Whether taking a year abroad as part of your degree programme would be a good idea or not is a complicated question mark to deal with. Many doubts and fears make it difficult to decide. ‘Will I be able to communicate with people?’, ‘Will I make new friends?’. Language barriers, loneliness and insecurities block many students from ‘taking the risk’.
Others, on the other hand, feel excited about the idea of spending 12 months away from home in a foreign country, encouraged by friends or relatives who have already experienced living abroad. In most cases, a year abroad is compulsory for students who are doing an international degree or for those who are learning a foreign language as part of their programme.
Taking a year abroad clearly has benefits and drawbacks, and there are different points of views regarding this scary but amazing experience.
Spending a period of 10 to 12 months in a Foreign country gives you a great opportunity to integrate into a foreign culture. While studying or working abroad you can improve your language skills and gain more confidence in writing and speaking at a native level. Students who have never studied the language of their ‘host’ country have their chance to learn it in a more stimulating way by interacting with native speakers, rather than having to deal with grammar books and online dictionaries.
There is no better or faster way to learn a language. Some time away from your day-to-day routine is hard at the very beginning but you will soon realise how beneficial it is for you. Spending this time on your own, out of your comfort zone will bring a personal development, you will feel more mature, confident, independent and open minded.
Furthermore, it will broaden your academic horizons. Studying in a foreign language might be scary and you might feel sceptical about how you are going to manage to pass your exams and get good grades whiles studying in a different language. You could discover that different academic and assessment systems are worth the try. The network of friends that you will be able to make is one of the most precious things you will take with you forever.
However, you will miss your personal relationships. Family, friends or your other half being miles away from your new “home” will make you feel lonely and home-sick. That’s why it’s important to form new relationships; but don’t go too far. Student parties and activities could easily distract you from your course work if you don’t plan and manage your time wisely. Also, taking exams and writing essays in a non-native language can be a challenge and this might affect your academic results.
You will experience a ‘cultural shock’ once you go back home. You will find yourself missing your independent and happy life where ‘fiestas’ or ‘croissants’ for breakfast were the only problems you had to deal with. You might not want to go back to real life
There are always pros and cons for everything but the benefits you can get from taking a year abroad are priceless. You will get the precious chance to travel around, visit beautiful cities and totally embrace a new culture. Having a year abroad as part of your university experience is also a plus for a future employment. Hiring managers appreciate individuals who can face new adventures and can speak a foreign language.