Everybody always fantasizes about what it would be like to live a completely different life. What would I do right now if I was in Asia or Latin America? Well, college is one of the easiest times to do this. Almost all colleges offer some kind of exchange program and it is something you should definitely take advantage off.
If you have traveled abroad you know that every country has their own way of doing things and that they may be very different from how it is in your home. You might love the energy of Italy or the chaos of Southeast Asia. There is so much to see out there and this is your chance to see it all.
I was lucky enough to be enrolled in a college program that made my whole class more from one campus of my university to another. Like this I lived in Switzerland, China, and Spain within 1.5 years. Every one of those places taught me something new. I got really got at eating with chopsticks and talking to people with whom I have no common language. In Spain, I learned to be more relaxed and enjoy life a bit more. Nothing these was how we planned it and everything was always at least 15 minutes delayed. So you learned to accept it and go with it.
There is so much you would never believe you can learn about others just from spending a longer period of time living in the same country. You will be able to understand their situation better. It will make you more understanding of Asian wanting pictures of everything or of the constant tardiness of people from Spain and Latin America.
Learn something about yourself
If you are abroad you are bound to learn new things about yourself because you will be in situations you have never faced before. What will you do if you are lost in a city where nobody speaks your language? How will you react to someone giving you something to eat that you would never want to touch? Are you brave enough to take all the crazy modes of transport? Will you freak out at every little sign of danger?
You will come back to after your exchange and know that you are capable of so much more than you expected. I learned about myself that I am able to do things like take public transport even in places where I do not understand what is written on the bus. I learned that although I can be a picky eater, as long as I like the taste I do not care what is in it. I learned about myself that I can always find some friends regardless of where I am going.
Some of these things I would have never had to figure out if I had lived in the same place my whole life and not ventured out into the world.
Make friends for life
You will meet some of the most amazing people while studying abroad. Since you are all in the same boat of being in a country you know so little of, it gives you common ground. The experiences you will have that nobody can truly understand without having been there will glue you together.
My friends and I until today talk about the crazy things we did in China. The time we got stuck in the center because none of the taxis we normally take would come to pick us up. Or the road trip we took to Ronda while living in Malaga. With my friends from the cruise, we keep saying remember that say we were running back to the ship to make the all-on-board. There are so many emotions tied to these memories that will connect you with these friends for the rest of your life regardless if you are still living close by each other after.
Memories you will talk about for a lifetime
You know that annoying friend who starts every sentence with "when I was living in x country..."? Yeah that is me through and through. There are so many great memories that will stay with me forever and I would not want to change for the world, even if they may have been a horrible experience in real life.
The memories you make abroad will always be special because often they happen coincidentally. The first night we arrived in Shanghai my whole class went out together and that is one of our most fun memories together. We got lost on the way to the club, didn't know how everything worked, and almost didn't find out way back to the hotel after. But is it a great memory to look back on? Yes, definitely.
There is a reason people who come back from exchange can not shut up about it. It really leaves a lasting impression on you and you will cherish the experience forever.
College is probably the simplest time to move abroad. You have a reason to go and a reason to come back to your own country, which can be hard to prove later in life. Therefore getting any visa is as easy as no other time.
Also, most colleges organize everything for you. You might have to look for accommodation, but many have dorms that you can stay in and they will most likely also provide you with food. If you are attending an international college, you might even be able to get some of your usual meals instead of constant local food (if you are not a huge fan of it).
Furthermore, it is a great way to "test drive" a country. You always wanted to know what it would be like to live in Chile or Peru? Go on exchange and see. Or has a fascination with Vietnam? Check if there is an option to go there. You will be there for 6 months or max. 1 year. For that long, you can survive anything even if you end up hating it. This was my thought when going to work on a cruise ship and in the end I almost didn't want to leave.
Studying abroad, if for one semester or your whole college time, is one of the best chances you get to make unforgettable memories. These opportunities do not come along often, so make sure you grab it and make the most out of it. In the end it is your life it will enrich and make you open your eyes to things you didn't know was there.
Did you do study abroad? I would love to hear all your stories and what your experience was like. Feel free to share them in the comments below or on social media.