Being young, just in or out of college, is the ideal time to take a leap of faith, pack up and go abroad. This is the time in your life when the commitments and responsibilities are lower than they ever will be again, where you don’t have to worry about the amount of vacation days you’ll use. This is the time of least restrictions.
Okay, so you’re almost convinced, but there is still that voice in your head holding you back. Maybe your desire to go is equally matched by your fears and other factors making you want to stay. That is totally normal.
Let’s be honest, the idea of studying or interning abroad is as intimidating as it is inspiring. The entire process from figuring out your schedule and finances to stepping into an office or university on the other side of the world may seem too much to handle. It’s overwhelming at first, sure, but it is 100% achievable and even more worth-while.
If you’re in this position, I encourage you to take a deep breath and look at this list of fears and myths that hold so many people back from an incredible experience, and may be keeping you back as well.
Reason No. 1: Going Abroad is Too Expensive, Never Mind Studying or Interning Too
Yes, travel is expensive. However, if you’re still in school, chances are paying for your tuition, rent, and other fees at your home university is around the same amount (or in some cases maybe more expensive) than going abroad. Because of dollar exchange rates, scholarships, and education prices in other countries, students that go abroad while in school often find that they spend the same amount of money whether they are at home or across the world. Not to mention, due to the growing popularity of intern abroad companies, there are more opportunities for financial support and scholarship opportunities
For those who are interning after college, yes, you’re paying additional money to go abroad. However, if you were to just travel after graduation, you’d be spending the same amount of money without gaining resume experience.
Additional tip: If there are no scholarships available for you, look at booking your ticket during the off-season, and choosing a country where your dollar is up and save money that way.
Reason No. 2: Studying Abroad Will Delay My Graduation
If you are still in college and are worried about how going abroad will affect your graduation, there are several solutions. First, make sure that you’ve done your researched and planned properly. Interning abroad in the summer or even sometimes during a quarter of your college years should not delay your graduation. Most majors require an internship to graduate, so why not do one abroad.
Another option, if you really cannot manage a summer internship or arrange your classes to take a quarter off, think about going on an internship after you walk at graduation. There are several students that I interned with that walked in graduation, but were completing their internship abroad as the last part of their requirements. They graduated on-time just like everyone else, the only difference is their degree came in the mail when they returned from their internship abroad.
Reason No. 3: I Will Miss My Family and Friends
Yes, life will continue on at home while you are away, and of course your friends and family will miss you as much as you miss then. Try to keep in mind that you are only going away for a short time in the grand scheme of things. According to 2018 statistics, Americans are expected to live approximately 80 years. So just to put it in perspective, if you go away for a three-month internship, that is only .03 percent of your life that you are away.
Not to mention, that technology has made it easier than ever to stay connected with the people you care about from countries across the world. My advice is if you’re really worried about missing them, make a weekly Skype date and stay in touch through Snapchat or quick messages using WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook Messenger. Also, consider the length you choose to go abroad so you still get the experience of traveling but don’t overwhelm yourself right away with being gone for longer than you can handle.
Finally, help thwart homesickness by making it a point right away to get involved in your temporary home. Find some type of community that you can get away to when you start to feel lonely, whether this is a new group of friends, church, volunteering, community gym class, anything. Many organizations can also set up a homestay, which may help you feel more comfortable having a family around, even if it isn’t yours.
Reason No. 4: I Can’t Leave My Significant Other
More often than not, people that choose to intern abroad are either at the end of their college career or have just graduated. It is more likely that at this point in time, you’ve matured out of the early college phase, and may have found someone that you see a future with.
Even if you think you’ve found “the one,” do not give up an opportunity for them, and definitely don’t let them talk you out of going. The best relationship advice I have ever received is to be two individuals that choose to share their life together, to be inter-dependent, not depend on one another. When relationships become more serious, especially when they are going well, it can be a scary idea to take time apart, with the possibility that it will make your relationship more difficult.
Turning down an internship abroad because you fear your relationship won’t stand up to the distance is not a reason I recommend staying back for. You have the opportunity now to go abroad, and you have the rest of your life to be with this person, if they really are the “one”.
I have been in a long-distance relationship for almost two years now, so this is something I can relate to. Luckily for most of it, we have only been a few hours’ drive a part. However, there have been several different times, where we’ve been separated across countries. It is never easy to move from seeing someone regularly to not seeing them for months on end. It is difficult, and I won’t even begin to say otherwise. I can promise from myself and others before me that if you give up an opportunity for the other person and it doesn’t work out, you will regret it.
Use technology to your advantage and know that it is only a short amount of time in your life that you’ll be away from them. Plan a visit in the middle of your trip so it cuts the time you don’t see each other in half. For instance, if you’re gone for three months, try to plan the other person to visit at about one and a half months through your experience, that way you only have that amount of time left before you return home. The experience you will gain personally and as a couple will be priceless. Don’t let your relationship hold you back from a world of experiences.
Reason No. 5: The Application Process is too Complicated
The application process might be tricky, but so was applying to college at one point. Study abroad and intern abroad programs are making it easier to apply as more and more students are starting to take advantage of this opportunity.
It’s a good idea to break down the process into separate tasks. This way it seems more manageable and allows you to focus on what needs to get done and when. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to advisors in the programs that are there to help answer any questions you may have.
Let’s be honest, if you take a few hours away from time spent on social media, watching Netflix, or playing video games, you can get this done. Decide that this experience is something you want and don’t let the application process be a reason you don’t go!
Reason No. 6: Employers Don’t Care that I Studied or Interned Abroad
Let me just say, right off the bat, that this is a myth. With the globalization of today’s world, any international experience is going to bulk up your resume and help you stand out from your counterparts. In fact, listing on your resume that you spent time abroad shows employers that you are flexible, take risks, work with others from various background and cultures, and are independent.
Reason No. 7: Making Friends While Abroad Will Be Too Hard
This thought scares many people and holds them back from exploring somewhere far from their hometown. For some, making friends abroad will not be an issue whatsoever. Personally, it wasn’t difficult to make friends abroad because I have no problem walking up to a stranger, introducing myself, and striking up a conversation.
For others, I know that can seem incredible daunting. Luckily, most universities and programs that you go through will have specific programs aimed at connecting international students from around the world. Whether you will be staying in a university or going through an intern company, chances are they will have an orientation and meet ups scheduled that will at least join you with others that are in the same position. This will give you a group of people to start adventuring with, and who knows who you’ll meet from there. Before you know it, you will be making weekend plans with new acquaintances and creating life-long international friendships.