There are lots of reasons not to go abroad.
It’s complicated — paperwork, visas; costly — airfare, tuition; and risky — what if you hate it?
It’s a commitment, and it’s a leap of faith. You are leaving your friends, your home and everything else that comprises your comfort zone. You can’t drive home on the weekend. You won’t know what truly awaits you until you get there. It’s scary.
Do it anyway.
Fill out the paperwork. It can be a little painful, but it’s worth it. You won’t remember forms or questionnaires when you’re flying through the streets of Amsterdam on a bicycle, soaking up the Italian sun with a book in your hand or eating blocks of cheese on a Parisian street corner.
Figure out the cost. You’d be surprised at how affordable studying abroad can be. The University of South Dakota has several direct programs, wherein you continue to pay your regular USD tuition and fees while living and studying in Australia, Spain, Germany, Japan, France, Hungary or the United Kingdom.
USD also offers opportunities through affiliate programs such as Cultural Experiences Abroad and International Studies Abroad, which compensate you for various aspects of your time abroad. For example, when I studied abroad, my affiliate program covered the entire cost of my airfare. There are lots of financial incentives and aid out there waiting to be utilized.
This is particularly true at USD, where a substantial amount of money is allocated to help students who want to do something like study abroad. The Farber Fund — established in honor of the late William O. “Doc” Farber, a former political science professor at USD — totals $4.5 million, and provides upwards of $170,000 each year for political science, criminal justice and international studies students to travel in conjunction with their education.
More recently, a $40,000 fund in the College of Arts & Sciences dedicated exclusively to helping fund student study abroad opportunities was announced. The International Opportunity Fund will be open to declared Arts & Sciences majors, and awards are anticipated to range from $500 to up to $2,500. If you went through a direct program and secured additional aid, studying abroad could quite literally cost you less than studying at USD.
Take the risk. I understand the stomach-churning anxiety that can accompany the sheer unknowingness of what you might be considering. I can only encourage you to bite the bullet, and just go. Simply put, it’s worth it. It is challenging, exciting and wildly fun, and I have never spoken with someone who studied abroad and regretted it. Eventually, your anxiety will turn into euphoria.
If my promises seem baseless or are meaningless to you — which is fair, we probably don’t know each other — or you can’t quite shake the risk factor, consider studying abroad a calculated investment in your future.
In an increasingly globalized world, employers are not only looking for people with a global mindset or internationally applicable knowledge and skills, but the personality traits that either made you study abroad in the first place or came about as a result thereof, like open-mindedness, pluckiness and adaptability.
Traveling, as more and more people are suggesting, teaches you in a way that classrooms simply can’t. You’re there, seeing it all — trying, touching, smelling, tasting and stumbling sometimes, but growing in a big way. You learn by doing. There are certain things you can’t learn in the same way if you are sitting behind a desk.
So, yes — there are reasons not to go abroad. But they are outnumbered significantly by reasons to go. If you haven’t considered it, you should. If you’re considering it, just do it. It’s an investment in yourself — an on-the-ground education that will be with you for the rest of your life.