Five Ways Studying Abroad will Prepare You for Academic Pursuits Back Home

Five Ways Studying Abroad will Prepare You for Academic Pursuits Back Home

To say that I have returned from 10 months studying abroad in Costa Rica the same as when I had left would be a lie. Now that my senior year of high school is approaching, it is time for me to begin researching colleges and possible areas of study. Fortunately, because I have lived and studied in Costa Rica, I’m much more prepared to accomplish the once overwhelming expectation of applying to a university. 

Studying abroad in high school generates growth and an increased understanding of your personal goals and values. Living in a foreign country gave me the perspective necessary to develop ideas as to where I want to be in the future, and how my academic goals can help me get there.

Below are 5 ways studying abroad has prepared me for my academic future.

Studying abroad gives you a sense of direction.

Rachael successfully climbing the steep hills of Costa Rica.

The lessons I’ve learned through experiential learning and the unique opportunities provided from studying in Costa Rica have helped me establish a better sense of my academic and career goals. By writing articles about my high school exchange, I have found an interest in journalism that I was not aware of before.

Life abroad has presented me with new possibilities, encouraged me to try new things and inspired me to look beyond the expectations I have always held for myself and what I can do. If I had never been presented with the possibilities studying abroad has created, like writing articles, I may have never become familiar with some of the things that interest me.

Global experiences allow for a broader perspective and sense of opportunity. 

Cooking lessons in Costa Rica.

Living in Costa Rica will, hopefully, not be the last impactful adventure I embark on. Future experiences will continue to shape me and change my perspective, and what I think I want now may differ in time. By acknowledging this, I can welcome academic opportunities that interest me, but still remain open and adaptable.

I plan on studying journalism and have filled my school schedule with classes that can help further my skills in that area, but I have also thrown in the occasional environmental activism and sustainability classes because they interest me.

While abroad, I was amazed by the variety of classes and activities that I had never considered taking before. Taking classes like “Sustainability with a Focus in Butterflies,” I was exposed to a diverse range of learning opportunities.

Occasions like these continually fill our lives, and I think it is important to allow space for them to catch our attention. What you learn from these moments may come in handy in the chance that your ambitions someday transform.

As an exchange student, you become more intentional in your decisions to reach your goals.

Rachael speaking in front of her school, in Spanish, during her study abroad program.

Like most people, my to-do list is under constant renovation. Every day, I complete activities and make decisions, but I had not questioned the ‘why’ up until recently. During my exchange, I found that my reasons for being in Costa Rica became increasingly important.

What did I wish to get out of my time abroad, and what could I do to attain those goals?

I used the unique experience of going on exchange to learn more Spanish, practice healthier coping strategies, gain more independence and more. By identifying these goals, I could focus my attention on pursuing them.

It has become more and more necessary that I question what I am getting out of the activities I undertake, whether hobbies, classes or jobs. Once I determine which occupations are beneficial, I can further prioritize what I find to be important and eliminate acts that no longer serve me. A lot can be accomplished in time, so why fill precious moments with empty motions that contribute nothing towards growth? 

Living abroad teaches you to search for opportunities, rather than waiting for them to arise.

Exploring Costa Rica during Rachael’s program.

Life abroad gave me a glimpse of the many possibilities that are out there, if I am willing to search for them, and also helped me recognize the openings that are presented close to home.

Although Costa Rica offers an array of fun activities and opportunities, I found that I had under-appreciated the options I had while living in the U.S. Whether through people who are involved in things I am interested in, clubs at school or community open-mics, I realized that I had not taken enough advantage of the many possibilities that I was fortunate enough to have access to back home.

Rather than waiting for luck to bring me opportunities, I now create my own by asking questions to those who can teach me and finding ways to get involved. Writing articles while abroad has exposed me to people who once pursued journalism, and others who are currently involved in the industry. Since returning from Costa Rica, I have scheduled video calls and in-person meetings with writers and journalists who can answer my questions.

Studying abroad opens your eyes to how much can be achieved with support and determination.

Rachael and her friends during her study abroad program.

It is surprising, and empowering, how much can be accomplished when there is no option to give up. Whether breaking through language barriers or living in a different culture for 10 months, studying abroad has opened my eyes to how much can be achieved with support and determination.

It is often said that real growth begins outside of your comfort zone. At the beginning of my exchange, moving to a foreign country alone, living in an unfamiliar family’s house, and not being able to speak to or understand anyone was just about as uncomfortable as it sounds. Yet, through these experiences, I learned and flourished in a way that I had never before.

I am now more prepared to push myself in more difficult classes and apply to colleges that I once felt were too sophisticated for me, because seeking refuge in what is comfortable and easily achievable will not help me learn or grow.

Now that I have gotten a glimpse of what I am capable of, I refuse to settle for anything less.

Are you ready to make your own experiences abroad?

High School in Costa Rica

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