Yesterday I talked about the benefits of studying abroad and, as promised, today I’m back with the other half of that list – the drawbacks that maybe you haven’t considered. But no one wants to start on a negative note, especially not for something as exciting and life changing as studying abroad, so I highly encourage you to check out yesterday’s post before diving into this one.
- It costs a lot. There’s no sugar coating it. I saved up for two years before studying abroad and when I came home I was running on fumes. Keep in mind, though, that I wasn’t very careful with my spending while I was abroad. I didn’t want to be. My whole goal in studying abroad was getting to see new places and that’s exactly what I did. Money is money and it was worth every penny.
- It could affect your graduation date. It didn’t affect mine at all – in fact, I graduated in three years, a far cry from the growing population of college students in their fifth or sixth year. All three of the girls from my home university who I stayed in touch with after we got back have graduated on time or are on track to graduate on time. It is absolutely more than possible to do. You just need to have your ducks in a row before you go. Be sure that all the classes you take abroad will transfer and be accepted for credit at your home university. Also be aware of the difference in the credit systems. For example, at my home university each class was worth three units, meaning that “full time” was five classes (fifteen units) in a semester. While abroad I took four classes for sixteen units. So as far as units were concerned, I was still a full-time student. However, because I took one fewer class than I would have at home this could have affected my graduation timeline if I hadn’t already taken extra courses before studying abroad.
- You might hate it. Maybe it’s homesickness. Maybe it culture shock. But some people don’t adjust well. One of the girls from my home university was in a writing class with me while I was abroad and it seemed like every time we talked she had something else to complain about. A lot of it was a negative outlook on the situation and a lot of it was that she was so far out of her comfort zone that she couldn’t relax and enjoy herself. Everyone is going to have an off day now and again, but one of the great things about studying abroad is that is tests you in new ways and shows you just how independent you can be.
- Coming back home is a huge and unanticipated adjustment. You’ve just had this life changing experience. It’s opened your eyes in so many ways, taught you things about the world and yourself. The problem? Everyone else’s lives have stayed the same. They’ll come welcome you home at the airport and politely flip through pictures, but mostly your experience is going to be irrelevant to them. It’s not that they don’t care, but, really, they don’t care. This was something I was completely unprepared for when I returned home and was one of the first things I blogged about.
And that’s about all I have for drawbacks. I considered including “culture shock” as a negative, but I really look back at it as a great motivator to get to know my temporary home so it wasn’t so strange to me. It got me out of my dorm and prompted me to make friends or strike out on my own.
I grew more as a person in the few months I was abroad than in the rest of the two and a half years I was in college. I absolutely recommend studying abroad. As long as you’re aware of the challenges that you may face and you’re willing to be flexible, you’re going to have an incredible experience.