I’d like to start off by saying that I have never studied abroad, and have no plans to. I will now explain the reasons for that. I will also explain the reasons why, despite that, I believe that you should.
Study abroad and international exchange programs allow you to learn in a new environment. You can do so for just a semester or for the entire academic career. UMass Boston has many of these programs, with a wide variety of potential options for travel.
A big time when this is beneficial is if you’re trying to learn a language. Full immersion can be so important for language learning; it makes a huge difference. It’s easy to fall back on English, or whatever your first language is, as a crutch. If you take that option away, then you’re really forced to have to learn the language quicker and more thoroughly. If you’re studying Japanese, for example, being part of the exchange program by studying at one of the six colleges/universities in Japan that UMass Boston has a connection with could benefit your communication abilities greatly (1).
Another great benefit from study abroad programs is learning about varied cultures and getting a more global mindset in regards to our world. The more you explore other locations and cultures, the more your eyes are opened to new ways of seeing life and people. You become challenged to think about the traditions that exist in your own culture, compared to others, and why you agree (or disagree) with them.
You also get challenged to survive in new environments. There’s a safety net with studying abroad, since you are doing it through a university. For some in-state students at UMass Boston though, this may be the opportunity for a first-time experience of surviving far away from their families and living in an unknown location.
Lastly, there is the idea of living in the moment and the fact that college years can often be the perfect time to take advantage of travel options. UMass Boston offers various scholarship options for those interested in studying abroad. The university offers nine general scholarships for studying abroad, along with there being over twenty others you could apply to, which are location specific (2). If you have the ability to travel and get the scholarships to pay for a decent amount of the costs, then you should take advantage of that now. It won’t be as easy once you’re out of school.
You also don’t know how you’ll be in the years following. I’m someone who pushed off many things, because I assumed I could do them when I was older. I always dreamed of going to Europe. My family actually made plans to go to England years ago, but then problems arose with my family’s house, so money got allotted to that instead. Deaths of relatives equalled putting summer trips off for a year to attend funerals. I now have had my health issues come up and worsen to the point that boarding a plane or getting on a cruise is no longer an option for me. You never know what could come up in your life, so don’t let opportunities pass by due to the assumption that you’ll get around to it one day.
If studying abroad seems like something that would work well for you, more information is available at umb.edu/academics/global/studyabroad. You also can contact UMass Boston’s study abroad office by emailing email@example.com or make an appointment by phone (617-287-4318).