OPINION: Studying abroad is an adventure every student should choose

A view from one of the lookouts at the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica. (Monica Diaz | Collegian Media Group)

For some college students, studying abroad isn’t even a question. Some students are fully prepared to go abroad and seek out a new adventure — but this isn’t the case for everyone.

Although there is nothing wrong with staying in the states for your college career, you are missing out on what the world has to offer. It is crucial to your education and development as a person to seek out more of the world.

I was once told that not all classrooms have four walls, and this statement has resonated with me since. Here are three reasons why studying abroad is pivotal for any college student.

1. Submerging yourself in other cultures helps you become more open-minded

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A sign welcomes travelers in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica. (Monica Diaz | Collegian Media Group)

In the states, we are used to routine and familiarity. We are surrounded by a familiar language with familiar comfort foods and a familiar lifestyle. Studying abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone and breaks down those barriers of familiarity and routine.

For some study abroad sessions, the first barrier to overcome is the language barrier. I studied abroad in Costa Rica and went from being surrounded by English to being submerged in Spanish. I was prepared and understood the language, but for many, this isn’t the case. Being immersed in another language can provide you with a valuable life skill even after you leave.

Not only is the language barrier a new adjustment, but the food and way of life is also different. In the states, you can grab a burger and fries within two minutes, but in other countries, you can’t go to a restaurant expecting fast food because you they will take their time to make your meal.

Trying the local cuisine is an important part of experiencing another culture. Even the food you are used to from back home will be different, and that is something to celebrate.

Personal values will also differ in other countries. In my experience, Costa Rica was laid back and ran on “tico time,” which meant being late to an event was practically expected. Going to a family gathering meant dressing up, meeting all your host family’s relatives and speaking to everyone in their native language.

The way of life in other countries is so different from what we are used to, but it’s fascinating. The differences between cultures are something you will truly cherish when you study abroad, and you are guaranteed to become more open-minded.

2. Studying abroad allows you to discover yourself and build independence

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International students walk across the beach in Jacó, Costa Rica. (Monica Diaz | Collegian Media Group)

It’s common knowledge that studying at a university helps you discover yourself and build independence, but studying abroad will help you evolve more than anything else.

When abroad, you will be introduced to a new culture and begin to see what the world truly has to offer. You may discover that you love to listen to salsa, dance to reggaeton or even explore a new beach with 50 other students who are also studying abroad. You never know what you will discover about yourself until you are introduced to this new experience.

In addition to discovering yourself, you will build more independence through studying abroad. Being in another country without your family, friends and cultural norms — not to mention spotty Wi-Fi — will force you to become fully self-reliant.

I was surrounded by a different language, a welcoming host family and new lifestyle in Costa Rica, but that allowed me to depend on myself more than ever before. Simple tasks such as asking for directions in another language, navigating your way through the airport and using public transportation allow you to build confidence and independence.

3. Visiting other countries creates appreciation for the opportunities and privileges in your home country

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International students go rafting on the Pacuare River in Costa Rica. (Monica Diaz | Collegian Media Group)

“You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone” is extremely applicable while studying abroad. The little things like proper plumbing, paved sidewalks, reliable internet and air conditioning are often overlooked, and we don’t realize how fortunate we are to have them until they disappear.

Studying abroad made me realize how many opportunities we have in the states that we often don’t appreciate. Owning a car, going to school and working for a $7.25 minimum wage are things we almost expect to have, but in other countries, these “necessities” are actually privileges that many never obtain.

As college students, the biggest privilege we have is being able to attend the university of our choice. Schooling is often viewed as a burden, but studying abroad made me see that others view it as a blessing and a privilege. It’s all about perspective.

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A view of the ocean from the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica. (Monica Diaz | Collegian Media Group)

Whether you study abroad for two weeks, during the summer, a whole semester or a full year, I encourage everyone to study abroad. The financial burden and fear of the unknown is overwhelming, but that will not compare to what you will gain from seeing a new side of the world.

Whether this is your first year or your last year in college, take the risk. Choose a new culture, a new language and a new lifestyle. If the opportunity presents itself for a new adventure abroad, choose the adventure.

Monica Diaz is the social media editor for the Collegian and a junior in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

I'm Monica Diaz and I graduated in May 2020 with a degree in broadcast journalism and Spanish. I severed in several roles while working for the Collegian, but most of my work focused on rebuilding the Collegian digital brand with an increased social media presence. I also worked on KKSU-TV and appeared as an anchor on MHK All Day in my last semester on campus. In my spare time, I enjoy a good cup of coffee and spending time with family. I have a passion for journalism because I believe that everyone deserves to have their voice heard.