By Anna Lynch
Imagine it’s a regular Tuesday night in Clemson. Instead of studying for your math exam tomorrow, you’re on Facebook. You stumble upon some recently tagged pictures of a friend studying abroad in Europe. Feelings of jealousy begin to surface as you enviously graze through her adventures. You start wishing you could be there. Well, what’s stopping you? What’s stopping you from becoming the world traveler that everyone is Facebook stalking? We’re a small part of a big world; now is your opportunity to experience it for yourself.
Studying abroad takes you to places you never dreamed of. I spent my junior year living in Spain and it was the best decision I have ever made. First off, why is it important to study abroad? Compared to citizens in other countries, Americans are uninformed concerning the world beyond our nation’s boundaries. American graduates lack the international experience, language capabilities and cross-cultural communication skills necessary to succeed in the global economy. Studying abroad is the best way to develop these skills because it pushes a student to get out of his or her comfort zone and experience another culture, language, environment and education system.
Some students understand the importance of traveling and experiencing new cultures, but may not study abroad for other reasons. A few of the main reasons students don’t study abroad are concerns about cost, credits to take, graduation date, and feeling “out of your element.” Study abroad trips can be all inclusive: tuition, housing, certain pre-planned excursions, etc all included into the lump sum. If you look on Clemson’s study abroad page, you can find a list of scholarships you may be eligible for. I’m from North Carolina, and for out of state students, we actually receive in state tuition for the time spent abroad (pending on the program type). Also, I know from experience that if you receive financial aid, you’ll get it there too.
Aside from expenses, many students believe that their major is keeping them from studying abroad. While some curriculums are more flexible than others when it comes to available classes abroad, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I’m a Biological Sciences major and managed to find enough credits to take both semesters. Contact the Clemson Study Abroad Office and they will help you find a program for your major and interests.
Another concern for students wanting to study abroad: graduating on time. Well, studying abroad doesn’t have to be a semester long trip or even strictly related to your major. You can choose between summer, semester and yearlong programs. However, if you do end up graduating a little later, what you will gain from the experience far outweighs what you think you’d be sacrificing. Studying abroad caused me to prolong my graduation date by a semester, but it was definitely worth it.
Some students are reluctant to study abroad due to the fear of feeling alone or out of place in a country. It’s natural to feel this way when immersed in a foreign culture, but if we don’t get this experience, we may forever be culturally incompetent. And if it’s fear of being alone that’s stopping you, find a friend to go abroad with! Nonetheless, the best part of my experience was going there completely alone and making new friends. This is an opportunity to gain independence and learn about yourself and meet people you normally wouldn’t have.
Yes, it is almost too good to be true – everyone can study abroad! You will gain pieces of you that you had no idea were missing. You will acquire cultural competency. You will be experiencing new places and meet new people. Imagine the events you’ll attend, the foods you will try. Imagine the sites you will experience and the history you can relive. Imagine discovering places you’ve never heard of. Imagine the unforgettable people you will meet and the friends you will travel with. If you don’t study abroad now, you may never get the chance to travel abroad again. This is a once in a lifetime experience that you can’t let pass you by. A recent pole stated that 33% of college graduates who did not study abroad say they regret it. Don’t risk being part of that 33% and go see the world! What’s stopping you?