One of the hardest things for creating your study abroad experience is deciding how long you should be away. It’s not uncommon to find students choosing to study for a term, but rarely will you find others choosing to stay a year. Those who would never think of going for a year will probably think: “Wow! That’s so long, I can’t imagine being in another country for that long” or “Gosh, that’s going to be a lot of money!”
Having chosen Imperial College London as my university abroad, I had no choice but to stay for a year. I was extremely hesitant about my decision and even considered schools that would allow me to stay for one term. I thought about how difficult it would be to be away from my friends and family for so long. I was also set on living in London which is one of the most expensive cities in the world, and living there for a year sounded scary to my bank at first.
However, now that I have been in London for almost four months and have been seizing every opportunity to explore and travel, I have no regrets about my decision at all. London, and Europe in general, have so much to offer, that I feel spending only a term here would not be enough.
If you’re thinking of going abroad for a year and having some doubts, you are not alone. There are so many benefits that come with going abroad for a year. Before you get on that plane to your home for the next year, you are probably going to second guess your decision and wonder if you made the right choice. But by the time your program is over, you will wonder why you worried so much in the beginning. Here are the reasons why I am so glad I made the choice to go abroad for a year:
- Studying abroad goes by fast! No truer words have been spoken. If you go abroad for just a term it will only last for about three to four months. Sounds like a good long time, but by the time it’s over you will be amazed at how much time flew like crazy. Even when you go abroad for a year, time will still go by extremely fast, but you will at least feel glad you had more time to adjust to your new home and begin to enjoy it.
- Give yourself time to adjust. Just as I stated above, studying abroad is not always fun and exploration. It’s about adjusting to your surroundings and accepting this new country as your home. Often that adjustment period requires a great deal of time figuring out who your friends are, getting used to class pace, the list goes on. Do you remember feeling all that anxiety during your first semester of college, and how much you missed home and could not wait to come back for winter break? You are likely to feel the same way while abroad. Therefore, give yourself a chance to battle homesickness for a bit, then slowly learn to grow comfortable in your new environment.
- More opportunities to explore and travel. When you go away for a year, you can go crazy with your bucket list of places to see and things to do. Eight to nine months is plenty and even more than enough time to accomplish your goals. And, even if you run out of things to do, you have time to explore hidden gems that are not recommended by tourists or people on TripAdvisor. You will have time to explore your city as a local rather than be a tourist all the time.
- Traveling at a slower pace. If you go away for a term and your agenda is to see as many countries as possible, you will feel extremely rushed and try to pack your weekends with traveling. Veterans of traveling will not deny that traveling can be mentally taxing and even tiring; therefore, it’s good to give yourself a break from traveling once in a while. If you go for a year, you will have plenty of vacation time (most spring breaks in England last for more than a month) to spend seeing all those cities on your bucket list.
- You get more time with your study abroad friends. Saying goodbye to friends at the end of your program will be one thing you dread the most, especially if your friends come from different parts of the world. Allowing yourself a year to study abroad will reinforce the friendships you make. Therefore, make the most of your time abroad and invest in the amazing friends you would not meet if you didn’t make the decision to go abroad.