Year Abroad adventures: close to home or further afield?
Kia Marie Hunt is a student of Hispanic Studies at University of Birmingham, and is spending her third year abroad at Universidad de Montevideo, Uruguay. To keep up with her adventures, check out her blog. In this piece, she discusses the first dilemma most year abroaders are up against: where should I go?
When it comes to choosing the destination for your semester abroad, it can be difficult to decide just how far you want to go.
On the one hand, staying quite close to home has many advantages, such as being near enough for family visits, cheaper flights, and less of a culture shock. On the other hand, although journeying to the other side of the world may be expensive and emotionally challenging, the adventurer within you might just find itself wanting to go ahead and do it anyway.
First, it’s important to know that wherever you go, whether it is the neighbouring country or 10,000 miles away, it’s highly likely that you will have the time of your life. So don’t stress about it too much!
So, if you’re not one of those who are really certain already of how far they want to go, and you are struggling to come to a decision, its probable that deep down, you have a slight preference for somewhere, but your confusion will fall into one of two categories. These categories are comparison, and self-doubt.
For example, you might feel like you would like to stay somewhere closer to home, but you feel uncertain and slightly pressured because of all of the people travelling further afield. This means your decision is being made difficult because you are comparing your destination with someone else’s. Maybe you see photos from people on their semester abroad on the other side of the world, along with their wanderlust quote captions, and it makes you feel annoyed because you don’t really want to travel that far but ‘maybe you should.’ If this is the case, then my advice would be don't choose somewhere far away just to say you did it. Staying closer to home won’t make your semester any less exciting or wonderful, so stop thinking about other people and go with your gut feeling.
However, if you fall into the second category, perhaps when you look at those kind of photos you are envious, and deep down you crave adventure; you just want to pack your bags and go explore somewhere far, far away, but there’s something stopping you. You nearly make the decision to just do it, but you get a bit scared, you start to worry about whether you will cope so far away on your own, for so long. If fears about homesickness, loneliness, learning to live independently, or being in a diverse culture far away from people that speak your language are the things that are stopping you from following your gut feelings, then you are doubting yourself. Yes, it’s true that it will be new and strange and difficult, but you can do it. Spending a semester abroad so far away will allow you to grow, you will find yourself capable of even more than you thought you were. Don’t be afraid to push your own limits; to leave your comfort zone is to expand your comfort zone.
I hope this advice is helpful to you; please leave a comment or send me an email if you want to talk about choosing a year abroad destination, or if you have a tip for how to make the choice easier.