Why everyone should experience studying abroad



Mary Rugolo

It is basketball season—probably one of the most exciting seasons of the year for Villanova students. March Madness is in full swing and we, once again, made it to the NCAA Tournament. The campus seems to hum with excitement. Game day could be considered a holiday with people in face paint, singing songs and having no voices the next day. Basketball season is the perfect representation of the heart of what it means to be a Villanovan. 

Yesterday a group of my friends made the trek down to New York City to support our team at The Big East Tournament. They were decked out in blue and white and ready to cheer on our team no matter what. They were excited to say the least, and when I face-timed them I couldn’t help but think, “Why the heck did I study abroad?” 

The idea of studying abroad can be scary. You are making a commitment to leave our safe, gorgeous campus, all of your friends and the country and social norms you have lived with the majority of your life. Add in the fact that life at Villanova won’t stop to wait for you while you’re gone, and the idea is terrifying. What if your friends move on without you? What if you miss something, like Villanova winning March Madness?

 So why do people do it? Why leave our campus for a portion of the short time we have at Villanova? Why risk missing out?

The answer is simple—because while I was face-timing my friends as they were in New York, I was sitting on rocks overlooking the water in Galloway, Ireland a few days before Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s an experience I still can’t believe is real life.

I’ve spent the past two months studying in Italy, an experience I was nervous about because I didn’t want to leave campus. I didn’t want to leave my friends and miss basketball season. And to be honest, I am missing things at ‘Nova, but I am living a life that is more than I ever imagined possible for a 19-year-old college student to have. 

While studying abroad, there is a chance you could miss things at ‘Nova, but you gain more than you lose by studying abroad. 

Studying abroad gives you experiences that you would never be able to have at any other point in your life. We are college students, which means for the most part our only responsibility is to do well in school. We don’t have to worry about taxes and jobs and vacation days. This is the last time in our lives we are free of these responsibilities. With this freedom, we have the opportunity to travel. And in Europe or Asia or South America that’s easy to do. Airlines like Ryanair have flights that can cost around 20 euros (that’s the same as two late night meals at Campus Corner). That means instead of two nights of a full stomach, we have access to anywhere in the world. 

Studying in a different country and traveling exposes you to people that you would have never met otherwise. You get to learn about their cultures and beliefs. Hear different accents and new sayings. You gain lifelong friends just by being interested in what people have to say and how people live. Plus, you can meet people everywhere: from coffee shops to the street while asking for directions. You never know when striking up a conversation about where someone is from can be the start to a beautiful friendship. 

Hostels are great places to meet new people. In hostels you are forced to interact and live with complete strangers, something I found maniacal at first. However, after experiencing living in hostels, there are less crazy people traveling than I thought. Of course, always  research into the hostel you are staying in, but most travelers who stay in hostels are young adults who want to experience new places in a social setting. This is a recipe for great conversations and meeting people from all over the world. 

Traveling is not the only benefit of studying abroad. There are benefits of simply living in another country. Through study abroad we are able to experience the world as a citizen of another country. As college students this is a unique opportunity because living in a foreign country is nothing like vacationing in one. We get to be immersed in a culture different from our own. We also get the unique experience of studying in a foreign country with other international students. This is something we can only experience in our college years. This also gives us a more broad and educated perspective on everything. The more we learn from other people the more we grow as human beings. 

So while missing the traditions we hold dear to our hearts at the University can be a pain, the life-changing experiences gained from studying abroad are worth it. After all, there will be other championship basketball games for Villanova.