Be honest: Have you ever thought of going abroad for your studies? Have you ever given it a serious thought? I think you should! It’s a great opportunity. Let me tell you why.
I did my Bachelor abroad… somehow. Where I come from, going to the Netherlands for study does not really count as going abroad. My hometown is so close to the Dutch border that the rest of Germany thinks were Dutch (we’re not… okay, okay, most of us is half Dutch but still) and my new university was just 30km away. That’s why before I started studying it didn’t feel like I would go abroad. That quickly changed!
Soon I realized that Dutchies are somehow different, amazing but different. They are amazingly friendly – until you do something they don’t like. Then they are pretty damn direct. If they don’t like you or your work, they will tell you. No diplomacy, bam in your face. (I’m still struggling with that, especially when my boyfriend tells me that what I just said was ridiculous). Also my German ‘Pünktlichkeit’ (punctuality) and ‘Gründlichkeit’ (thoroughness) caused some irritation – on both sides. For my fellow students I was a ‘Streber’ (nerd): I always handed in my stuff on time, I did read the chapters we were supposed to read and I somehow managed to score higher than 6. At my university the lowest possible grade to pass was a 5.5 so passing with a 6 was by far enough for many of my fellow students. This mentality even has a name in Holland: ‘Zesjescultuur’ (it even has its own wiki). So thanks to my German mentality I pretty fast felt like an alien there.
Broaden your horizon
Now I’m realizing that this was maybe not the smartest way to start this post. I said I would convince you to study abroad and now I’m telling you that you will feel like an alien. Don’t worry, that feeling was over really quickly. Now I feel grateful for it. Because it helped me to develop quite some skills. When you experience something new, you automatically compare itto what you know. If you go abroad, you encounter a new culture and after a while you start seeing the similarities and differences with your own culture. The trick is not to judge. That is called cultural awareness. You will sense which behavior is appropriate in a situation and adapt to it if you feel it is necessary. And most importantly you broaden your horizon: You start seeing things from different perspectives and that is truly positive for your personal development. I think that you start taking over the good habits from the new culture. At the same time you see the good habits of your own culture and you will probably even improve those. I’m still a perfectionist but I now know better where to spend my energy on.
Pimp your CV
By the way, cultural awareness and adaptability are highly valued by future employers. Since Erasmus is the mobility program of the EU, they of course need to show it’s successful so every year they do a research: Erasmus increases skills such as curiosity, problem-solving, confidence and adaptability and 93% of recruiters in Europe value those skills. Students that spend a time abroad show that they are flexible (in both thinking and being mobile) and therefore have a high chance to get hired:
When you study abroad, chances are high that things at your university just work a little bit (much) different from what you are used to from home. So by succeeding or better said surviving in this new environment you will show your future employer that you are one of the fittest, that you can adapt to new situations quickly. You won’t be a fish out of the water if he pushes you out of your comfort zone!
Master a language
The best way to learn a language is being forced to use it. You don’t learn a language in school but you learn it ‘on the road’: in real life situations. But as long as you have a backup you will easily fall back on it. Remember Spanish classes when you had to present something and you were missing a particular word? In front of the class it was easier to use the English, Dutch, German, whatever word for it than awkwardly explaining what you mean. Well, in Spain or Argentina you will have to explain it as good as you can because there is no other way. But in these situations you learn the most!
Surviving the first two months is hard (I can tell from experience) but after that you will feel confident really soon. Because you have overcome the terrifying thought that you could make a mistake. You don’t need to think anymore about what you are going to say. You just talk. And if you make a mistake, people either won’t care or will tell you. You will learn from it – that’s great! Learning a language broadens your horizon and it will open the doors to so many new opportunities: Interesting conversations with new people in places you have probably never been before. And it looks good on your CV, of course 😉
Follow your dream study
The reason I did my Bachelor in the Netherlands was a practical one: I could not find that study in Germany. I knew I wanted to do ‘something with languages’ but becoming a teacher? No way! So I was looking for a way to combine my languages with something I thought to be useful. I couldn’t find anything like that in Germany so I quickly started looking in the Netherlands. And I found it.
So if you have an idea of what you want to study but you can’t find it in your own country, don’t be afraid to enter a highway that leads you abroad. You can have many reasons for that: You have found your dream study but …
a) … you probably won’t be accepted into it.
b)… it’s a niche study and a university abroad is leading in that niche.
c) … it’s not offered in your country.
d) … you want to learn also outside the university.
Whatever reason suits you, it’s definitely a good reason. Doing your study (or part of it) abroad will be a big adventure and you will take a lot from it home (if you not make it your new home): a different view on the world, valuable experience to pimp your CV, fluency in a new language, a Bachelor or Master or PhD diploma, a backpack full of memories and a good handful of true friends.
PS: Are you still doubting of going abroad? What are your concerns? Do you have a question for me? Please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading.