Should you Study Abroad?

By Sol Garay |

Studying Abroad is the act of going to a different country with the genuine intention of doing more than just sightseeing and bucket list activities. It is an opportunity to live, study, and even work in a completely new environment and experience a brand-new culture – All while earning credit towards your degree. In addition, you can gain international experience and skills such as intercultural sensitivity, the ability to deal with ambiguity, and adaptation to new surroundings – all highly valued by employers. So, should you study abroad? Well, yes. Yes, you should.

My Experience

I studied abroad during the summer of 2019, which was the summer between my junior and senior year of university. I needed to take a prerequisite for my college (I went to UCSD where they have the college system, yeah, it’s weird I know) and when I realized I could use a Global Seminar in order to fulfill that perquisite requirement, I went for it. Ultimately, I chose the course Jazz in Paris and full disclosure: I was not a very big fan of Jazz; in fact, I would go so far as to say that I hated Jazz (at the time). Since I signed up for a Global Seminar that would help me with a college requirement and not for my major, I kind of didn’t care much for the class. What I mean by this, is that during lecture I would spend more time thinking about what I was going to do after class. And although by the time the course had ended, I had a greater appreciation for jazz music and the history of Jazz as a whole, I would say that most of my learning and memories from the Study Abroad experience happened outside the classroom.

Prior to my Study Abroad experience I had never traveled outside the country. To be honest I never thought I was going to. Ever. Being a first-gen college student with immigrant parents, traveling to the other side of the world just wasn’t something I thought about in a realistic way. But next thing I knew, I was on a plane flying 5,652 miles away and living in an apartment in Paris wondering what café to go to next. And as I ignored my notifications from Duolingo and rode around in the Parisian Metro on my way to class, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I was. I didn’t feel like I was visiting Paris, but rather it felt more like I was a Parisian citizen. I would go grocery shopping, take the local transportation, and visit friends at their apartments. It felt like I was somehow teleported to a parallel reality where I was born in Paris. On the weekends I would travel to neighboring countries with several classmates and explore different cities and try new foods. We went to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Barcelona, and many more! It felt like going on vacation while being on vacation. And by the time the weekend was over, I found myself saying something that I never thought I would say: “I don’t want to go back to Paris.”

How Study Abroad helped me with Jobs

Studying Abroad prepared me for many challenges that I would later face such as job-hunting post- graduation. Experiences such as navigating safely and effectively in a foreign location helped me develop problem solving skills and social awareness skills. These skills, among others, helped me when I began applying for jobs because I was able to reference my Study Abroad experiences during interviews.  According to the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) survey, their study abroad alumni earn on average $7,000 more in starting salary compared to the general population of U.S. college graduates. Furthermore, I was able to put French as a third language on my resume. I took a French course (which I failed) in the Spring Quarter prior to leaving for Paris, but it wasn’t until I was living there where I was finally able to speak and understand French way better than I ever thought I would. I believe this has to do with the immersion aspect of Studying Abroad. It is much easier to pick up a language when you’re surrounded by it 24/7.

It’s not impossible.

I hate using the phrase “If I can do it, you can too” because it’s very cliché. However, if you feel like you can’t afford to Study Abroad, remember that there are many resources out there that can help you. Scholarships, grants, and even student discounts on flights are all viable options. Also, travelling through your schools Study Abroad program is a huge help, especially for those who have not traveled very much before. Your college or university will be there to support you every step of the way! Thoughtful acts such as providing transportation to and from the airport, financial assistance through scholarships, and setting you up in the nicer part of towns are all something they’re more than willing to provide. Furthermore, travelling while you’re still in school and have no real responsibilities is always a plus. Once you graduate and start your amazing career, it’s going to be a lot harder to find the time to travel. Trust me.

You won’t regret it.

To conclude, Studying Abroad is an absolute transformative experience that I can’t recommend enough. There are many great Study Abroad opportunities within our city’s collegiate institutions, so students check in with your school’s office and ask about Study Abroad opportunities! In addition, the Campus Riverside team is working closely with our International Sister Cities (more on that soon) to set up possible internship opportunities abroad for our Riverside students so stay tuned!

“There are few experiences that are as transformative to the development of a student as study abroad. A full immersion in another culture heightens one’s cultural sensitivities and opens our minds to the complexity of the world. And, if that is not enough, study abroad increases the competitiveness of our students as they seek employment upon graduation.”

– Chancellor Woodson of North Carolina University