Why Study Abroad?

As I write this post, I’m sitting in a café in Verona and reflecting on the past four months of my life. I hate to sound cliché — as I know I do often — but I am a different person than I was when I first step foot on Italian soil. My perspective of the world is different than it once was. My perspective of myself is different than it was not too long ago.

This, of course, is easy to say. But how have I changed? And why do I think that studying abroad was so crucial to my personal development?

“I only had one birthday while abroad however, I am coming back much more than a year wiser … I think.”

There are many answers to these two questions, and I don’t have enough time to go in depth into all of them; however, the three main arguments that I have in favor of studying abroad are as follows:

  • Study abroad because you will be challenged more than you ever thought possible.
  • Study abroad for intercultural interactions and learning.
  • Study abroad for your mental health.

I know my reasons may not make sense to you at the moment if you have not studied abroad yourself. But if you were to ask anyone who has studied abroad or is studying abroad, I think they would agree with me. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you’ll be a little bit more moved to study abroad, or maybe a little bit more excited for your upcoming time abroad.

Study abroad because you will be challenged — mentally, physically, intellectually, you name it.

Since August, I have been confronted with language barriers, with cultural differences, with internal struggles and with physical changes. I’ve had to adapt to different living conditions, make new friends and fight to stay true to myself. I have lost my cellphone, missed trains and sprinted through airports. I’ve tried to learn a new language, tried new foods and had to reevaluate my budgeting skills.

My point is, that I am not the same person I was four months ago precisely because each of these challenges I have faced has taught me things about myself and about the world. I’m not saying that I am grateful to have lost my phone in a foreign country, or that I think everyone should lose their phone while abroad – no – but I am saying that because I have had to deal with situations that I never expected to deal with. I have changed internally and am now more understanding of the world.

When you study abroad, you will be surprised by one thing or another, and the way you deal with it changes your confidence and outlook forever.

Study abroad for intercultural interactions.
This is a reason why I chose to study abroad, and it is one of the many things that I am happy to take away from this experience. In studying abroad in Italy — a culture much different than that of the United States — I have been exposed to new languages and different cultural norms, and I have learned a great deal about traditions and values that I didn’t know previously existed.

I chose to study in Italy because it was different and out of my comfort zone, but also because I wanted to learn about the culture. I suggest that anyone thinking of studying or planning to study abroad take this into account, and embrace this difference with open arms. It has impacted my experience positively, and has allowed me to see the world through a different lens, which is important to do when trying to understand intercultural relationships and when trying to become a global citizen.

My last point is one that I don’t think is talked about enough …

Study abroad for your mental health.
Studying abroad has allowed me to better conceptualize the world — true — but it has also allowed me to better understand myself as a member of the world community. This semester, I have improved my self-confidence and altogether brightened my mindset. This semester has recharged my energy, so to speak, and I feel more ready than ever to handle my remaining time at SDSU. I feel surer of myself, and feel more at ease. I only had one birthday while abroad, however, I am coming back much more than a year wiser … I think.

So, this is my final sign off from Verona. I leave Verona with these words from Romeo and Juliet, which was set in this beautiful city: “parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

I am beyond grateful for this amazing opportunity SDSU allowed me to have. I encourage everyone considering spending time abroad to follow through with it.

Thank you all for following me on this journey! See you soon, San Diego!


Marcella Anderson is a foods and nutrition major with a minor in interdisciplinary studies through the Weber Honors College. She is studying abroad during fall semester at IUSVE University in Verona, Italy.

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