My name is Linda and I am a 22-year old third year student at the University of Bedfordshire, which is located in Luton, England. I am studying English Language & Linguistics and hope to have a career in communication and marketing in the near future. I wrote this article with young people who are interested in studying abroad in mind. I hope it will serve its purpose and is helpful to someone.
1. The extraordinarily beautiful places
We have all gazed at a friend’s Instagram photos of another beautiful place that they have visited, and we find ourselves wondering, if we’d ever do the same. It’s always the same old story: too busy with school, too busy with thinking what to do after school (!!!) and last but not least – not enough money. Here’s food for thought, why not combine your love for travelling with your undergrad studies? Opportunities for studying abroad have never been as great as they are now. Whether you are up for a change of climate, and study in Spain for a semester, exchanging that heavy winter parka for a short skirt, or want to go mountain skiing every other weekend with your friends whilst in Switzerland… The world is your oyster and it’s waiting for you to pick the next best place to visit, study and live at. Oh, and did I mention? All at the same time!
2. The course of your dreams
At last, the day of your high school graduation has come. You have cried and done your make-up three times over. Your mom does not even bother to redo her mascara after the fourth time. Your dad… has kind of just sat in the same seat watching TV for the past 3 hours waiting to leave. Nevertheless, you have chosen your course and it is time to start applying for university. However, since you have left this at the last possible minute, as per usual, you discover that your country’s universities do not offer your dream course. I think it is time to start thinking outside of the box and look abroad. You are still not convinced some institution offers your course? Let me just say this, there is a course called Brewing and Distilling in the UK. If you still cannot find anything after reading this, I think you have made your dream course up.
3. Hold on, new best friends! I’m on my way!
The best way to meet new people is to go to a university. Everyone shows up scared and alone on their first day. Unpacking their stuff in their dorm rooms, whilst nervously peeking outside the window and holding their breath every time they hear something in the hallway. Not to worry, the universities have prepared for that and have started to organise a series of meet and greet events to make new students feel more comfortable.
For example, in the UK, it is known as Freshers’ Week. Depending on the institution, the duration and the amount of events can vary from a week to two weeks, and most of the universities have events almost every day. There are activities planned for every taste. From parties to simple barbeques or sports events, everyone will find the one they feel most comfortable at.
My two friends met at one of the university’s Meet & Greet parties. They were both standing awkwardly in opposite corners of the room until Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” started playing (as a joke). They were the first and last ones on the dance floor and have been best friends since. Cool, huh?
4. Help, I don’t know how to adult!!!
“Mom, I’m an adult now, I can stay out as late as I want,” is probably a sentence we have all said at one point to our mothers. However, when it comes to making an appointment with the dentist, we will all turn to our mom to make the call. Making the decision to study abroad will be the best preparation for an independent life you will ever receive. In the first couple of months, you will find yourself skyping your parents on odd times with questions like, how much pasta is too much pasta to cook for one person and how does the washing machine work. Nevertheless, do not be frightened, we all go through that period in our lives. Believe it or not, even your mom did not know that whites cannot be washed together with red shorts. Moving out on your own, to a new country no less, is extremely scary at first, but trust me, you will get the hang of it!
5. How will I pay for everything?
Yes, money has always been one of the reasons why people do not go abroad. Not everyone has the same financial opportunities. Don’t worry, there are ways around it. For example, most of the universities offer grants to students. Such as, stipends for people whose financial situation is more difficult than others, have been excellent students in high school or who support themselves. Moreover, higher education has been made free for students in many countries over the past few years. In the UK, youngsters can take out student loans that they will start to pay back only if they earn over a certain amount. In 30 years, the loan will be deleted, no matter how much they have managed to pay back.
A student job on the side is another good idea. It can help with your monthly costs or can be a good start to earning and putting money aside. Many university campuses only employ people who are students, you will usually work no more than 15-20 hours a week. Additionally, there are always jobs available outside the campus you might be interested in. Don’t ever take no for an answer, if studying abroad is really something you want to do. Remember, there are always people and companies willing to help a young and driven person out.
All in all, the decision to study abroad has to come from you. I can talk about my great experiences endlessly, but yours might be completely different. Without a doubt, I can say this: You will get to know yourself better and you will come out of your comfort zone. You might even discover aspects about your personality you did not even know existed before. You will have time away from friends and family, and granted, it will be difficult. However, if you had any doubts before on how to live your life or how to come to terms with becoming a successful and functioning adult, you now have two different experiences to compare and come up with an answer. In the end, you will see, all the pieces that did not fit before, now fit perfectly.