by Josh Barber
I went to Belgium with FHU during the fall semester of my sophomore year. Before I studied overseas, I talked to a bunch of students who had already participated in the program, and each one seemed to have a different explanation for why spending a semester in Europe is a good thing. You probably even have your own reasons for being interested in studying overseas. Still, it’s good to hear what other people have to say about the benefits of studying abroad. Here are ten of the most common reasons I’ve heard people give for why students should go abroad.
1) To travel! - Travel was a huge part of the Belgium program. I spent more time traveling outside of Belgium than I actually did in Belgium. During group trips and free travel, I visited a total of sixteen European countries. I had never dreamed I would have the opportunity to climb the Eiffel Tower, hike in the Swiss Alps, tour the Vatican Museum, and stand inside the Colosseum in Rome, all within a few weeks of each other.
2) To learn another language - The best way to learn a language is to go where it is spoken. Students in Belgium take French (since they are in the French-speaking part of Belgium), and students in the Spanish Immersion Program learn and live in Spanish for several weeks.
3) To experience another culture first hand - The best way for you to learn about another culture is to live in it. Whenever I travel, whether studying abroad or not, it always helps me become more aware of the great cultural diversity there is in this world. I love learning about other cultures, and I try to be understanding of cultural differences.
4) To enhance your employment opportunities - You may hear a lot about how the world is becoming more “globalized.” This means that companies are more interested in doing business internationally, and people are interacting more and more with people from other countries. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, businesses are looking to hire people who have international experience. Your experience living and studying in a foreign country, interacting with another culture, and acquiring knowledge of another language will all set you apart from other job applicants who haven’t studied abroad.
5) To expand your worldview - Spending a semester abroad helped me become more informed about the world beyond the United States. It gave me a new perspective of other cultures, and I’m more “globally aware” now than I was before studying abroad.
6) To break out of your routine - I’m glad I worked studying abroad into my academic plan, because my semester abroad was one of the few things I was able to do to break the monotony of the routine I followed semester after semester—class, class, and more class.
7) To make friends and build relationships - My semester in Belgium was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I made some unforgettable memories with old (and new) friends. I grew very close to my study abroad cohort, and especially my free travel companions. I also enjoyed getting to meet some wonderful people from other countries and worshiping with other congregations half a world away from home.
8) To enhance the value of your education - The knowledge and skills I developed outside the classroom while studying abroad were definitely worth the extra cost, because they are skills I couldn’t have easily acquired without leaving FHU’s campus. I became much more independent, learned how to plan travel and navigate a mass transit system, became more culturally aware, and saw and experienced things I had only read about in textbooks.
9) To learn about yourself - I have to admit I didn’t take this reason seriously before I studied abroad. But after I studied abroad, I really did return home with new ideas and perspectives about myself and my own culture. Studying abroad opened my eyes and made me consider the world and my place in it.
10) To eat. - When I went to Europe, I wanted to use the opportunity to eat things I’ve never eaten. And, boy, did I. Not only did I gather the courage to try foods like escargot and octopus for the first time, but I also took advantage of the chance to try some of the local cuisine. More often than not, this meant ordering dessert: a Belgian waffle covered in Nutella and strawberries, speculoos cookies, authentic Italian gelato, a bar of delicious Swiss chocolate, and Spanish hot chocolate so thick you can stand a churro in it. I also devoured more savory foods like frites with Andalous sauce and Belgium, gyros in Greece, baguettes in France, a neapolitan pizza in Italy, and bread dipped in olive oil alongside a Greek salad. It’s beyond me how Europeans stay so thin.