Growing up, one of my childhood dreams was always to study abroad (you can read more about my college experience at an American university here.) This was my dream for as long as I can remember and it was never given that I should have ended up study at an Norwegian university. I have always been a very curious and open-minded person who’s been eager to discover everything that the world has to offer (and I still am!), so to study abroad was the perfect option for me!
When I jumped on a plane overseas back in 2010, I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I did had some thoughts of what I thought I could expect, but it wasn’t even close to the reality – it was so much better! Luckily I wasn’t affected by the so-called “culture chock” many experience when moving abroad (I took care of that during my first time living in the US), which made the transition much easier. Because culture chock is a real thing you shouldn’t joke about, it can be really uncomfortable. Not only are you moving to another country with different customs, traditions and cultures, but everything is different from speaking another language to not finding your favorite items at the grocery store. These things might seem small to you, but let me tell you, it’s the small things that makes the biggest difference. For me personally, the things I missed the most when living in the states was to drink the clean, delicious tap water (Norway truly has the cleanest water in the world!) and to be able to walk everywhere. Despite this, it was truly a life changing experience and more importantly, it taught me a lot.
Here are some of the most important things I learned from my study abroad experience;
Studying abroad makes you a stronger person
Studying abroad is a great opportunity to leave the comfort and familiarity of your home country, because that’s exactly what you’ll do. You’ll realize that you are more independent, tolerant and adaptable than you think. You’ll gain a new number of skills and you’ll be strengthened by hardship, because it will be hard sometimes. You’ll learn to be more independent as you need to find your way around, whether it’s dealing with housing situations, register for classes, or find your way around town/campus. Moving abroad also brings you into contact with people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds, which requires you to be respectful of people and develop a great level of tolerance. This is also a huge strength and asset that will help you navigate through life. Studying abroad also makes you more adaptable due to a number of reasons; you moved to a foreign country and the sense of order/control you felt at home won’t exist. In order to have a great study abroad experience you must learn to adapt pretty fast to your “new life”. Overall, you’ll learn new skills including everything from communicating and handling situations in a different language to stepping out of your comfort zone, meeting deadlines, making new friends, etc. At the end of the day, you’ll realize you are capable of way more than you think!
You develop a wanderlust and get bitten by the travel bug
I’ll preface this by saying that I have always loved traveling. While I think I was born with the wanderlust and travel bug inside, it for sure increased my desire after my study abroad experience. During my time in the U.S. I was lucky enough to visit several states (and also got to experience the local side of America) and visit Canada + Mexico. One of my greatest memories was a road trip in the U.S. with my now husband; we booked flight tickets to LA, rented a car and hit the road with absolutely no plans. We saw so many great places and had so much fun – it’s a memory I’ll cherish forever. I have found myself filled with desire to travel the world someday… The world truly is an oyster and I can’t wait to see more of it!
You meet people from all over the world and walk of life
One of the greatest benefits of studying abroad is the lifelong friendships you make with people from around the world! While I had a really great group of friends back home, I think it’s safe to say that some of my best friends today are people I met when studying abroad – people I lived in dorms with my freshman year, whom I meet at parties, randomly at coffee shops and while traveling.. These are all people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds, all whom I had so much fun with. A trip down memory lane includes going out every weekend (college life!), dinners together, hot tub and pool pre-parties, weekend trips to Canada, different sporting events, late night coffee runs, movie nights and more traveling. While some reside in Norway, some in the U.S. and some in other countries, they are still people I consider to be my best friends and I know it will remains that way regardless of how often we talk/I see them! ♥
Seize every opportunity
This is probably one of the important aspects of studying abroad and something I learned pretty fast; seize every opportunity! Whether it’s smiling and talking to a stranger, meet someone you barely know for coffee or accept the invite to attend a party where you don’t know anyone – these are all situations that led to some of the best experiences and funniest memories I have had. On a academic level, I decided to challenge myself and asked my professors to participate in research & editing, I was a note-taker in another course and I completed independent research credits in areas of my major. Not only did I learned new things, but I polished my language skills, I gained more confidence and made some valuable connections/expanded my international network. The moral of the story is – seek out and seize every opportunity!
You will never be the same again
Studying abroad just changes you, you will never be able to return back home being the same person as before you left. Studying abroad provides you with eternal memories of incredible experiences, you see so many beautiful things/places and you meet so many extraordinary people on the way. You live in a “bubble” that’s hard for people to understand unless they’ve been in the same situation. I actually suffered from “reverse culture chock” when returning to Norway after three years, which was rather difficult. Six years has gone by since I returned to Norway and it will always be the country I consider home, however, I do miss living in the US sometimes. In the same way as things will never be the same again, I will never be the same again – but in a good way I guess! 😊
Overall, studying abroad is something I would recommend to everyone. If that’s something you’re thinking about, I hope this post will give you a new perspective on the study abroad experience. In addition to receiving an academic degree (because let’s face it – it’s why you’re there in the first place!), you’ll also polish your language skills, make lifelong friendships with people from around the world, experience new cultures, find new interests, become more confident/independent, create connections and expand your international network, and lastly, see more of the world! 🌍
Did you ever study abroad? And what was the most important thing you learned? 😊