Anyone who goes to study abroad will have a story to share from their time away.
We’ve gathered these meaningful messages from 15 past and present students who truly understand what it’s like to study abroad.
1. Wenjie Wei. From: Shijiazhuang, China. Studied in: London, UK
“Studying abroad has helped me to learn much more about myself. It has made me far more self-sufficient and independent than I thought I could be. Before I came to the UK, I was the kind of person who even went to the toilets with a group of friends – I just couldn’t enjoy doing anything alone. But right now, I am totally comfortable doing things on my own. Going shopping by myself? Sure! Watching a movie on my own? No problem!”
2. Carlos Olivieri. From: Washington DC, US. Studied in: Beijing, China
“What I really learned studying abroad? The most important word to know in any language is friend.”
3. Ann Foo. From: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Studied in: London, UK
“If I could give international students one piece of advice, it would be to travel more! I’ve spent the last two years working, wishing I had travelled more when I was in university. Take full advantage of being a student and use your holidays and breaks to travel – you can get such cheap flights to Europe if you book in advance. Also, apply for all the student discounts you can get your hands on. My final suggestion? Work for free. Apply for as many internships and work experiences as you can. It may sound disheartening at first, but it will look so impressive on your CV when you apply for a job here.”
4. Nanako Kogiku. From: Kyoto, Japan. Studied in: Madrid, Spain
“People often try to categorise individuals by race, religion or country as if we are totally different beings. Or even worse, stereotype them. However, through living abroad, I came to realise that despite differences in cultural background, sex, age or race, there isn’t much difference in the way people feel. When someone does or says something to make you happy or down, actually you are not alone. Most people, no matter where they are from, would feel the same way as you, because we are all human.”
“Your friends really become your family”
5. Bernd Gartner. From: Windhoek, Namibia. Studied in Beijing, China
“During my five years in Beijing I formed some of the closest friendships of my life. When you are far away from home and in a totally foreign culture, your friends become your family. Not only do they provide the support and companionship that will help you to complete your studies, but also befriending locals is the best way to immerse yourself in the language and culture – there really is no better way.
I went to China out of a strong interest in Chinese language and culture. I jumped into the deep end by accepting a long-term scholarship to complete a second master’s degree. Through trying so hard to understand a different culture, I came to learn more about my own culture, upbringing and identity as well.
They say that people who have studied abroad are more flexible, creative and resilient than those who have not. To live and study in a foreign country means having to adapt to that country’s culture and its way of life, and this will help you to become more flexible in your approach. Flexibility is key in confronting the challenges that you will inevitably face in our ever-changing world.”
6. Shelby McGreachan. From: Brisbane, Australia. Studied in: Istanbul, Turkey
“It’s important to say yes to everything – engage in as much as possible, even if you are nervous, unsure, feel homesick or feel outside your comfort zone. It’s not just about learning and living in another place, its also about building friendships and engaging with people from outside your ‘own world’.”
“Confidence and optimism are the key to success”
7. Yu Tz Jennifer Tung. From: Taipei, Taiwan. Studied in: London, UK
“The most important thing taken from my experience studying abroad is that living in a new environment has broadened my horizons and helped me learn about other cultures and how to integrate with them. My top tip for anyone studying abroad is: be confident, open-minded and optimistic, and you will succeed.”
8. Jessica Santos. From: New Jersey, US. Studied in: Paris, France
“As much as I loved getting an insiders’ experience into all of the incredible museums, churches and parks across the city, I think what I enjoyed most was the experience I had with my group. I think the stars really aligned for us. We all got along and it was really because of them I got to truly experience Parisian culture. With them I experienced Bastille Day, walked along the Seine and had picnics in a ton of different parks. It’s a great experience, and it really does push your limits.”
“Bad weather and terrible coffee? No thanks”
9. Annie Morgan. From: UK. Studies in: Melbourne, Australia
“When I first moved to Melbourne I was really excited for the first week and was absolutely loving life. My mum came with me for the first week or so. When she left, I was a total mess. I felt sick, I wanted to go home and I felt so far away. After meeting some people and settling in, I’m actually really happy with the decision. Studying abroad means you get to travel a different part of the world and it’s really the easiest way to experience living in another country. Once you start working and having a family it all gets a lot more complicated.
The most important thing to remember when you’re abroad is why you made that decision in the first place. Remember what attracted you to that country, whether it was the weather or the culture. And also remember you can always go home. When I think about going home I always appreciate life here so much more. Why would I go home to bad weather and inferior coffee? Nope, not for now, thank you.”
10. Ronya Galka. From: Bad Oldesloe, Germany. Studied in: Chambery, France
“The main take-away from my time studying abroad has been to come away with a network of friends for life from all over the world.
Apart from the obvious language skills and general benefits that come with obtaining a double diploma, moving and studying abroad has broadened my mind immensely about other cultures and countries. Having now attended weddings in seven countries, I can honestly say that Norwegian weddings are the most fun (especially when you don’t speak a single word of Norwegian)!”
11. Tom O’Sullivan. From: Bristol, UK. Studies in: Maastricht, Netherlands
“An important thing that I have learnt myself that I would advise to future international students would be to be sure of what you want to achieve from studying abroad, and whether a particular course you are considering will help with this. It seems really obvious, but some students can oversee that – especially with all the excitement of a new country!”
12. Josh Barwick. From: Plymouth, UK. Studied in: Madrid, Spain
“Studying abroad made me realise that some other cultures and nations are just really nice, and are so much more welcoming than ours most of the time.”
“You learn a brand new way of thinking”
13. May Burrough. From: London, UK. Studied in: Shanghai, China
I grasped a greater understanding of how differently Chinese people think compared to British people. I had a funny experience where a massage therapist commented that I was skinny but had a fat stomach – something you would never be told in the UK. She then explained to me it was because I let my feet get cold, as if it was the most normal comment ever.
After an extended conversation with her about her theory, and with other Chinese citizens who were keen on Chinese medicine, it became almost logical. My point is, that through speaking to local people and incrementally learning more and more about how their minds work and how influential their culture is, everything makes more sense and you learn a whole new way of thinking about things.”
“Studying abroad has made me a truly global citizen”
14. Natalie Berry. From: Bristol, UK. Studies in Leuven, Belgium
“During my life-changing study abroad experiences, I truly feel that I adjusted my mindset, way of life and ambitions to make me a genuine 21st century citizen. During my semester in Aix-en-Provence and year in Leuven, I have met some of the most interesting, fun and inspiring people from near and far, and undoubtedly made friends for life. Through studying abroad, I have also learnt to challenge my own opinions and the education which I had once perceived as infallible.
This is not to say it is always a smooth ride – nor that it should be. I missed the small things (British milk) and the big ones (mum!) but I can safely say that that is normal, and often allows unprecedented bonding with strangers who quickly become new best friends. I have learnt to genuinely appreciate my background, but have also become a much more rounded (quite literally whilst living in France, enjoying four months of croissant-fuelled studying) and open person, and I like to think of myself as a global citizen.”
15. Rafael Ventura. From: Guatemala City, Guatemala. Studies in: Boston, US
“The first time I went to study abroad was when I was 13, and since then, I have taken every opportunity to do so again in different places. Studying abroad has shaped every aspect on my life and definitely helped me become a better person.
Studying abroad has taught me to always try new things. Some of the best moments that I’ve had studying abroad have been doing things that I would never do at home. You have to get out of your comfort zone and make a fool of yourself sometimes.
Students fear losing their friends back home when they go abroad. Luckily, we live in an age where we have endless ways of staying in touch with one another, and I know that my friends and family are always there for me when I need them. Funnily, studying abroad has brought me closer to my friends back home. You learn to appreciate your relationships more and enjoy the time that you get to spend with them.”