Why I Decided Not To Study Abroad

There’s no doubt in my mind that study abroad is awesome. You get to live in a foreign country for six months, your coursework is likely to be electives, and you become close with other students from the same program.

San Sebastian, Spain, during a short-term homestay program in high school.

San Sebastian, Spain, during a short-term homestay program in high school.

When I applied to college, it was crucial that my school had a study abroad focus. I already knew that traveling overseas for a semester was a priority for that four years.

And then freshman year rolled around.

I became passionate about blogging, and I considered taking up a second minor in Integrated Marketing Communications.

With a demanding major in the sciences plus an existing Spanish minor, adding a second minor would either A) eliminate my ability to study abroad or B) make the other 7 semesters a nightmare.

I decided study abroad was less important to me than IMC.

And then I decided IMC wasn’t important to me either (too much business, not enough social media/design).

At the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.

At the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain.

But the enthusiasm for studying abroad was gone. 

If I were to go abroad, I’d choose to a Spanish-speaking country. That’s the only way I could see myself justifying a semester elsewhere.

With a language goal, I had to consider the accent I’d be returning with–no Argentinian zh-for-ll or Spanish th-for-ci/ce/z for me, thank you very much. Plus traveling with a group of English-speaking Americans isn’t an ideal immersion experience.

In the end, it wasn’t worth it to give up all of my elective spots and rework my rigid speech pathology schedule to spend a semester enjoying warmer weather and a lower drinking age.

And experiencing a different culture, or something. That’s what you’re doing on study abroad, right? I can’t tell by my friends’ photos on Facebook.


This post is part of my April A to Z Challenge. For more All Things College posts, click here 

28 thoughts on “Why I Decided Not To Study Abroad

  1. “I can’t tell by my friends’ photos on Facebook.” Sometimes you write things that I could have written myself.

    I wanted to study abroad too but lost interest when I learned how immersed I wouldn’t be. I would have been placed in an international type school. That’s not the experience I wanted. Plus, all my friends just partied (I saw through emails, we didn’t have FB). Amsterdam was the place to go back in the day but all they could talk about was the “fun” things.

    I knew then that travel would be a priority in my life. But studying abroad was not going to be the start of my travel story. Good decision too.


    • Exactly! My homestay in Spain during high school was great, but I mostly spent time with the Americans I came with. My host family was surprised when I wanted to stay in and watch Spanish medical dramas with them rather than go clubbing (at age 15, no less). They told me I wasn’t like traditional study abroad students, which I took as a compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was hoping that during my first MA, I would get to study abroad in the US (which was my goal also due to what I researched). My university changed their ties with foreign universities and the choice became uninteresting to me so I gave up on it. I eventually studied abroad though, as I was able to do a second MA in London. Everybody when I came back to France and started my Ph.D. (which I quit after 2 ish years) didn’t understand that I did graduate from that English university and that it wasn’t an exchange. I never understood what was so difficult to understand about it! In the end, I never regretted not studying in the US as an exchange student. I’m sure it would have been interesting, but I am okay with how my studies went (I even made peace with quitting my Ph.D. by now).


  3. It is SO difficult to be a speech path major and work in a semester abroad. I am so glad I did my year abroad in high school. And I’m really glad I did it when there was no Internet, Facebook or email. I had no option but to immerse in the reality of life on the other side of the world. Letters took 10 days by air mail. Phone calls were expensive. During my ten months, I called home five times. Being an exchange student was the BEST experience of my life, but if I had not done it prior to college it would not have happened.


    • Understandable! My college allows speech majors to go abroad but the semester basically absorbs all your free electives. If you have a minor, it’s nearly impossible.


  4. Hahahahahahaa… Yes, the “experiencing different cultures” bit seems a tad underplayed :D Still, it’s up to the traveler to find the location and plan the trip–and make the decisions of who to spend time with. Several friends of mine from the US spent time in Mexico with us, taking Spanish lessons at full-immersion schools (they’re all over the continent) during the morning, and spending the rest of the day living the life us Mexicans lived. They hung out with me and my friends, they were part of family events and outings… And by the end of their stay (weeks or months) they did feel they’d assimilated enough to gain perspective on how Mexicans lived. I hope you get the chance to do that someday, Sabina. Nothing like living abroad to widen horizons ;)


  5. My daughter’s school, Boston University, runs their own study abroad program for one of her majors, Arabic. She took her regular language classes while in Morocco and lived with a local family so she really was immersed in language and culture. She’s going on another program this summer to Oman. I think you’ve looked at it in a very wise manner. It’s not worth it if it puts you behind or limits other parts of your education rather than enhances it.


  6. Part of me kind of always wished I’d studied abroad for longer–I went to Ireland for three weeks during May term at the end of my sophomore year. It was a great experience, but I could have stayed for way longer. At the same time, I’ve had plenty of enriching experiences on my home campus and I’ve grown a lot. And you’re right–from Facebook, it seems like study abroad students are more interested in the drinking culture than anything else. Also, you saved yourself a lot of money…studying abroad isn’t cheap! :)


  7. I studied abroad while in law school. It was a program through Tulane University and we had our semesters on different Greek islands. It was amazing and the best and worst time of my life. Toward the end I had to have emergency surgery when an ovarian cyst ruptured and I was bleeding internally. Nothing is quite as scary as being young and sick in a primitive hospital on an island that doesn’t even have cars. Oh, and I didn’t speak Greek and neither did my husband (not my husband yet, at the time). But, I survived. Other than that it was an opportunity of a lifetime. One of our courses was taught by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia, on a boat. Our ice chests were filled with beer each day, but we did learn. I am still friends with many of the people I met and that was so long ago.

    Melissa Sugar
    Twitter: @msugar13


  8. I did a month in Guatemala in high school and it was amazing. I did want to do study abroad in college too, but as you say… The rest of college would’ve been a nightmare trying to catch up. Plus I assume it was cheaper than personally spending money to live abroad for three months, but it was still too expensive for me.


  9. I think that is the only regret I have about college…that I did not take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad. However, for me it would have been in Salamanca and my class would have been there when Franco died. It was a bad time to go to Spain with the repressive government. On the other hand, my classmates that did go had a great time because Spain basically shut down when Franco died so they were able to travel outside of Spain for over a month before things settled and school classes were resumed. I think that if I were to study abroad today, it would have to be something pretty close to a full immersion program.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I studied at Exeter here in England, it’s one of the top universities and every year I was there, we had at least two Americans on international study for a semester. One guy even transferred his master’s across the Atlantic because he was told his application to do a PhD on his return to the US would be enhanced for it.

    I’m sure you made the right decision for you :)


  11. I’m not sure if SWAP is still an ongoing program at canadian universities. It ran during the summer months and I went to the UK. Other countries were available but you had to be fluent in the native languages and I was not. It was extremely well run with lots of support and events for the students at the local universities. It was a wonderful experience. You have made the best decision for yourself and have plenty of time to travel when your studies are done. Good luck!


  12. I majored in Japanese, and never going to Japan but graduating felt really strange to me. I applied for a study abroad… one of two people in my entire school bound for Kyoto, and passed up the dorms (had a gf coming with me, and well, immersion!) so yeah, I can understand your feelings on it all. But you can see where it went for me.

    In any case, you can travel later in life, anywhere you want to go… and you won’t have to be worrying about homework and GPAs when you do. :)


    • When I studied in Spain I had a bit of culture shock for about a week, and then I got used to the weird things. It didn’t disturb my studies, but I also wasn’t doing a rigorous or graded course.


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