Although my weeklong adventure through Portugal was one for the books (I went to Porto, my favorite city so far—besides Madrid of course—and Lisbon last week) I’ve been meaning to gather a list for you guys about why an international experience is a must in my opinion.
#1: Your passport becomes your resume
It is safe to say that nowadays the job market is as competitive as it’s ever been and having studied abroad can sometimes mean the difference between getting a job or not. I’m not trying to say that having a degree will get you a job automatically, but it will most likely help distinguish you in a huge pool of applicants. A degree shows that you’re committed, hardworking and determined, whereas a study abroad experience shows that you adapt well, are open to change and culturally aware. It’s almost as if your semester abroad is a mini internship: you must learn how to cope with a changing environment and develop skills you never knew you had.
#2: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
No matter what your reasons for studying abroad, chances are you really just want to explore the world and yourself. I once heard that people learn more about themselves during one semester abroad than they do during the three years and a half they spend on their home campus. I didn’t really believe that. How could one semester make such a huge difference? Now I’m happy to say it’s actually true. Leaving everyone and everything you know and literally jumping out of your comfort zone gives you another take on life. Every week is another adventure and you will basically have the time of your life abroad!
I’m not talking about the weight you’re sure to put on after countless trips for tapas, gelato and pizza but more of the personal growth. With freedom comes responsibility and what you choose to do with your freedom will somewhat define you. Whether you live at home or on campus, you always have people close by that you feel comfortable with and know you can count on for anything. But when you are abroad, you will be thousands of miles away and must take matters into your own hands. Your world and self-view will inevitably change so just take advantage of that!
#4: International Friendships
Like I had said in one of my previous blogs, one of the best parts of studying abroad is meeting people from all over the world. It is crazy to think that if you didn’t study abroad, you would have met all of the amazing people you now call your friends. I have made friends with people from Brazil, Puerto Rico, Australia, Canada, Germany, London, France, Mexico and Russia and can honestly say that I have learned at least one thing about each of their home countries. In such an international place you are bound to meet many Americans as well and that’s totally ok. I say this because a lot of people would tell me to avoid hanging out with Americans since the point of being abroad is to make friends from other backgrounds, but I don’t think that’s how it should be either. Some of my closest friends in Madrid are from the US, in fact some of them go to SDSU and I would have likely never met them if it wasn’t for our semester abroad.
#5: Becoming cultured
Becoming cultured doesn’t happen simply because you travel. It’s about so much more than that. It’s about being aware and understanding cultures. Looking at monuments is somewhat pointless if you don’t know the history behind them. Merely looking at a 2,000 year-old building is no more than that, looking. But understanding the history behind it, the events that took place there and the people living in past times make your visit so much more worthwhile. So before traveling, make sure to do your research on the city and places you will go see. Remember that becoming cultured is not a direct product of traveling but of your attitude and ability to keep an open mind.