12 Reasons Studying Abroad Will Teach You More Than College Ever Could

by Dan Scotti

It’s hard to fully quantify intelligence.

Sure, the SAT tries each year, administering standardized tests, but it doesn’t necessarily gauge intelligence as much as it does “test-taking” skills.

At the very least, it measures intelligence relative to a given test – but tests are on paper, and there aren’t any tutors for life.

That’s why a lot of written exams don’t hold much universal value when it comes to accurately assessing one’s intelligence. This is poignant when considering that most formal educations are contingent on our mastery of these written exams.

Well, education, in general, is subjective to your path of life – not just academia. While vigorous semesters full of calculus might provide a math major with the most fitting education possible, I doubt they would be requisite for an aspiring actor – or a social scientist, for that matter.

Nevertheless, college tends to pigeonhole students into specific fields of interest before they might have been able to spread their wings, so to speak.

After their freshman years – full of introductory seminars and some of their first, real, 24-carat hangovers – students will be asked to choose a major.

As I’m sure you can gather, this will prove to be extremely troubling for the students attending college without absolute certainty of what they want to do in life.

Especially when they may have not given it much thought, considering the period of adjustment.

The most relevant things I learned in college, with regard to life – and the bigger picture of it – were not reviewed on my “home campus.” They weren’t even taught in a classroom, per se. I’m referring to the semester I spent abroad in Florence, Italy.

It’s fair to say I didn’t boost my GPA while I was there – which is interesting considering that my one of my classes was called Introductory Wine Tasting or something along those lines. It’s also safe to say that I didn’t accomplish any formal tasks while overseas that I would be apt to use on a résumé, either.

did, however, learn a sh*tload more about life – and the world, in general – during four months overseas than I did during four years of school stateside. Whenever speaking to a friend who’s still at school and contemplating a semester abroad, I always suggest doing so by any means necessary.

You'll just learn about life. And yourself. And survival outside of your comfort zone. You'll discover new things that couldn't ever really have been taught, otherwise – at least not by a teacher.

Here's why.

1. You find out just how strong you really are.

Walking for days on end, speaking to people you can barely understand, finding your boarding pass while still drunk from the club – after studying abroad, you’ll realize the true extent of your limits, and also how to push them just a bit more.

2. You can experiment, without fearing the consequence of a failing grade.

You don’t feel the pressure you would have had you been confined to a regular classroom. You can step outside and walk around with no real destination, and that’s fine. I guarantee you’ll catch sights and sounds that you couldn’t ever highlight in any textbook.

3. You discover your true passions.

Your time is your most valuable asset, and the way you choose to spend it will often be a very transparent representation of your interests. If you find yourself spending Saturdays at the museums – you might be an art person. If you’re stuck at the leather market all weekend, you’re probably a shopper.

4. You finally understand humility.

This is the most glaring effect that traveling abroad will have on an “ugly American.” You’ll learn to see past your own nose – and you’ll grow to love doing so.

5. You realize it’s OK to miss your parents.

While you might not miss your parents from an hour or so away at your home campus, there’s just a different feeling when you’re overseas. I missed my parents instantly upon touching down in Italy – and I was the king of the, “Oh, sorry I missed your call, I was studying,” excuse in college.

6. You learn how to thrive alone.

Yeah, being alone really ain’t too bad.

In fact, it’s rather peaceful. Especially when you realize where the f*ck you are for a second. It’s actually pretty surreal. Yep, the kid you once knew – who used to hold mom’s hand in the supermarket – is now on the other side of the world, on his own, doing big sh*t.

7. You learn how to slum it, and slum it happily.

Traveling won’t always consist of Louis V carry-ons and private chauffeurs. In fact, while you’re abroad, it’s going to equate to Ryanair and hostels. You’ll survive, don’t worry – and you’ll stop being such a prima donna, too.

8. You learn how to trust people without being naïve.

You’ll learn to put your faith in other people and humanity as a whole, yet, at the same time, you’ll also learn to always keep your guard up. Trust is good, but trust without discretion is blindness.

9. You experiment with nonverbal forms of communication.

Studying abroad doesn’t mean you’ll be confined to one city. In fact, most students pop around from one city to the next. Your home base might be Madrid, and you might have a nice grip on the Spanish language (thanks to high school), but you’re still gonna be f*cked when you and the crew hit Prague.

Thus, you’ll learn to speak with your hands and find other ways to convey your thoughts. It’s actually fun.

10. You learn to swallow your pride and assimilate.

Nah, the Knicks don’t play in London, but Chelsea does. Introduce yourself to soccer football. No, filtered coffee doesn’t exist in Italy, but espresso does. Introduce yourself to cappuccino. Nope, no Netflix in Barcelona – just go to Park Güell. Thank me later.

11. You’ll dress better.

You’ll be more style-conscious. You’ll learn to appreciate the beauty of fashion, and how things don’t necessarily need to be designer to have the right fit. Overseas, everyone dresses well.

Good luck finding a pair of sweatpants in Paris. And, no, cotton pants tailored at the ankles don’t count.

12. You’ll become less picky at dinner.

You’ll stop saying, “Oh, I don’t eat ____.”  And start saying, “Oh, I haven’t tried ____,” at least not yet.