1. You become more open minded
Before traveling abroad, many people don’t consider other ways of thinking or other customs. By putting yourself out into the world, you are able to see that the way that you and your friends from home think about the world might not be the way things actually are. Once you have seen the way someone from another way of life thinks first-hand about things as simple as cooking or as dynamic as democracy, you begin to develop ways to think out of your cultural bubble.
2. You develop better communication skills
Traveling definitely gets you out of your comfort zone. Traveling to places that speak other languages or other dialects of your native language can be especially difficult but even more rewarding. You learn the importance of body language, tone, and facial expressions. Trust me, when you live with someone who speaks a language that you barely know, communication can get interesting. But because of this, you develop communication skills that you could not have developed elsewhere. Because I traveled in Spain having only taken two 100-level Spanish courses meant I had to get creative on how to communicate with others. Since I did this, I an now a more effective communicator in my own language. I am more aware of my body language, tone, and facial expressions and now I am a more confident speaker than I ever have been. Without traveling in Europe, I wouldn’t have the confidence or communication skills that I have now.
3.You figure out more about who you are as a person
By traveling and experiencing other cultures, you get to figure out who you are as a person. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. The first time I traveled outside of the country, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. What I discovered was a completely different way of life that I had no idea actually happened. I discovered my love of the environment by working in the Australian outback, I discovered my passion for art while in the Picasso museum in Barcelona, and I discovered my will to change the way people look at the world when I was walking the streets of Belize City. You figure out what you want out of life and who you want to be. There is something about taking yourself out of your comfort zone and seeing things that people don’t normally see that changes you into the person that you were meant to be.
4. You find new interests
When you travel, you see things that you didn’t even know you thought were interesting until you actually see them. I’ve always loved reading and writing but I had no idea that I enjoyed adventurous, adrenaline-pumping activities until I went bungee jumping and climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge while I was traveling abroad. Since then, I have searched for similar activities closer to home and have been white water rafting, zip-lining, and climbing ropes courses in the United States. Now, these activities are a big part of how I identify myself. If I hadn’t traveled I may have never discovered some of my favorite interests.
5. You become more independent
Needless to say, when you travel alone internationally you become an independent person fairly quickly. You are in charge of your own lodging, transportation, and food so it goes without saying that this can make you more independent. What people don’t realize is that even if you don’t travel alone, you still become a more independent person by just going. It takes a huge leap of faith to travel to another country even if you are with other people. You become more inclined to take part in things that you might not have before. You become more adventurous. You become more independent. Once you go on that education abroad program with a faculty member from your school you might have the independence to travel solo later on.
Madeline Mudd is a senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in International Studies. She participated in an Education Abroad program in Barcelona in the Summer of 2014 with International Studies Abroad (ISA).