From finally being able to speak Spanish without sounding like you have a speech impediment to getting that dream job at the United Nations, study abroad opens the doors to invaluable opportunities.
1. Make Friends For Life
The experience of going through culture shock, learning a new language and having new/exciting/dangerous/crazy adventures every day would make any group of friends compadres for life. Couple this with the fact that you will have class with them every day, that they are your main support group and finally, that you will do some epic sh*t with them, which your friends back home can only imagine.
Some things I've personally experienced only with a select group of people include getting held hostage in a bar in Bangkok, trekking the four-day Inca trail to Machu Picchu while doing some unspeakable things along the way, and raging at Carnival in Brazil.
2. Learn Another Language
Some are skeptical about the benefits of learning another language. But don't EVER underestimate the Gandalf-esque power of learning another language. Not only can you speak to whomever may speak that language, but it also opens you up to that culture. Imagine you're someone looking to live in the US; you'd never get any of our euphemisms or jokes because you can't speak the language. You'd probably think we're a bunch of fat, loud people.
3. Gain A New Family
It's a given that the friends you make while abroad will be a new family for you. If you, however, have the chance to stay with a host family, it's 100% guaranteed that they will be your family for life. From feeding you delicious food to helping you with culture shock and language, staying with a host family could be considered one of the best parts of study abroad. Their home is also a free place to stay in the country FOREVER!
4. Find Hidden Beauties
Ahhh, the hidden beauties. Whether this means going to a country that has an unexpectedly hot population, or finding a jazz club in Bangkok where you win a bottle of whiskey by free-style rapping with a blues singer, hidden beauties can change your life. Every time you find a hidden treasure abroad, it's like Harry Potter finding the Room of Requirement, aka everything you ever wanted/needed. Which, by the way, did you know the Hogwarts Express is in Scotland? Hidden beauty!
5. Freaking Awesome Food
Oh, so you enjoy your burritos and wings in America? Why not study in Spain where three out of the top eight restaurants in the world are located? Or how about Thailand where every single delicious dish is a dollar and 100 times better than that crap you get at the Japanese/Chinese/Thai fusion restaurant in Bumblef*ck, California?
6. Learn And Teach New Skills
When you're abroad, you have the chance to learn and teach new things. One of my favorite memories was teaching Brazilians how to play Ultimate Frisbee, celebrating by teaching them beer pong and then them teaching me how to make a delicious caipirinha - the national drink of Brazil. (Yes, they have a national drink and it's the best thing to ever happen to me.)
7. You Do You! Get Fit Or Fat!
One of the main complaints from former study abroad students is that they gained a little chub whilst abroad. Others have said they lost weight while abroad from walking everywhere and generally taking part in more activities. But you know what? YOU DO YOU! I personally didn't care when I lived abroad. I ate whatever I wanted, had the most fun of my life and ended up not gaining or losing anything.
8. Break Out Of Your Shell
When you learn a new language and live in a new place, you find that you have a different personality. Whether it was hidden or you created it while abroad, this is the new, wonderful you! This is actually the cause of all the reverse culture shock that happens when you come back from study abroad. You have become accustomed to a whole new culture and now you have to combine that with your old, American self. This is called third culture formation and will help determine the rest of your life in relation to jobs, relationships, etc.
9. Experience A New Way Of Thinking
By living in another country for an extended period of time, you get to see how the people think. For example, in Latin America, time is viewed as a sequence of events instead of blocks of time. So when you finish one thing, at whatever time that is, you go to the next one instead of living life as a series of stressful hours. It's enlightening and might extend your life.
10. Get Rid Of Your American Anxiety
Throw away your to-do list. Live life as it was meant to be lived, full of enjoyment with a new adventure every day. Learn a new language; discover a new personality within yourself. Then, when you come back from study abroad, you can take this newfound perspective and expand upon it in every facet of your life. Study abroad and change your life.