Creating Your Own Study Abroad Experience

November 9, 2011

This weekend I’m speaking at the New England Study Abroad ReEntry Conference, offering tips for avoiding the mistakes I’ve made words of wisdom to a group of students who just returned from studying abroad. I’m planning to talk about how travel gives us perspective, and how each one of us can harness that perspective to lead a better life going forward.

Mopti, Mali

This topic is close to my heart because I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not studied abroad in Cameroon during college. Those four months in central Africa in 2002 changed my life, setting me on my own unique path. Among other things, I learned that pushing myself outside my comfort zone is one of the best ways to find fulfillment.

But not all of us have the good fortune of studying abroad while at university. And I’ve heard several people lament recently that not studying abroad is one of their biggest regrets.

Here’s the good news if you didn’t study abroad: You still have the chance to create that life-changing experience for yourself.

Just because you didn’t visit another country while you were in college doesn’t mean you can’t do it now. Actually, that’s all the more reason to make it happen. Whether you go with a program or travel independently like I do, your opportunity to see the world hasn’t passed. It’s right in front of your nose.

Of course, it will take a bit more work now to make it happen; no one’s going to work out all the details for you like they might if you were a university student. But your study abroad experience is still oh-so-available to you.

I’m starting to scheme on my next big trip, which looks like it might be to East or southern Africa, possibly in March. It’s been a long while since I went somewhere new, and this will be my first opportunity to see just how remote my business can really be. Plus, a reader recently commented that she misses my travel-related posts, and I prefer to write about travel when I’m actually doing it.

That’s all the more reason to get out there, right?

Did you study abroad? Or maybe you wish you did?

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    11 Replies to “Creating Your Own Study Abroad Experience”

    • SoVeryVienna says:

      Awesome encouragement, Lexi. Dust off that passport of yours and go!

    • I studied abroad in Oxford as a college student – and ended up going back there for my master’s degree. That time in the UK has shaped my life in so many ways – I’ll always be so glad I went. Both times.

      I’ve been itching to go somewhere new too – it’s been a while since I took a big adventure. Scheming for next summer…

    • I studied abroad in London and it changed my life too. I fell in love with the city, and then fell in love with a man that I met there. That has led directly to me living in Hong Kong and writing my first book. Even though I’m now a teacher, I feel like I’m studying abroad all over again.

      Best of luck as you plan your next trip!

    • Caszie says:

      I lived and studied in Prague a couple years back. And before that I did an Art History semester traveling through Europe. There’s nothing like it. It’s incredibly tiring – mentally and physically – but worthwhile nonetheless.

    • Vishnu says:

      hi Alexis – i didn’t study abroad but got haircuts across the border (Tijuana) while studying in Southern California. does that count? even the couple hours abroad was life-changing – and i’m not talking about the haircut! I was able to turn a mundane twice a year event (now I am talking haircuts) into a cross-cultural experience.

    • I was an exchange student to the Philippines in high school (one year abroad). Funny you should blog about this today, Lexi-I blogged about my experience on Tuesday.

      Yay…more travel on the horizon.

    • alisha says:

      That’s such a great photo! I’m also so thankful for my chance to study abroad for a year in Florence, Italy. We had 3-day weekends and were able to travel to a new city each week, which was fantastic. While living in Italy I visited London for the first time, was smitten, and eventually ended up there.

      I haven’t heard of many study abroad opportunities in Africa, so that’s great you could make that happen.

    • Alexis Grant says:

      Wow, so many great stories/examples here! Thanks for chiming in, y’all.

    • I studied abroad for 6 months in the Netherlands as an undergrad and it changed my life. I worked for the study abroad office at UC Santa Cruz when I returned, went on to live in Prague and Australia…and now 8 years after college graduation (shhhh! I feel old) I still work in the field of international education, at an English language school in San Francisco. Oh, and the amazing girls I met in the Netherlands? We’re still best friends. Now we have jobs, fiancés and bills to pay, but we’re still the same girls who trekked crates of Heineken across cobblestone streets to our decrepit student dorm, a 400 year old former hospital

    • Shannon says:

      That’s a lot of great info! I never got to study abroad, but my cousin recently. She loved it and just wrote about her experience on my blog. How you’ve continued to speak about your experience to help others will probably be really inspiring to her. I’ll pass this article along, thanks!

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