If you’ve already been accepted on a place to study abroad in 2017-18, firstly – congratulations! Secondly, I’m extremely jealous! I hope you can use this blog as a sort of checklist of things to do on your year abroad, and things to look forward to!
If you’re still debating whether you should study abroad during your time at university, I hope this can persuade you, as I found first hand it was absolutely invaluable in so many ways.
Last year I was in Utrecht in the Netherlands as part of the Erasmus scheme. I studied on exchange from the Law Department so studied a diverse range of subjects from Children’s Rights and Juvenile Justice, to the Role of the Supreme Court in the USA and lived in a flat of 7 people on the university campus. I can honestly say that the year was one of the best years of my life so far, and I think this echoes the same view of many others I met in Utrecht/ who have undertaken a year abroad from Sheffield University. So why exactly is it so amazing? Whilst it can be a little daunting to uproot mid-way through your degree to a new country and university, there are so many advantages of doing so. So, here’s just 6 examples of many reasons why you should study a year abroad!
1. Experience a new culture
The chance to immerse yourself in a new culture for a full year without taking on any financial or personal risks is, for many people, a once in a lifetime opportunity. One of my favourite parts of studying abroad was seeing the way that Dutch people live and how their culture differs from ours. As for Dutch culture in particular; I loved how organised and direct Dutch people tend to be, and the convenience of being able to cycle anywhere you want to go, and, of course, the cheese.
Whilst the opportunity to visit a new place in itself is fantastic, the chances to travel don’t stop there. The workload on exchange tends to be slightly less intense, the flights within Europe are ridiculously cheap (such as a return from Amsterdam to Germany for €35 or to Poland for €15…), and you’re likely to meet many other like-minded students who want to enjoy travelling – the perfect storm for an amazing year of adventures across Europe or further!
Not only this, but you’re likely to make friends on your year abroad from across the world – i.e. friends to visit across the world. The best kind of travelling is with a local!
3. Appreciate your home
So studying abroad can make you fall in love with another culture, but it can also make you really appreciate your home country and university. When I came back to Sheffield after my year abroad I realised I hadn’t made as much of an effort to explore the area as I had abroad, and had taken for granted all the things you can do and see as a student in the UK. Since arriving back in Sheffield I have realised that there are 3 things in particular I’d taken for granted: Sheffield SU (Pop Tarts, ROAR, Tuesday Club, Bar One, Interval, New Leaf (bae), the countless societies and other events, the list goes on…), the Peak District, and also some English food that is simply not the same anywhere else (I’ll admit I did actually miss meal deals and Greggs quite a lot).
4. Learn a language
A huge benefit of going abroad for a year is the ability to develop your language skills. Whether you’re developing some previous skills from GCSE or A Level, perfecting your University level language skills, or starting from scratch and learning the basics, learning a language can be really interesting. It makes you stand out in the crowd and is generally just an all round cool skill to have.
5. Improve your final year grades
I had heard people say that doing a year abroad can help improve your all-important final year grades before I studied abroad, and I must say that since I’ve been back I have definitely found it to be true.
As you develop new ways of thinking and learning you are pushed out of your comfort zone and to try new things on exchange, and I found this helped give me a more well-rounded understanding in my legal studies. I learnt different and diverse topics which I would not have had the chance to otherwise, and this has benefitted me hugely in my degree at Sheffield. For example I studied a module in Utrecht which sparked a particular interest of mine, and I am currently undertaking my research paper in a related area.
Further to this, it develops your skills beyond your literal academic knowledge, such as independence, organisational, research and communication skills and “thinking outside the box” (excuse the cliché) which all feed in to your overall academic development.
Whilst getting good grades is a huge advantage in itself, having a year abroad alone also looks good on your CV: it sets you apart from others and gives you something interesting to talk about in interviews.
6. Learn about yourself
At a risk of sounding super-cheesy, doing a year abroad truly does teach you a lot about yourself as a person. It opens your eyes to new ways of thinking and learning. You will become more confident, independent and self-aware. You will meet people who change your perspective on things and people you’ll never forget.
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”