6 Ways Studying Abroad Will Change Your Life!

As you might already know, Franklin students come from all around the world. We have our own student body and faculty to thank for creating this amazingly multicultural community. By living and learning among so many people with different backgrounds, we are constantly evolving and developing our perspectives.
Academic Travel = studying abroad during your study abroad!

I myself am a huge advocate for study abroad programs - I think everyone should be able to experience other cultures in this way. So I decided to write this post to explain some of the reasons that studying abroad is an invaluable experience everyone could benefit from.

Here are six ways that studying abroad will change your life (for the better!):

1. You will learn how to become independent and rely on yourself. 

Navigating the unfamiliar can be difficult. Tasks like grocery shopping when you can't understand any of the languages on labels or figuring out a complicated metro system can be challenging the first time. Maybe even the second, third, and fourth times, too! At some point, though, you will realize that those tasks are completely within your grasp. You might accidentally buy zucchini when you were looking for cucumber, or end up miles away from your planned destination (it's happened to me), but it's all part of the learning process, and will become easier with time.

Being away from home means that you will learn how to do things for yourself, by yourself. Never had to send a package or buy stamps in another language before? What about more complicated tasks, like figuring out how to vote from abroad or coordinate a trip to the embassy if your passport gets lost? There's a first time for everything. Of course, there will always be people around who can help you out, but you will learn that at the end of the day, you always have yourself to depend on.
(View of Lake Lugano, photo by Carly Besh)

2. You will gain new perspectives and intercultural competencies.

What exactly are "intercultural competencies?" Essentially, they are skills you develop when in a cultural environment other than your own that enable you to communicate with others in a manner that is sensitive to their cultural background, yet still effective. In a multicultural environment like that at Franklin, for example, students learn how to interact with others from all over the globe, who often have different ways of thinking. It's important to become interculturally competent because it means that you will have little trouble working in diverse environments (that's something employers are often looking for!) and it will be easier to navigate new environments.

For example, I attended a Franklin career services event a couple of weeks ago in which we discussed intercultural etiquette. One student who attended is from India. As we were discussing appropriate ways to act in different countries, he mentioned that thanking a host for a meal might come off as strange, if not rude. He said instead of saying "thank you", a guest at an Indian household should compliment the food instead, because the implications of thanking someone are perceived differently in his culture. Many of us had no idea that a tiny detail like saying "thank you" (an act that is highly valued in many Western cultures) could almost come off as offensive to an Indian host. What may seem insignificant to you may be the opposite to someone else, and these are the kinds of things being in a multicultural environment can help you learn.

Ultimately, studying abroad means that you will come into contact with new people, languages, environments and cultures, all of which affect the way you view the world and change your perspectives. 
One of the best ways to learn is from each other!

3. You will make life-long friends and connections. 

When you study abroad, you often meet people who think like you (after all, you both decided to travel far from home), so it's natural that you can develop great friendships. It's also easy to bond quickly with someone when placed in the same unfamiliar environment. Just think: when you're older, you'll be able to look back together on all the fun, crazy and weird times you had traveling the world. At Franklin in particular, many students are keen on doing weekend trips with other students. Not only is this a great way to experience new places, but there's also nothing like traveling to bring you closer to a lasting friendship with someone.

That's not to mention that although you won't befriend everyone you meet, the fact is that you will meet people from all over the world. These people will form a huge network, and if you can maintain positive relationships with them, you never know the great opportunities that might arise.
There's nothing like International Food Night to bring everyone together.

4. You will be able to call more than one place home. 

We all know the saying "home is where the heart is." If you study abroad, you'll find that your heart will grow and your definition of home will change. Not only will you be living somewhere new, but you'll realize that that place will become a new home to you over time.

There are many people at Franklin who have a complex relationship with the word "home," just like I do. Yes, it's in the places where I grew up, and where my family is, but it's also in the spaces that I have made my own. After living in Lugano for more than two and a half years, it has become my home. And that's the way it's been since the first day I arrived at Franklin, suitcases in tow.

Some people feel at home anywhere, and some people don't. It's all about the way you frame it, because "home" is a perspective. Although studying abroad may change that perspective, it's a good thing! You'll realize that the ability to feel comfortable somewhere is up to you.
Did I mention studying abroad is also just a lot of fun?

5. You will learn new languages and ways of thinking.

Part of studying abroad is becoming immersed in a place that often speaks a language other than your own. (It's also about learning how many truly multilingual people there are out there! The rest of us need to catch up.) Spending as much time as possible learning the local language and practicing using it will help you feel more comfortable in your new home. If you can manage using the language, even a little bit, you'll be able to meet more people and get around with less hassle. 

In a country like Switzerland, where there are four national languages, it can be difficult to learn them all! So just make sure you're equipped with a few important phrases and words, because knowing those will give you the confidence to explore new surroundings. The little bits and pieces you pick up from different languages and places you visit will change the way you think about language and the world. Plenty of studies show that learning languages can affect our brains (in beneficial ways). As you come to understand how different languages structure the ways people who speak them think, you'll be able to understand others better. There's another intercultural competency for you!
Multilingualism runs rampant at Franklin.


6. You will learn more about yourself and your own culture.

Perhaps one of the most enlightening things about going abroad is not the people, cultures, or languages you'll be exposed to, but how much you learn about who you are. Leaving the comforting world you grew up in will make you see that world in different ways. Why? Because it's only natural that as humans, we constantly compare the unfamiliar with what we already know, especially when traveling or living somewhere new. By making those comparisons, we gradually come to understand a lot more about where we come from and who we are.

Living abroad and becoming independent means that you will make self-discoveries like never before. You'll figure out what kind of people you like, what you're good (or not so good) at doing, and what makes you happy or uncomfortable. You will understand what kind of person you are far better than you previously did. Who knows, you might even find new interests worth pursuing! 
There's nothing better than a train ride for some self-reflection.

. . . .

Whether you want to study abroad for a semester, a year, or even four (like me!) - going abroad will help you develop as a person in innumerable ways. It might be intimidating at the beginning, but nothing could be more worth it.

I hope you decide to take the leap. If you're nervous, unsure, or have questions, feel free to reach out to me! I'm happy to talk.


Arrivederci and till next time, 



Gabrielle

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