Why I’m Glad That I Studied Abroad and Why You Should Consider it too.
Traveling young and how to do it without breaking the bank
By Jennifer Truong, University of Oklahoma
This past summer, I had the chance to travel abroad without my family for the first time. It was a little scary to be honest. As much as I wanted to claim to be independent and grown-up because I’m in college and no longer living at home, that didn’t mean I was emotionally ready to gallivant across the world without my parents! Lucky for me, I still wasn’t completely on my own. My trip to London, Bristol and Paris was part of a Study Abroad program at my university, so there were other students and a couple professors leading the trip. Still, the trip taught me a lot about traveling and about myself. Here’s a couple reasons why I’m glad that I studied abroad and why you should consider it:
The time is right!
This is the BEST time to travel. Yes, we’re college students who don’t have a ton of money. We’re too busy trying to pay for school and get by on our college rations of cereal and ramen. But think about it, when would be a better time? There’s no full-time career holding you back. You don’t need to file a request for time off months in advance. Even though a lot of us have jobs right now, it’s easier to take the time off. In the future, you’ll be trying to work your way up in your dream career (hopefully!) so you’ll be way too busy impressing your boss to be leaving the country! Right now, you’re the most free you’re probably ever going to be with the least responsibilities to take care of, so use that free time and gain a new experience by traveling abroad.
Experience is a very general word to use, but that’s exactly what I mean. Every experience abroad is different. Depending on where you go, why you go and who you are, the things you encounter and learn will vary. In London, I learned the differences between British and American culture. I got to ride the London Eye and learn how the media worked over there. I experienced first-hand exactly what people mean when they’re talking about British weather (gloomy skies and rain, if you’re wondering). Even if the experiences you have aren’t directly related to where you are, you’re gonna learn something. No matter what, you’re gonna have something that you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t go.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to go, but how to do it is a lot more complicated. Because my traveling was a part of a study abroad program, I was able to receive a few scholarships that covered some of the costs, such as tuition and the flight. However, I forgot just how expensive life could be until I got there. So, here are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to spending money.
Food is definitely one of the biggest expenses when traveling abroad. Three meals a day adds up to a lot when you have to go out of your way to have each one of them. Not that much money for 1 meal x 3 meals a day x 7 days a week = A LOT OF MONEY. Check out all the options when trying to find food. If you’re in an area with a lot of options, walk around for a while before deciding where to eat. Try to set out before you’re starving. That way, you won’t just pick the first place you see. It’s better to find good deals than pick somewhere on a whim just because it’s there. A few dollars saved on lunch is a few more dollars to spend on dinner. While I was in London, we found a place that was pretty cheap for us. It might not be the best idea to eat cheap food for every meal, but definitely consider it an option when you’re running low on cash. Of course, cooking is always the cheapest alternative if you have the means!
Decide what is important to you. Some people travel to eat. If food’s your thing, know that you’re going to be spending most of your money of the fine cuisines of wherever you’re traveling. Some people are focused on finding clothes that they won’t find anywhere else. One of the girls with me in London told me that she had saved up money for months so that she could shop as much as she wanted when she got there. I don’t think you need to go that far, but it’s good to keep in mind what you’re going to spend most of your money on. This way, if you do end up spending more than you thought, at least it was on things that meant something to you. No regrets!
I hope I was able to clear some doubts you had about traveling abroad! It’s easier said than done, but truly worth it. Just be realistic with yourself and save up what you can. At the end of it, you’ll be left with an irreplaceable experience.