still be in the United States, probably working in an office, and wondering what if?

If you have one iota of interest in studying abroad, please look into it and you won´t regret it. It will be the best time of your life!

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