You’re a student at the University of Kentucky.  You know that with every autumn comes Keeneland and Kentucky Basketball.  You know that with the spring comes March Madness and Spring Break.  You’re afraid of missing out on the great things UK has to offer, because UK offers so many great things.  Thus, you’re probably wondering, what is the point of study abroad?  Why would I waste my time here at UK to go somewhere else?  The reasons are many, but here are some big reasons to study abroad:

  1. It sets you apart

Let’s say you’re about to apply to a job.  Not just any job, a job at the company you’ve always wanted to work for.  The only issue is that there is another person who graduated from the University of Kentucky with the same qualifications as you, whom is applying for the position as well.  The only difference is, you studied abroad.  Studying abroad shows a lot of character.  You chose to go somewhere new and try new things.  You pushed yourself, and have shown that you have the ability to adapt to foreign experiences.  Employers look for students whom have studied abroad because of their skills and work ethic gained while abroad.

  1. You grow up fast

Although this differs from program to program (i.e. exchange being more independent versus partner programs allowing a little more help), one characteristic remains constant: you’re going to mature.  You are in a foreign land, a place you might not even know anyone, or even speak the language very well.  This allows you to be better prepared for life.  Whether the situation involves asking for the nearest public bathroom, or getting on a train that adjusts its destination because of issues on the track, and you have to find your way to the original destination.  Your parents won’t be there to hold your hand, although they can help over the phone or monetarily, they will be miles and miles away.  You will be able to handle emergencies much better.

  1. The experiences!!

If there has ever been a more relatable time to Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go, now is the time.  I was abroad for an academic year.  I travelled to 7 countries, and at least double that many cities.  The ability to travel while abroad is greater than it is here in the US.  In Europe, flights are pretty cheap, and even more so, buses can be cheap as well.  Regardless of whether you are travelling alone or with someone else, Rough Guides hits the nail on the head with their video:

Just from your study abroad experience, you will gain so much insight into one culture.  This leads us into my next, and final point…

  1. You learn more while abroad

Though the classes are Pass/Fail, and for some universities a pass is a 40%, you will learn more than you ever imagined.  As pointed out in Rough Guides’ video, travelling to another country allows you to accept and appreciate other cultures much better.  I found myself acting more English, just after 2 weeks at my University.  You learn that certain social cues are okay and some are not.  You learn new foods, words, and literature.  Yes, you are there to learn.  No, that doesn’t mean that your learning is restricted to a classroom.  I learned a lot from the classes I took at my University, but I will always see what I learned outside of the classroom to be more valuable.  You learn the boundaries you can push yourself to, and how to handle situations you hadn’t planned.  You will take in so many sights, sounds, and cultures while abroad that you will be exhausted.  These experiences, however, will teach you more about yourself and who you have the potential of becoming.

You have something good here at UK.  Lexington has a lot to offer.  Lexington is home.  However, there are so many places to see, and so little time.  There are lessons you learn that improve you as a human.  You can set yourself apart in the workplace.  You’re going to come back an adult.  Moreover, you’re going to come back full of knowledge and respect.  You may even fall in love with where you were or a new piece of culture.  As Dr. Seuss would say, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Connor Bechtol studies Management and Marketing at the University of Kentucky, and he just returned from studying for the full academic year at Oxford Brookes University.