If You're Looking For A New Challenge, Try Studying Abroad
Your time at university will undoubtedly be some of the best years of your life but what would you say if we told you there's a way to make it even better. Don't believe us? Read on to see why studying abroad could be one of the best decisions you make at uni.
You'll learn a new language
If you aren't already studying a language then this is the perfect opportunity to learn one. Immersing yourself in a country and speaking the language every day is the best way to pick it up as quickly and painlessly as possible. It's still going to be tough but native speakers will always be the best teachers you can find.
You could save money
Tuition fees are now prohibitively high in the UK, so it's unsurprising that there has been a massive rise in students heading further afield to find cheaper fees and better experiences. The Netherlands was a popular place to study abroad in 2012 thanks to the €1,771 yearly tuition fee and the huge range of courses available. It also helps that virtually everyone speaks English so you can be gently introduced to the new language.
Hands up if your usual uni routine goes something along the lines of: wake up around midday - go to uni - have dinner - watch TV - nap - pre-drinks - big night out - kebab - home - repeat. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with this routine but there is so much more out there to experience. There are so many new places to see, new people to meet, new foods to sample and then there's all the local drinks to try. While living abroad, virtually every day becomes a new experience.
Learn about a new culture
What better way to learn about a new culture than by living it? When you're completely immersed in a culture, you see so much more in comparison to visiting a new place on holiday. Learning all about a new culture can also teach us so much more about our own culture when you have the experience to compare the two.
Life skills away from the classroom
There are some things you can't learn in the classroom, like how to get a taxi home when no one speaks the same language as you, how to deal with culture shock and get along with people who have had a completely different upbringing to yourself. You'll also find yourself becoming more independent and feeling like you can accomplish anything; if you can survive a year studying abroad you can survive anything, right?
Experience a new education system
Let's face it, the actual studying part of uni can be pretty dull so mixing things up in a new country can reignite your passion for your chosen subject and help you to learn in new ways.
Enhance your CV
Having that something extra on your CV is absolutely vital to make sure you stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for a job. Having a second language and spending time studying abroad can give you the boost you need to land your dream job
Having friends all over the world is great for so many reasons. Do you want some insider tips on where to go in France? Looking for a sofa to sleep on for a few nights in Barcelona? Need a Dutch speaking friend to get you out of a tricky situation? Having an international friendship group generally makes life more interesting and it means you get to play tour guide when they come to stay with you in your home country.
You get to travel
Of course we've left the best and most obvious reason to study abroad until last; you get to travel! Forget spending the weekend slumped on the sofa watching X-Factor and think about exploring some off the beaten track destinations in and around your chosen country.
If you need any more reasons to study abroad, we've had a chat with Dave Brett who's been there and got the t-shirt when it comes to studying abroad.
"First was my Erasmus Exchange year in Finland. I studied in the western coastal town of Vaasa and went to VAMK University of Applied Sciences to study Travel and Tourism Management. The great thing about studying tourism is that it's mostly taught in English all around the globe. Not only this but all courses in Finland are free and are considered to be one of the best education systems in the world!
Through Erasmus I also got accommodation, transport and general expenses (food and activities) paid for by the Erasmus scholarship. Almost all EU universities have access to this funding so do speak to your university Erasmus international student department to work out what your university can do for you.!
I learned so much within that one year and it was a real life changing experience for me.! At the end of the year I was inspired to set up my own business due to one of the courses I took and because of this it was a real life changing experience for me!
I'm now currently studying my Masters in the Netherlands doing Business Communications and Social Media at Tilburg University"
Dave's reasons to study in the Netherlands:
- The Netherlands are only a 45 minute flight from the UK and the flights can cost as little as £19. It's very easy to fly home if you need to (like for my brothers 21st birthday)
- Its only one year! Masters are normally 2 years in the UK and they cost twice as much. This suits me perfectly in terms of time and financially.!
- Most masters in the Netherlands are taught in English, fantastic!!
- The fee is roughly £1,400 (€1,771) for a yearlong master's course.
- Tilburg has 900 international students so it's just one big international party with people from South Africa, Canada, Singapore and Russia. It's great to collaborate with people from all around the world on projects!
- Experiencing another culture by living there is a very special experience as it's allot different to backpacking but it's also very rewarding in its own way. You adapt to the community and make loads of friends from the country you're in, some will be almost like family by the end of it!
- You really stand out from the crowed when going for a job interview, just saying you studied abroad makes you a top candidate. It takes a curtain type of person to take on this challenge and it boosts your independence and international awareness about the world; employees love this!
- After my year abroad my Facebook friends doubled and now I have friends from all corners of the globe who I know with one single email would jump at a beer if I was to visit them. Erasmus friends are really special friends as you share something very unique which you always remember for the rest of your life.!
- I feel I could jump on a plane and work/live any were around the world after my studying abroad. It really makes you think in an international way and makes you adapt to living around the globe, I feel completely mobile.
If you're thinking about studying abroad, check out our section on Study and Travel where you'll find loads of information on combining your studies with practical work experience and qualifications.
Many people who study abroad combine their time with teaching English so check out Katie Baxter's article 'All you need to know about TEFL'.
And if you'd like to ask for some advice on studying abroad from people who have been there and done it before, check out the Study Overseas message boards and ask away.
About the Author: Monica Stott
Monica is the social media specialist and content writer for gapyear.com. She's a Twitter addict, travel blogger, iphoneographer and all-round travelaholic. She took an extended gap year after uni, spending eight months in South East Asia and over a year travelling and working in Australia. She worked on a diving island and drove all the way around the coast of Australia in a rusty old campervan. Her favourite destination is Thailand where she spent two months scuba diving, practising yoga, parting during full moons, half moons, quarter moons, black moons (any excuse for a party) and eating far too much Thai red curry.