5 Things I would have never experienced if I weren’t studying abroad

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Studying abroad has always been a sophisticated term, to be honest, for many students around the world, especially for Asian students if they want to spend the next 3 or 4 years in a European or American country. Having an Asian background, I understand the difficulties from the day I decided to come here to Spain: I had to dedicate part of my time to search for the universities, my favorite program, consider the tuition fees and many discussions with my parents; in addition, the visa process is the worst part of the story. Luckily, I am here now no matter what and ready to tell you five things that you would not experience if you were not studying abroad!

Improve your language skills

In my opinion, knowing languages is the essential passport to enter a new place. Firstly, one will feel self- confident if he/she can be able to understand what the local people say. Nowadays most students want to achieve a high level of English, and they do it from very early ages; Spanish is also a very popular language for learners. I think it is an extremely good advantage because when you are smaller, you learn quicker. Secondly, going to the country of the language you want to learn is a good additive in order to speed up the process. Living in the community where you have to think in English or Spanish will train your brain to get used to the situation. When I came to this University, I met a French girl who told me that her Spanish level has sped up quickly from A1 to B1 after only 2 weeks living with a native flatmate. Thirdly, your brain has an extraordinary capacity of storing memory, so one or two more languages is not really a big deal for it. Learn when you have free time; learn with your friends; and save it as your pocket money so you can use it when it is necessary.

You will for sure have new international friends!

If you are going to a new environment, I suggest you be, or at least try to be extroverted. My experience is when you are open to the people, they will not let you down. The friendliness of people from European countries is different, and with the Spanish, you can easily start a conversation anywhere (in the metro station, shops, supermarkets) and talk about whatever topic that comes across your mind. However, making new friends is a must. Do you feel homesick in the first months at the university, you feel lonely in the weekends, you miss the buddy that often goes shopping with you or you cannot find anyone to go to the gym with? Find yourself a friend – if better, a group of friends! Right now I am living in an international flat with 2 French, 2 Swedish, one from the Philippines, another from Britain, a Venezuelan and a Kuwaiti; Our friendship is tightened up every day and I am sure this is one of the most beautiful souvenirs for me to bring home.

You will be more independent and mature

Most parents think that their children should be independent when they turn 18 years old. That is mainly because 18 marks the drastic change from a teenager to an adult: you graduate from high school, you are allowed to buy tobacco and alcoholic drinks, you are able to take the driving test and many more things. However, we are unique and we do not mature at the same time and the same way.

Many European students have chosen to take a gap year to travel and work or do volunteer jobs: this is one way to make yourself more independent from your parents. Another way is to study abroad. You are not only moving far away from home but also far from a routine that it is already very familiar with, so as foreigners to live and study, you will have to prepare for new life. It is including caring for your health, get used to eating new eating habit or working arrangements; especially maintain calm and balanced in examination period, which is the time when most students are out of control. After all, you will not realize how much you have grown academically in knowledge as well as a person, in term of actions and thoughts.

Discover new cultures

You probably have heard the saying: When in Rome, do as the Romans do“, which basically spots the diverse and distinctiveness of the cultures in the world. One of the reasons you want to go to study in a country is because you want to experience its culture in front of you and not through the TV screen. Of course, many students want to see the Eiffel tower, walk through the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal at sunset, the Colosseum in Rome and many, many wonders of the world you want to take a picture with. Moreover, gastronomy is also a good excuse when planning your study abroad plan. People said that you have to go to Italy to eat the best spaghetti, pizza with a very thin base, lasagne; the real crêpes or macarons in France and the authentic paella in Spain. These are just two out of the many cultural aspects you can explore in the land you live in.

For example, this is the most exciting thing I have experienced here in Valencia: during your study year, you will see countless of the so-called Mascletà (meaning firework in Valencian). There was a weekend that I had seen 3 times in 2 days, and here fireworks can be seen also at 2 p.m. Excited to see it with your own eyes?

Exploit your potential by trying new things

I come from Vietnam, a country that has more than 3000 km of coastline and a wide range of rain forests. Therefore, you will enjoy doing aquatic activities or join a guided tour to see how these forests help us survive through the burning summer. I will never know or try winter sports if I do not leave Vietnam. This is a bit too general, but this story will maybe make you feel more inspired. Me, at 18 years old, I did not dare to go away in a self-organized trip with my friends. During my high school time in Vietnam, I only studied and did not participate in any school clubs or association because I feared of being incompetent and to speak in front of the crowds. Then I moved to Denmark and I did many volunteers activities but failed to join the MUN (Model United Nations) in my University, which is a big debate conference for international students. “What a fool I have been” was the only thing I could say when I looked back to that time. So, I moved to Spain last school year with many resolutions and so far I feel extremely happy because I am enjoying every busy day.  

My tip to you, no matter what destination you go to: keep calm and be brave. Take the chance and remember, this is a good investment that you will see it in the future.  

Have I convinced you to go abroad to study? Before reading this, were you confused or worried about your next move? Then those are the reasons that may motivate you on the journey to take a step forward, and if possible, let University CEU Cardenal Herrera be your next destination.

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