For those of you like me who have no clue what you want to do for the rest of your life, I would strongly encourage you to take some time – a few months, a semester, a year, etc. – and go travel abroad. Travel has helped me become comfortable with the fact that I don’t yet know what I want to do in life, and while I may not know it now, all of my experiences abroad are almost guaranteed to help me at some point in the future. To encourage others, I’ve come up with and listed 5 reasons you should consider going abroad after graduating college.
1. Because it will be harder when you’re older
I hope that one day I have a family, and although I don’t like the idea of paying bills, I also hope I’m able to drive a car that I like and can live in a house that I want. That being said, I’m currently 23 years old, and for everyone around my age, this is the perfect time for us to go see the world. Why? Although you may not have a lot of money, right now you also more than likely don’t have a mortgage, car payments, or a family that depends on you. As I’ve said on The Study Abroad Blog, I’d love to go back to the places I visited on my travels on vacation when I’m older and have a better paycheck. However, what will always be more important to me is what I took away from those days I spent as a college student trekking through the cities of Europe and Asia with good friends and a very thin wallet, the standing ovation for the successful landing of a Ryanair flight, and the nights spent in budget hostels trying to make contact with that random 6th roommate who didn’t speak English.
2. Because you can gain international work experience
Although you might not want to live abroad for your entire life, a year interning or working abroad will help you grow both as a person and as a professional. As our world becomes more globalized, one of the best ways to set yourself apart is by having international work or study experience. You’ll develop necessary personal qualities like independence, time management, and organization, as well as sought after professional skills like the ability to work in a more stressful international environment, understanding how business is conducted in different countries, and how to act professionally with people from other cultures. This way, you’ll be much more prepared to apply for that dream job when you do find out what it is.
3. Because you should broaden your horizons
The greater the perspective you have on life, the more educated your opinions and decisions become. Outside of vacation, the amount of recent college graduates that can say they’ve spent significant time in other countries is relatively small. When living abroad for more than a few weeks, you’re introduced to new perspectives on current affairs and global issues, you come to appreciate the importance of difference, and you develop the ability to make better, more well-informed decisions on your own. It’s not to say that what you’ve learned from textbooks or the nightly news isn’t true, but wouldn’t you rather have thoughts and opinions about the world based on things you’ve actually seen, and places you’ve actually been?
4. Because it’s hard to know what you want to do in this world if you’ve never seen it
This is a personal philosophy that I discovered after returning to the states from my year studying abroad in Scotland. Previous to that year, I had lived under the assumption that I should always know exactly what I want to do and exactly what direction I needed to go in life – even though I really had no clue. As a matter of fact, during my sophomore year, I was so afraid of falling behind and not getting a high paying job when I graduated college that I was applying for internships and jobs that in actuality I really didn’t want. While both the UK and the rest of Europe are pretty Western, the mere act of getting outside of the U.S. for a year opened my eyes to different cultures, different people, and different ways of life. In the end, I discovered a whole new “world” of opportunities, and I’m glad I can still take advantage of these opportunities because I didn’t by making a rash decision during my senior year of college.
5. Because if nothing else, at least you’re moving forward
Another one of my life philosophies is that it doesn’t matter how long your step is as long as you’re going forward. If you truly travel with a purpose, it’s almost impossible to set yourself back. Worried about school loans? Most loans have at least a six month grace period before you have to start paying them back, and there are ways of getting them both deferred or partially erased. Don’t have a lot of money (which most of us don’t) for a plane ticket or other expenses? Tell relatives who want to give you a graduation gift that money is the best idea. (You may also want to mention that it’s to help you progress towards finding out what you want to do in life!) Worried about going alone? Think about teaching, volunteering, or post-grad studying abroad programs that will allow you to go abroad with like-minded people. In reality, the only way to set yourself back is by doing nothing.
Being abroad has provided me many new opportunities, has helped me to develop both personally and professionally, and has allowed me to look at life from a much larger perspective. Graduating from college is something you should be looking forward to, and from someone who’s still working on figuring out my next step, I think it’s safe to say that studying and traveling abroad is the best way to keep moving forward in the midst of one of the most confusing points in a young adult’s life.