Are you thinking of studying abroad but you’re not entirely sure yet?
Then you might find the answer here.
In the summer of 2019, I left Belgium to go studying across the ocean, in Kingston, Canada. This was honestly the best experience of my life but although I can talk hours about the positive sides of my adventure, there are also certain disadvantages or, as I like to call them, challenges!
In this post, I’ll give you an overview of the pros and cons of studying abroad from my own experience. This includes the sunny days as well as the rainy days because let’s be real, studying abroad isn’t rosy all the time.
I hope that after reading all the advantages and disadvantages you might have a better idea of whether studying abroad is something for you or not.
My overall advice? Just do it! It’s AMAZING!
Pros of studying abroad
Getting out of your comfort zone
If there’s one thing you need to do when studying abroad, it’s getting out of your comfort zone. For me, just travelling across the ocean all by myself was a challenge on its own, but then the adventure still has to start!
Suddenly, you’re doing everything on your own (although you still have your support back home) and you’re coming into the most unexpected situations.
By getting pulled out of your comfort zone you learn a lot about yourself and what you want to do in life.
Learning how to live independently
Before studying abroad, I had never been longer than 3 weeks away from home so I had no clue how a washing machine even worked. But that’s something you learn along the way ;).
Besides the obvious stuff, there’s also a lot of preparation that goes into moving abroad. I learned how to open a bank account, what a rental agreement looks like, how to cook and basically a lot of adult stuff. This definitely made me much more independent and confident that I can handle those things in the future!
I consider this as a huge pro for later, so if you decide to study abroad, you’re going to come back much more independent!
Making new friends
This is an obvious advantage of studying abroad. Since you’re probably going to depart alone, you’ll have to make new friends, and you will make them fast!
There are lots of opportunities to meet new people abroad. Many universities organize special activities for international students which give you plenty of occasions to make new friends!
Moreover, you’ll meet people from all over the world! Some of my best friends I met in Canada were from Sweden and I couldn’t resist travelling to Sweden to visit them afterwards of course!
At the end of your period studying abroad, you’ll leave with a bunch of international friends and a broad network for the future!
Seeing the world and making unforgettable memories
The best part of studying abroad is definitely seeing the world! Because you’re in a new place there’s plenty to discover. Not only in the country you’re travelling to but also in its neighbourhood.
Besides many places in Canada, I’ve also visited the USA and I know many international students who went to Cuba on holiday as well! Where you’ll find the time? Sometimes it’s a bit of a puzzle, but every weekend is a new opportunity to see something new!
Besides seeing new places you’ll also make unforgettable memories. For example, I stayed a few nights in a Buddhist Temple in Toronto and experienced my first snowfall in October!
So prepare yourself for a lot of amazing trips!
Learning about a new language and culture
One of the best things and, at least for me, a major reason to go studying abroad was to learn about a new culture and language. English isn’t my mother tongue, but you learn fast when you suddenly need to write essays in a new language!
The culture will also be very different, from food to little habits, it’s something you notice immediately. From my experience, one of the most impactful moments was learning about Canadian history and the First Nations.
You’ll also notice that university life will be very different. There are huge differences in teaching styles around the world and life perspectives in general. Taking a look at certain things from another point of view really is an eye-opener!
After your study abroad, you’ll be able to much better understand and see the perspectives of other cultures.
Employers like it
If you’re an ambitious person, one of the best pros for you might be putting your study abroad on your resume because employers LOVE it!
Such an experience shows that you have guts, know about cultural differences and are an open and social person. Employers love people who are not afraid to take initiative and step outside their comfort zone. So putting this on your resume might be a huge advantage compared to others who stayed home.
Starting your life with a blank page
Moving abroad gives you the opportunity to start over and develop your own routines and habits. Suddenly, YOU are the only one deciding what to do with your days and it gives a special feeling of freedom.
You’re starting with a blank page, making new friends, trying new hobbies… basically the perfect time to try something you always wanted to do but never did at home. For example, I found a sudden love for Zumba and yoga, which was offered by the university. This gave me the opportunity to discover new hobbies.
So are you sick of your boring life right now? Do you secretly want to dump your friends and move to a new environment or do you just want to try a bunch of new exciting stuff? Then go studying abroad!
Cons of studying abroad
Besides the pros I just mentioned there are also several cons of studying abroad. After all, studying abroad or preparing to study abroad is not all puppies and sunshine.
However, don’t get scared by this list, I’d rather consider them challenges that can be overcome!
Yes, it costs a lot to buy that plane ticket, find a place to rent and if you’re unlucky the currency rate is not in your favour. Then you also have the tuition fee!
If you’re doing an exchange for a short period you usually just pay your normal tuition fee. However, if you’re doing this on your own initiative, tuition fees might be a lot of money!
Plus, you’re probably not going to be able to work abroad. To find a student job you’ll need a work permit which you’ll have to apply for with your visa. Depending on your visa you might not be able to get this.
You’ll be missing out on events at home
During the time you’ll be studying abroad there are probably going to happen a lot of things back at home. Maybe you’ll miss the birthday party of your best friend or other huge events back home.
There’s no way to avoid that but remember that you’re also making unforgettable memories that those back home don’t experience!
Culture shock is real
You’ll probably have heard others talking about culture shock before. In short, it means that all the differences abroad might make you feel uncomfortable and homesick. There will be certain things (often small things) about your new country you don’t like and that’s totally fine.
I can personally say that culture shock exists and you’ll probably going to experience it. In Belgium, we eat a lot of bread and chocolate and it was a huge frustration for me when I couldn’t find any freshly baked bread in Canada! (Luckily, there was chocolate, but much more expensive!)
Fortunately, there are several ways to overcome this. For example, by keeping contact with friends and family back home, putting yourself out there, making new friends and searching for new hobbies. The new international friends you make will experience the exact same thing so you’re never alone!
Also, remember that this feeling is just temporary. In the long term, you’ll adapt and gradually find your way in the new environment.
The opposite also exists and is called reverse culture shock. You might feel unhappy when coming back home after your adventure and miss your life abroad. This is totally normal as well and you’ll also gradually adapt to the old situation.
Language and cultural barriers can be frustrating
Closely related to culture shock, there’s another disadvantage of studying abroad, namely language and cultural barriers. Not speaking the language of the country you’re travelling to might cause some frustrations as you’re trying to find your way, walking around the supermarket or talking to locals.
This might cause a certain cultural barrier you’ll have to break through, but again, you’re not alone! There are plenty of other international students with the same problem!
It’s important to talk about and don’t get discouraged! You might want to consider taking language classes before you leave or at your host university. With prior knowledge, you’ll be able to prepare for this!
You might feel lonely
There’s nothing weird or bad about this. You will feel lonely at some point and it’s completely normal because in essence you’re travelling and living in a new country all by yourself.
And how wonderful it might be to make new friends, you’ll also miss your friends and family at home and at those moments you’ll likely feel a little bit lonely.
But there’s nothing better to overcome this loneliness than exploring the new country and hanging out with your new friends, because, for the third time, you’re not alone in this!
There’s also a HUGE difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Studying abroad was my first experience with travelling solo and I can tell you that it’s not because you travel alone, you feel lonely. Being all by yourself can be very enriching and it’s something you need to practise and get used to!
Believe me, the scariest part of the journey was not getting on that plane alone or arriving at a university where I didn’t know anyone, but preparing for the journey!
It’s definitely going to be a hassle at some point. You need to take care of a lot of stuff such as getting your official documents, coordinating between universities/schools and finding a place to live. The last one in particular has been very difficult for me.
When finding a place to live you basically need to rent a place before seeing it first and you need to trust that the landlord won’t scam you! That’s exactly what happened to me and how I lost 600 Canadian Dollars even before I arrived in Canada. The first place I was going to rent turned out to be a scam and I had to find something else very last minute. Lucky for me, that turned out well (except for losing the money).
Of course, specific struggles will all depend on your destination but you always need to be very careful when preparing for your journey! Make sure to ask other students who’ve already been to your destination what to expect and how to prepare the best!
These were all the pros and cons of studying abroad I experienced on my adventure and you’ll most likely going to experience as well! In case you forgot or want to compare, here you’ll find all the pros and cons in a row!
|Pros of studying abroad||Cons of studying abroad|
|Getting out of your comfort zone||It’s expensive|
|Learning how to live independently||You’ll be missing out on events back home|
|Making new friends||Culture shock is real|
|Seeing the world and making unforgettable memories||Language and cultural barriers might be frustrating|
|Learning about a new language and culture||You might feel lonely|
|Employers like it||Preparation stress|
|Starting your life with a blank page|
Although I ended with all the disadvantages, I hope you don’t forget all the positive sides there are to studying abroad! With decent planning and a lot of research, you’ll be able to overcome all these challenges and make your study abroad the best time of your life!
I really hope these pros and cons of studying abroad gave you a realistic overview of what to expect. All experiences are unique and so will be yours. So get up and book that plane ticket!
Do you have any questions? Don’t hesitate to put a comment below!
Dying to read more about travelling abroad? Take a look at all the other Travel Tips on Emma’s Roadmap!