study abroad
Credit: Luca Sartoni (Flickr) via

London, UK.

If you were young, had no serious obligations and someone offered to organize and plan an extended vacation in a foreign country for you and some friends would you be interested?  Of course you would.  I've basically just described what study abroad is.  

One of my biggest regrets in college was deciding not to study abroad.  My junior year a bunch of my friends decided to study abroad.  One group went to London while another went to Surfer's Paradise, Australia.  I thought about both but ultimately ended up passing because I was worried that I'd miss out on everything happening at school, and by everything I just mean a ton of excessive partying.  Luckily, I made up for this poor decision in college by studying abroad in London during my lasy year of law school.  Although I got my chance to study abroad in law school, if I could do it over I would study abroad in college AND law school.  Here are the things that I wish I would have considered back in college:

There is No Better Time

College is hands down the best time to experience living in another country.  Why?  Mainly because college is almost certainly the last time in your life that you'll have so few obligations.  Sure, it may seem like you have a lot on your plate, but after college is over you'll realize how little you had tying you down.  Most college students aren't married, don't have kids yet and don't have a serious career.  In other words, there's nothing to stop you from leaving everything behind and living in another country for a few months.  

Some students worry that they still have to study and won't have enough time to enjoy their experience abroad.  I'll let you in on a little secret: your school won't outright admit this, but your classes won't be nearly as hard or time consuming as they are on campus and the grading will be much more leinent.  I did a semester of law school abroad and although I spent more time in english pubs than studying, I still had one of my best semesters.  Like I said, it's more of an extended vacation than it is a semester of school.  

You're Young and in Great Company

One of the most obvious reasons why you should study abroad is that you're young.  You have the energy and curiosity to explore a new city or country and try new things.  You can stay out partying until the early hours of the morning and still make it to class the next day without feeling too hungover.  Even better, in a study abroad program you're going to surrounded by other young, like-minded people.  You'll never be bored because at any given time you'll be able to find someone else in your program willing to explore a new area or try a new bar or club. When else will you ever be able to spend an extended period of time in a foreign country with a bunch of other young people that just want to have a good time?

The Logisitics Are Covered

Study abroad is like an extended vacation where you don't even have to worry about the planning.  This is one of the most underrated perks of study abroad.  If you're traveling abroad on your own planning the logistics of the trip can be extremely time consuming.  For a study abroad program on the other hand, your school is going to do most of the legwork.  They'll cover everything from providing you information on obtaining necessary travel documentation to planning tours and excursions for you.  

Another thing your school will do for you on a study abroad program is secure your housing.  This is clutch.  Finding an apartment near where you currently live is hard enough but can you imagine having to do it in a foreign country?  You don't have the ability to physically preview apartments and you probably won't have any idea what area to live in or what a fair price is.  Having the school handle housing alleviates all of these concerns.

When I studied abroad in London my school was able to obtain a newly remodeled apartment in the center of the city for my roommates and I.  The best part? We paid no more than we would for housing back at school in the states.  Colleges that bring in a large group of students have additional bargaining power that an individual never would.  As a result, on a study abroad program you're likely to be located in a great location that you otherwise wouldn't be able to obtain an such an affordable rate.

You Have the Financial Ability

"Study abroad is too expensive, I can't afford it."  This is an excuse students often make to forgo study abroad.  In reality, study abroad budgets are actually only slightly higher than a student's budget on campus.  If you're already taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to pay for college, what is a few extra thousand?  Plus, colleges typically allow you to obtain a higher loan amount for a semester abroad to cover additional expenses like flights.  If you're lucky enough to have parents that fund your college education, then just ask.  You'd be surprised at how often parents are in favor of study abroad programs.  In either case, the experience you gain is priceless.

You Have a Base to Explore an Entire Continent

Another reason you should consider studying abroad is that it makes travel to additional locations extremely accessible.  While I lived in London, I was able to make weekend trips to Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands (yes, Amsterdam) and Spain.  None of these trips would have been possible without having London as a home base.  For anyone considering studying abroad in the UK or Europe, travel throughout Europe is very affordable using a combination of regional airlines, trains and buses.  

So What Are You Waiting For?

There are a ton of great reasons why you should study abroad, but perhaps the best is that there isn't a good reason why you shouldn't study abroad.  When I was in college I justified not studying abroad by telling myself that I'd be missing out on so much at college.  This was a complete fallacy.  Missing one semester at college isn't a big deal.  When you get back all the same friends, all the same parties and all the same bars are going to be there waiting for you.

People don't like to admit it but perhaps the biggest reason they forgo studying abroad is because they're afraid of living away from their friends and family in a foreign country for an entire semester.  If this is you, studying abroad is a great opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone and immserse yourself in a different culture.  If you can shed you're apprehensiveness, studying abroad will be a memorable and rewarding experience.