Why Study Abroad Should Be A Compulsory Part Of Every Degree

There are definitely some vital life lessons that come from spending an entire year in unfamiliar territory.

While no one wants to be that friend who jumps on a “when I was on exchange” anecdote at every chance, there are definitely some vital life lessons that come from spending an entire year in unfamiliar territory.

Europeans have this down pat. In 1987, they kicked off the Erasmus program, working with a multi-billion-dollar budget to offer uni students grants and encourage exchange. The Erasmus Program has created a culture that makes it less special to do exchange as part of your degree – rather, it’s weird if you don’t. Here’s why we should follow suit.

There’s No Easier Way To Learn Another Language

Right now, in Australia, there are calls to push bilingualism in high schools. It not only gives you an edge on the employability scale, but research shows knowing a second language can also enhance cognitive skills, from empathy to memory.

If you’re lazy, THIS IS PERFECT FOR YOU. Netflix in bed is not going to help you order a beer, or see a doctor urgently (the probability of these naturally tripling on exchange). You’re just going to have to do your homework.

It Forces You To Be An Adult

No, you can’t just drive your wet laundry over to your parent’s house to use their dryer. I mean, who does that anyway? *uneasy laugh*

Living out of home a short train/plane ride’s distance away is one thing, but having only yourself to fall back on is a whole other. There are no cute little reminders to do your tax or vote – and if there are, they’ll be at 3am. If you are a strictly co-dependant type, you’ll have cute new foreign friends to turn to.

Soft Skills. Soft Skills. Soft Skills

Slaying excel or mastering Photoshop is great on your CV, but living abroad screams intercultural awareness. You’ll be able to adapt quickly to new environments.

I mean, making it to uni in minus 10 degrees and surviving supermarkets being closed Sundays and public holidays are tempting dot points to place under your ‘Achievements’ section.

It Teaches You To Not Be A Dickhead

If I had a euro for every “nothing was in English!!!” huff and puff from friends who’d travelled abroad, I’d be able to double my daily serve of avo on toast. Studying overseas debunked my English-centric mindset. Instead of getting frustrated at the tourist holding up the ticket line at the train station, why not walk them through it?

It seems like common moral sense, but you will never understand the struggle unless you are frantically google-translating a restaurant menu with 1 per cent phone battery.

You’ll Make A Special Type Of Pal

You will meet Shelbyville versions of you — new best mates, who listen to the same music, dress similarly and have the same taste in memes, but grew up on the other side of the world, with fascinating cultural idosyncracies and fun facts for days.

To cap it all off, exchange friends double-up as the absolute best tour guides. Forget the Eiffel Tower and Bradenburg Gate; you’ll get to hang at local stomping grounds, backstreet bars, galleries and eateries. Chances are someday you’ll be able to return the favour with third wave coffee and a boogie at Freda’s. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Mina Kitsos is a Sydney-based arts and culture journalist, who enjoys drinking tea and incorporating Kendrick Lamar lyrics into casual conversation.

(Lead image: The Simpsons/FOX)