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Expand Your Horizons through Study Abroad

Ciao! Grab your passport and get ready to expand your horizons! Studying abroad has been an appealing adventure for brave undergraduate students for decades. What has changed is that we now live in a global, hyper-connected world where open-minded perspectives are a must. The cultural, academic, and career benefits of studying abroad are more relevant now than ever.

Living in a foreign country gives you ample exposure to another culture that you simply cannot get from visiting for a week or two. When forced to live and assimilate to another country's way of life you will undoubtedly find your worldview challenged. Normal tasks like visiting the grocery store may feel overwhelming at first, but as you find your rhythm the cultural norms will start to follow suit.

Take, for instance, a nightly ritual the Italians partake in called aperitivo, or a pre-meal drink. This is a cultural ritual designed for people to unwind and leave their woes from work behind and settle into dinner. Visit any piazza around dusk and you will see this shift in the day. It's subtle, but obvious once you are made aware of the tradition.

While cases of culture shock are common, the confidence you gain as a person and student from navigating a brand new world is unparalleled. Once the culture shock fades, you will become a better version of yourself. More poised to tackle in-class discussions with a keen sense of how your worldview fits into the larger picture. Learning from professors native to the land will enhance your education and force you to interact with people who are different from you. These are skills you will carry with you for life. Many study abroad programs incorporate hands-on learning experiences that complement your classroom learning. Imagine studying world history and then going to visit the Roman Colosseum with your professor.

Additionally, your access to travel and exploration will be infinite. Many programs have excursions and field trips built into them. If yours doesn't, you will likely be surrounded by other students eager to see the world, so travel buddies will be built-in from day one.

Language acquisition is another bonus of immersing yourself in another country and speaking the local language also allows you to interact with other cultures on a deeper level. Knowing another language enhances not only your worldview but also your resume as dual-language speakers are in high demand for many professions. You’ll develop a sense of global issues and how events in the world affect countries on the other side of the globe, which will serve you professionally.

The structures of study abroad programs differ, but generally, students apply a semester or two before they wish to study abroad and earn credit at a partner university. The fall of junior year is a typical time for students to study abroad and many colleges welcome students to apply to study abroad between January and March to allow ample time to make arrangements for a fall start. Some programs will be exclusive to you and other students from your university, while others will mix. Regardless, you will make lifelong friends with students from around the globe while immersing yourself in a culture to broaden your academic experience and deepen your cultural awareness.

My semester abroad in Florence, Italy was the highlight of my college experience and even inspired me to move back with my husband and our son a decade later. Living abroad twice has given me a deeper appreciation for life and the beauty of this great big world. Traveling humbles the soul and expands the mind and I wish the same experience for you.