How Studying Abroad Shapes Your Adult Identity
You may wonder why studying abroad appeals to so many of your classmates. Picture spending next year wherever you like, whether that be France, Italy, Japan or anywhere else.
You’ll learn the language and local customs. You’ll dine on authentic food, explore new destinations, and dive into new experiences with new people. But more than anything, you’ll learn about you and see yourself changing.
Studying abroad is more than an exciting trip. It’s an experience that shapes your adult identity and impacts the rest of your life — here’s how:
You gain a newfound confidence
Travelling in a foreign country, especially alone, can be a challenge. Yet when you explore, get lost and find your way back, you realise you can trust yourself. Travelling solo can be liberating. Other people's interests and expectations won't restrict your plans. Instead, you’re free to go wherever the wind takes you. When you have no one to rely on but yourself, you gain a new sense of confidence. This feeling will follow you home, even after your trip ends. Back in class, teachers and syllabi won't seem intimidating — you’ve navigated the unknown before.
You develop a passion for learning
When you’re studying abroad, it'll become crystal clear there are a lot of things you don’t know. You might feel overwhelmed at first, but that feeling will quickly turn into excitement. You have so much left to learn! Why does your host city use gothic style architecture? How did the language shift over the years? Your trip studying abroad is just the tip of the iceberg. You can continue asking questions — and learning new things — once you get home. In school, this mentality will propel you to the top of the class. In your career, it will lead to promotions and pay raises.
You learn the meaning of persistence
Studying abroad is an exciting, worthwhile experience. Yet the paperwork is a headache, and it’s easy to get lonely. You’ll need to push through various obstacles to get to a place where you’re content. In your host country, you’ll need to learn a new language, talk to strangers and push yourself outside your comfort zone.
You’ll reach a point in your trip where you find a favourite coffee shop and a small group of friends. Eventually, the destination will feel like home, and all the struggles will be worthwhile. Once you fly back, your penchant for persistence will follow you for life.
You develop critical thinking skills
You’ll face a lot of challenges when you’re studying abroad, but you can muscle through if you use your noggin. To learn the language, you might ask a neighbour to practice or order your meals in the native tongue. If you want to ride local transportation, you’ll have to study maps and purchase the correct tickets. When you learn to think critically about practical problems, you can apply this mindset to other areas in life. Perhaps, ten years down the line, you face a problem with not enough team members to complete a project at work. The critical thinking skills you develop whilst studying abroad will help you find a solution.
You figure out how to adapt
Not everything will go as planned when you travel. You’ll face major tests and make mistakes along the way. Each situation teaches you how to adapt and adjust, a necessary skill in life. Say you get off the plane, and your ride never shows. You’ll need to arrange transportation on the spot.
Moving to another country shows you’re willing to dive into obstacles without hesitation. You learn how to respond to unexpected twists in a way that’s both refined and professional. These traits will help you later on, both in your personal and professional life.
Your expand your world view
When you travel to a new country — and stay for an extended time — you learn about new cultures and walks of life. You won’t understand or agree with it all. In fact, you may experience culture shock, where you feel disoriented in your new environment. Yet you’ll power through and learn how study abroad changes you.
When you travel, you find common ground with people who are very different from you. As a result, you do away with prejudice and ignorance. When you get home, these qualities transfer into a more empathetic and understanding world view.
You realise your life's purpose
Studying abroad is a game-changer. Your life shifts drastically, and you challenge previous beliefs. When you get home, it can be hard to readjust. Once you settle, though, you’ll see the world — and your place in it — more clearly.
Perhaps, after seeing people live on the streets, you want to dedicate your efforts to help the poor. Maybe you saw those who lacked access to fundamental medicine and want to switch your studies to nursing. Studying abroad gives you the perspective needed to discover your life’s purpose.
You expose the real you
Many people take studying abroad as an opportunity to become a new person. Perhaps you want to try a new hairstyle or wardrobe, but you’re afraid of what others will think. Maybe you want to study something different, pick up a new hobby or spend more time alone. In a new place where no one knows you, you’re free to try whatever and be whoever you want — which can lead you to learn more about who you are. Studying abroad is a time to take risks and discover the real you. If you’re feeling trapped in a particular clique, drop the facade and wear your heart on your sleeve. Once you come home, you’ll have a more solid sense of self.
Study abroad and shape your adult identity
When it comes to gaining confidence, shifting your perspective and discovering a deeper version of yourself, studying abroad does more than enrich who you are — it impacts who you’ll become. Don’t forget to write down your thoughts and capture photos of your most memorable moments. Someday, you’ll want to remember as much as possible from this time that so significantly shaped your life.
About the author
Alyssa Abel is a student life writer whose passions include travel inspiration, study abroad and self-development. Read more of her work on her blog, Syllabusy.