I have recently had the opportunity to read through hundreds and hundreds of year abroad graduate case studies, and it made me realise just how much students miss out if they don't study abroad during their degree course. It also means I'm in the perfect position to write this list - an assimilation of their (and my!) top tips and biggest benefits in hindsight - all in one place. Here are 100 reasons (there are many more - these are the best ones!) to study abroad and make the most of every second you're away...
1. The majority of graduates describe it as the best year of their degree course.
2. If you are studying while you’re abroad you have the opportunity to study new subjects not available to you at your home university.
3. You can practice, develop and hone your language skills so that you find your final year a lot more manageable.
4. When you travel, people think from your accent that you are from your year abroad city, which is great for your self-confidence.
5. You become very self-sufficient and independent.
6. You grow up a lot and very quickly.
7. Starting again in a new country, you are thrown in at the deep end – the others who come out the other side with you become friends for life.
8. You meet people from other countries who are a useful international network and may be helpful for your career.
9. You can study abroad whether or not you’re studying a language at university, so why not take advantage of your opportunity to spend a year of your degree in an exciting new place?!
10. You will understand foreign customs and traditions, which will be helpful for international business negotiations in future.
11. Employers are fascinated and impressed by your year abroad experiences in interviews.
12. Not many students study abroad, it is something unique and noteworthy on your CV that will help you to stand out.
13. You are more likely to regret the things you don’t do…
14. You will eat new food and learn to cook local specialties to surprise your friends and family on your return.
15. Many graduates find that their future career direction is influenced by what they do on their year abroad.
16. Teaching on your year abroad enables you to try it out before you commit to a PGCE or Teach First placement.
17. If you are considering moving abroad after you graduate, you can scout around for a place to live and make useful contacts to pave your way.
18. Many year abroaders meet their future husband or wife on their year abroad… just sayin’.
19. You can keep a blog or a journal to record your experiences abroad, so once you are nearing the middle or end you can look back at your outlook at the start and truly see your progress.
20. You can write your own guidebook which will help you, your friends and family on future trips to your year abroad destination/s.
21. You can practice travel writing if you are interested in a career where you travel internationally and are self-employed.
22. Being fluent in a foreign language will open innumerable doors and possibilities to you, both in your career and personal life.
23. You can offer international business development to any company you choose to work for.
24. The food in [insert your dream year abroad destination] is amazing!
25. If you work on your year abroad, then when you enter the job market on graduation you will already have real life work experience on your CV.
26. Many students have found that the company they worked for on their year abroad offers them a placement after they graduate.
27. On graduation, you don’t just have to scout the UK job market for opportunities - the world is your oyster!
28. You will feel comfortable with the idea of starting your career abroad.
29. There is a huge support network available to you – your home university, new Erasmus friends and, of course, ThirdYearAbroad.com!
30. If you study at a prestigious foreign university on your year abroad it will look fantastic on your CV.
31. If you study abroad, you will make contacts at the university there who will help you if you wish to pursue a Masters or PhD.
32. There is funding available to you – grants and scholarships on top of your student loan – so it shouldn’t cost more than studying in the UK anyway.
33. If you study abroad, you will have spare time to earn money to spend on top of your Erasmus grant and/or student loan.
34. You can work as a freelance translator or interpreter in your free time if you are considering that career direction.
35. Once home you have more to say for yourself, so you become more confident and better at networking, leading to better job opportunities.
36. You can earn extra money by teaching English in your free time.
37. You will start forgetting what things are called in English and have to mutter mid-conversation: "melanzane... melanzane... AUBERGINES!" Very cool/pretentious (delete according to if it's you or somebody else).
38. Living with locals will help you to pick up local slang, dialect, intonation, hand gestures and ‘in-between’ words like ‘eeeeeeehh’ (instead of ‘ummmm’); the mastery of which will quickly banish locals’ first impression that you
are a foreigner. This means that they will stop replying to you in English and give you a chance, which will boost your self-confidence hugely.
39. Despite teaching or working on your year abroad, you are still eligible for student discounts, so you can travel, drink, eat and party cheaply.
40. If you never had a gap year, now’s your chance to see the world! If you did have a gap year, then you are a lucky...
41. You can get insurance to cover all your adventures from the beginning of your summer holiday before your year abroad to the first day of your final year, so you can make the most of every second.
42. The connections you make on your year abroad will help you to get holiday internships and work placements.
43. It is a fantastic opportunity to travel and see the world. Especially if your destination choice is based on what's on there, e.g. a local festival or international trade fair, rather than just exploring.
44. Learning to speak a foreign language in situ will make it easier to learn other languages from scratch, as you will understand the learning process.
45.Your social media updates will make everyone outrageously jealous and want to come and visit you.
46. You don't have any dependents, a mortgage or 21 days’ holiday a year – now is your chance to get away before joining the rat race.
47. You can kick-start your creativity.
48. In your first year or two at university, people might have 'put you in a box' or thought of you a certain way – maybe you’re particularly shy or you’ve become a bit of a joker and you know it’s not really you. Now’s your chance to start again and be yourself.
49. It’s an opportunity to practice your photography skills – not only for the numerous year abroad photography competitions open to you on your return, but also for your own personal photo album or journal, and to show your friends and family.
50. You can see who your true friends are – they are the ones who keep in touch with you, making the effort to keep you in the loop with what’s going on at home.
51. You can make – and stick to! – a set of new year abroad resolutions, to make yourself more cultured, fit and healthy, adventurous, independent and ensure you take advantage of every new opportunity.
52. You can go to all the most celebrated events in your year abroad country – from fairs and festivals to traditional ceremonies and celebrations – so you will be able to speak and write about them from personal experience in final exams, and also continue the festivities annually once you’re back home.
53. You can join foreign sports teams and clubs and, in so doing, pick up new techniques or tactics which your home team might not have thought of. This is the same for music, art, writing, etc.
54. Once you’re back, you can begin conversations with ‘when I lived in [insert country]’. Very cool.
55. You can practice your hobbies in a new environment with new equipment to test your adaptability, develop and enhance your skills.
56. You might spot a product or service that isn’t offered back home which you can turn into an entrepreneurial business opportunity.
57.If you do an Erasmus work placement, you will not only receive an Erasmus grant, but a salary too!
58. If you are doing a Joint Honours degree course, the chances are that you will study your other subject during your year abroad. This will give you the opportunity to learn about your subject from another perspective and maybe even see buildings or artefacts in the flesh that you’ve only ever seen in slides, e.g. class visits to museums with your lecturer.
59. You could live with a local 'host' family, instead of with other students, and perhaps offer English lessons or au pairing instead of rent to help you save money.
60. You will have more time to yourself, so you can practice writing, drawing, singing, yoga, cooking, running, playing a musical instrument, graphic design, touch typing, IT skills or reading up on your chosen career path – skills which will enhance your CV and make you a more interesting, well-rounded candidate.
61. You can spend time finding and researching a fascinating final year dissertation topic.
62. You will talk more, and in more depth, to the people who matter to you. A mixture of loneliness and free Skype will make you open up to your friends and family, and could even improve your relationship with them.
63. You can learn about the local art, history and culture to understand about the world from a new perspective.
64. You’ve always (secretly) wanted to learn to dance well – now’s your chance! Join a class by yourself and meet fun, like-minded people.
65. You can become best friends with a local who, if you’re unbelievably lucky, might offer to read through and correct your final dissertation.
66. You can cross off number 3 on your ‘Top ten things I want to do in my life’ list.
67. You can dazzle your friends and family by reading up on the history and culture of your year abroad destination and being a brilliant personalised tour guide for a couple of days.
68. You can become a local tour guide for tourists which will develop your knowledge of the city and region, and your language skills too.
69. Find a conversation exchange partner when you arrive (put a notice up on the university noticeboard) – it will force you to make a new friend very quickly, they will introduce you to their friends, and you also have a language-learning understanding which means you can help each other with homework and essays.
70. You want more sunshine/snow in your life.
71. Take [insert hobby] classes in the local language to boost your specific vocabulary. This will be extremely handy when it comes to your final Modern Language oral exam, as you are encouraged to steer the conversation, and it’s a known fact that people ‘come alive’ when talking about their hobbies!
72. You can bicycle around town to keep healthy, look like a local, and fit more into your day.
73. A tourist will ask you for directions, thinking you are a local. Very, very cool.
74. You can get out of your comfort zone. Back home, you shop at the same supermarket, fill your basket with the same stuff every visit, see the same people, do the same things – finally you are being forced to try new food, make new friends and have new experiences, and this can only be a good thing!
75. You reach the point when you dream in [insert language]. That’s how you know you’re fluent and your cunning year abroad plan has worked!
76. Volunteer either in your local community or further afield to meet new people, practice your language skills and benefit society.
77. Once you’re back home, your friends and family will catch you watching foreign language films without subtitles or reading foreign books. Very cool.
78. Find English-speaking opportunities such as recording voiceovers, writing for the local English paper or invigilating English exams to get more diverse, short-term work experience for your CV.
79. Get friends to come and visit – you are their gateway to a new culture and can play your part in reducing the number of ‘English abroad’ stereotypes getting through customs by teaching them some useful vocab and reminding them that since you now live on a cobbled hill, stilettos might not be the best idea...
80. You can take advantage of exchange rates to make your money stretch further.
81. In true gap year parlance: it’s a chance to Discover Yourself. You might not know where you have been hiding all these years, but you’ll definitely find yourself on your year abroad. I’m talking about realising what makes you tick, what you can’t do without, what career you want, how you cope under pressure, what you do when you’re feeling lonely – that sort of thing. These are handy things to know before choosing your career path!
82. Access new resources such as libraries and cultural centres, for fresh and inspiring information, perhaps from a different viewpoint.
83. It’s an opportunity to write a book! You have some seriously inspiring subject matter all around you, and they always say that everyone has a book in them. Get yours done and dusted by the time you graduate, and self-publish on Blurb.co.uk (the best quality books we've made!)
84. You might have a foreign boyfriend or girlfriend on your year abroad! That’s one way to learn the language, dialect, gestures, accent, culture and traditions - in a whirlwind of romance!
85. You become less materialistic. Surviving on an airline luggage allowance (15kg) of stuff helps you realise what’s important to you, and having a relatively small number of belongings means it's easier to pack everything up and go travelling.
86. It’s an opportunity to discover your spontaneous, impulsive side. Other countries are often just a quick train ride away, and you have a lot of spare time. If it’s money you’re worried about, then cut down on partying/drinking/smoking/eating out, and reward yourself by spending what you’ve saved on a road trip or rail adventure.
87. You might discover a lower cost of living for a higher quality of life!
88. You don’t necessarily need to be tied down to the same apartment/city/country for more than one semester. If you’ve had a confidence boost after a semester in Spain then move to South America! Now is your chance.
89. You develop a true allegiance to the brands you love. Cadbury’s, Marmite, PG Tips and Kellogg’s; I promise I will never take you for granted again.
90. If you’re near the Alps: learn to ski! If you’re in a market town: master bartering! If you’re by the sea: try kite surfing! If you’re in a city with a tall tower: climb to the top of it! Now is your opportunity, and the worst thing would be to come back and be asked about something you didn’t even try.
91. You are showing future employers (and yourself!) that you can be thrown in the deep end and cope with a variety of intense good and bad situations, and get something positive out of the experience. Your year abroad experiences are perfect interview fodder for their questions along the lines of “give me an example of when you excelled in a difficult situation”.
92. If you go to a chic year abroad destination like Paris or Milan, you might find you develop a keener sense of style which will stay with you until later life. (it’s also a useful disguise to con people into thinking you’re a local…)
93. You will write letters again. No one appreciates post like the year abroader. A parcel from home, a scribbled mid-lecture letter from a friend at uni – you’ll find yourself writing and sending just to receive! But you’ll love it.
94. It will help you to appreciate home more.
95. When you come back, you will really be able to help foreign students studying in the UK based on your own experiences, e.g. the head of the international society at Edinburgh, Exchange 360, organised trips to Ikea for all the
new students so they could spice up their rooms at the start of term!
96. Don’t worry if you’re in a relationship! You can continue long-distance. I know that sounds like hell, but you know what they say: absence makes the heart grow fonder! Plus, you can get cheap flights, free webcam, cheap postage, free BBM/iMessage, so none of that out of sight, out of mind rubbish.
97. For all you praise junkies, there is nothing more wonderful and ego-boosting than someone hearing your accent and asking you if you’re from your year abroad city – whether you’re on a mid-year abroad weekend road-trip or are back home, it’s completely brilliant.
98. You can surprise people you’ve never met by understanding their foreign language conversations – both in a working environment and…on public transport. At home and abroad. Especially when they are talking about you. It’s like having a super power.
99. If you study a language at a Scottish university, you will do a four-year course (as you would anywhere else in the UK) but graduate with a Masters degree instead of a BA!
100. Once you have set up a foreign bank account, found somewhere to live, registered to stay in your new city, got a tax code, matriculated at university and negotiated with a local, you feel like you can do anything in life!
So you’ve decided to study abroad and you couldn’t be any more jazzed about it. In fact, you’re already preparing for your new life across the ocean by practicing your Korean karaoke or sipping on cappuccinos, imagining life by the Seine.
However, there’s something important you have to do before you start packing your bags: convince your parent(s) or legal guardian to let you study abroad. You may have dropped the idea casually mid-conversation, or “accidentally” left some cool program pages up on your home computer for them to glance at. You may have given anecdotal evidence of your friend’s incredible experience abroad last semester. But now’s the time to let them know you’re SERIOUS about this study abroad thang and are willing to put in the legwork to make it happen.
But for these early stages, we did most of the work for you (we’re just that nice!). Here are 4 template letters to use in order to help convince that parental figure in your life that you definitely, absolutely, without a doubt NEED to jump on that plane and study abroad.
1. Study Abroad in General
I need to discuss something with you that are very important to me: I’ve decided that I want to study abroad next[summer/semester]in[chosen country]. I’m incredibly excited about this opportunity to study abroad and to explore [chosen country], as I think it’ll help me both personally and academically. I’m not just asking you to let me travel abroad for a few months. I’m serious about this decision and I want to have a meaningful experience that will enhance my education.
By studying abroad, I’ll also be boosting my resume for the future! Statistics show that 97 percent of students who study abroad find jobs within a year of an employment, when only 49 percent of college graduates found employment in that same period of time (let me do the math for you – that means that study abroad students are twice as likely to get a job within a year of graduation).
I understand if you’re worried about safety, but I hope you trust me to make smart decisions no matter where I am. And if you’re still concerned, we could set up a lunch to chat with [insert name of family friend/fellow student who has studied abroad] and ask them to talk to us as a family about their experience abroad.
I’m really passionate about studying abroad in [chosen country] because [be sure to tell you parents what is really motivating you to study abroad in this country. Is it a passion for the language? Your goal to someday work abroad? A love for Brazilian culture? Whatever your personal reasons for studying abroad, be sure to express them clearly to your parents so they understand how and why this is so important to you].
I can’t wait to talk airplane tickets with you!
Me [Consider adding heartfelt nickname from when you were a small lad/lass. EX: Scout]
2. Undergraduate Degree Abroad
I’ve decided to pursue my undergraduate degree abroad and I am so excited about it! I know that this is an unconventional approach to college, but I am determined to go to college abroad in [chosen country]. This is really important to me because [explain to your parent(s)/legal guardian why you want to study in this country, whether it be for the language, the culture, or the profession you hope to one day work in, or something else].
I believe that pursuing my undergraduate degree abroad will allow me to learn not just in the classroom, but also in the challenges of day-to-day life in a foreign country. I’ll become more independent and I’ll learn skills that my peers who go to college here at home will never learn, simply because I’ll be immersed in a completely different environment that will push me to my limits.
I know that you might be concerned about the price-tag, but there are actually a number of scholarships available to students looking to complete their full degree abroad, since international students are in high demand from universities abroad who want a more diverse student body.
Leaving for college was always going to be a big change for me and for us as a family, and I know that my decision to study in [chosen country] means that I’ll be far away from you all for a few years. But this is something that I’m really passionate about, and I hope you’ll understand why I want to do this.
If you want to discuss this further, we can look at GoAbroad’s guide to undergraduate degrees abroad together. I’m excited to get started on applications and to talk about this some more!
Me [Consider adding heartfelt nickname from when you were a small lad/lass. EX: Bubble Butt]
3. Study Abroad Off the Beaten Path
I’ve decided I want to study abroad in [chosen country]. I know that the idea of me going to this location might be intimidating, as it’s slightly off the beaten path, but I’m excited for this opportunity. I want to dig deep and get a real view of the world at large, and studying in [chosen country] will allow me to do that.
While studying abroad in [chosen country], I’ll be able to have a much more enriching and fulfilling study abroad experience than if I were to go to a big study abroad city like London, Paris or Rome. It’ll certainly be more challenging, but it’ll be worth it. By studying abroad in [chosen country], I’ll be fully immersed in another culture, with an unfiltered view of the daily life of the people around me. I want to use this experience of being completely out of my comfort zone to expand my worldview – and to practice those language skills!
If you’re worried about safety, we can discuss my plan to study abroad in [chosen country] with my university’s study abroad office, my professor who has travelled there, or [insert name here], who has also studied abroad there, so you can set your mind at ease. We can research the country beforehand and don’t forget – it’s very easy to stay in touch these days! We can talk daily by Skyping, texting, calling, emails – the whole cannoli!
Studying abroad in a place that’s off the beaten path will set me apart from other students that go abroad, showing future graduate schools or employers that I can take the initiative and push myself. Studies show that 90 percent of students who study abroad get into their first or second choice graduate schools, and 85 percent of study abroad alumni claimed that the skills they learned while abroad helped them in the job market.
I hope you trust me to make this decision and to take on this adventure! I can’t wait to get started!
Me [Consider adding heartfelt nickname from when you were a small lad/lass. EX: Pookey]
4. Master’s Degree Abroad
Good news! I’ve decided to pursue my masters degree abroad! This might seem a little out-of-the ordinary, but I’m looking forward to the prospect of going abroad to continue my education and your support means alot to me.
First of all, pursuing my degree in [chosen country] is an excellent way to focus on my [chosen area of study]. I’ll be living in a country that is specific to what I want to study – not to mention the access I’ll have to things such as primary source materials, the language of the country, cultural immersion in my field of study, and even international networking opportunities.
Secondly, many master’s programs abroad are not only shorter in duration, but are also far more affordable - or sometimes even free. By pursuing my Masters abroad, I’ll be able to earn my degree in less time and for less money, which will allow me to enter the job market more quickly and with less debt (or maybe none at all!). There are also a number of scholarships available for international students looking to pursue a master’s degree abroad, making it even more affordable.
And thirdly, a Masters degree from an international university will set me apart from other job applicants, showing future employers that I am globally-minded, can overcome obstacles, and that I can work with people from different backgrounds. I will be a more desirable candidate for having pushed myself and taken on a course of study in a completely foreign environment.
I believe that completing my Masters degree in [chosen country] will truly help me concentrate on what I’d like to study and the job that I’d like to have in the future. If you’d like to discuss this further with me, we can look over GoAbroad’s guide to earning a master’s degree abroad. I can’t wait to start making plans!
Me [consider adding heartfelt nickname from when you were a small lad/lass. EX: Sport]
The most important thing to remember when speaking to your parent(s) or legal guardian about studying abroad is to speak honestly and openly.
Be sure to tell them your personal reasons for going abroad. If you know why studying abroad is important to you, it should be easy to convince your parental figure to let you study abroad.
Although writing your reasons for wanting to study abroad in a letter and popping it in the mailbox may seem enticing, talking face-to-face with your parental figures is probably the better (and far more direct) approach. You can always read your letter out loud to them! Expressing your passion for going abroad will make your parents see why taking on this new adventure will change your academic and personal life for the better.
So start drafting those letters, brainstorming ways to convince Grandma to support you (she’ll be the toughest sell, anyways), and packing your bags!