Growing up in small-town Durango, Colorado – population a mere 19,000 people – I was very sheltered from the world around me as I navigated through grade school. As a shy, introverted teen and a devoted homebody, I never dreamed that I’d ever leave the comfy bubble I’d lived in for most of my life.
So, when people asked me why I’d decided to go to university full-time in Aberdeen, Scotland, I didn’t have an answer. Truthfully, I still don’t. Perhaps it was a longing for travel, or a desire to see more of the world outside of little Durango. Now, however, I find myself wondering if it was something inside of me that yearned to experience life outside of my comfort zone – an area I’d never explored out of fear of the unknown. Sound like you? Then studying abroad may be your next adventure.
Now that I’m in my last year of “uni,” I’ve had some time to reflect on my past three years in Scotland. I have a better appreciation for travel and understand why going abroad is such a unique and rewarding opportunity. Studying abroad in Europe may be for you if:
- You want to travel. Though traveling may not be very feasible at the moment, this is undoubtedly one of the top reasons people attend university outside of their home country, whether it be for a semester, a year, or full-time. This is an especially invaluable opportunity for Americans, who are often limited in their ability to travel, unless they want to spend a pretty penny on plane tickets. It’s much easier (and much less expensive) to travel within Europe from global hotspots such as Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, and London, giving you access to a multi-cultural experience just outside of your backyard. Even though Scotland is not exactly known for its weather (yes, there is a lot of rain) or its food (Mm, haggis and black pudding!), each country has its unique lifestyle and activities for outdoor enthusiasts and culture fiends alike.
- You want to save money. Yes, you can actually attend a university abroad and save money! Many universities in the UK have cheaper tuition than their US counterparts, and in some European countries (Germany, for example), higher education is free, or available for a very small fee. An English university degree typically takes 3 years, which means only 3 years of tuition, and my university in particular has the fourth-year tuition free for international students. That means, even with factoring in flight tickets, it costs about as much as studying at an in-state university and was far cheaper than my second choice – a small, private out-of-state college. In countries with a public healthcare option, you often get the benefit of health coverage for a very low cost as well.
- You want to learn a new language. Thankfully, living in Scotland, I didn’t have to learn a new language – that is, beyond a couple of polite Scottish Gaelic sayings – slainte, ciamar a that hu? Though I did have to contend with the notoriously difficult Doric dialect, the stuttering drawl of drunk Glaswegians, and the almost otherworldly slang of old Aberdonian cab drivers (Yer aff yer heid, lass). However, if you enjoy the process of learning a language or want to study a foreign tongue for more practical reasons, then studying in Europe is the perfect opportunity. If you’re worried about understanding your classes, no worries – there are plenty of international, English-taught degrees in European universities.
- You want exposure to new culture (or cultures!). Foreign students account for a third of the student population at my university; that means, beyond the exposure to Scottish culture, I’ve also interacted with dozens of Italians, Germans, Norwegians, and Russians – just to name a few! Along with the incredible opportunity I’ve had to learn about other cultures, I’ve also gained a new-found global perspective that will provide insight and encourage empathy for all others as I begin to navigate the daunting territory of adulthood.
- You want to party. This was not my goal, but in many European countries, the drinking age is 18 or lower – which means pub crawls and clubbing are highly popular activities in university culture. However, pub culture does tend to be more relaxed and community centered than a typical bar in the good ol’ U.S. of A., so even for those who prefer not to get *plastered every weekend, these local hotspots are a great opportunity just to hang out and have fun. If you’re looking to have a good time, Europe is the place to be.
- You want to explore life outside your comfort zone. I think that, upon much reflection, this is the real reason I went abroad. From that same shy introvert, I became a more confident, outgoing, and independent person. I learned how to problem-solve and branch out to others without my support group, thousands of miles across the Atlantic. I became a leader of the Creative Writing Society and I began to participate in events and activities that I never would have thought of doing pre-university. I think now, looking back, that the creeping desire to go abroad was less of an informed, logical decision – though as you can see, there are plenty of reasons for doing so – and more of an insistent push from my subconscious, guiding me into becoming the person I was always meant to be.
Edited by Morgan Mitchell