From the 26th of August 2017 to the 22nd of December 2017, I was studying abroad in Zürich, Switzerland. A bit of background to my decision of wanting to study in Zürich is that I speak German. I was born in Germany and lived there for the first 6 years of my life and I always thought the main language in Zürich was German. At that point, I didn’t know that Swiss-German was also a thing which I found out the hard way (it was all good in the end though!). But this was the reason I put Zürich, Switzerland first on my list, followed by Denmark which was and still is a country that has my heart.
I know that applications to study abroad opened in January, so I wanted to share my reasons for why you can and should study abroad.
Fluency in the language
First of all, you don’t have to be fluent in the language of the country you’re going to. Although I wasn’t as worried about going because I had the German language in the bag, the university gave me the option to have my classes taught in English as well. The same goes for any country you travel to. Since the university has a partnership with all the universities it allows you to go to in the world, this means that they’ve made special arrangements to make studying abroad easier. So the option to have classes taught in English or to have someone there to translate should be a given. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra help. Yes, study abroad is a great opportunity to learn about a different culture and meet new people along with plenty of other great things, but remember that you’re there to study too (the clue is in the name, haha) and in order to do that, you need to be able to understand what’s going on. I also recommend that you pay attention and pick up a few phrases along the way. I managed to learn a few Swiss German dialects in my 4 months of being there! So I understood some of the dialects and was able to reply in German (or Hochdeutsch ‘high German’ as they call it).
Don’t expect to fit in completely. This seems like a negative point but what I mean is that for me anyway, I noticed that the culture was so different compared to the London culture I was used to. So although the people are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, I still had an underlying feeling of knowing I didn’t really belong. It wasn’t my home. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means you stand out which is something we so easily don’t usually do when we’re in familiar places. Standing out makes you more aware of who you are as a person. It gives you the opportunity to 100% be you without caring because, hey! you probably won’t see any of the random people on the streets ever again anyway. There’s nothing to lose!
First of all, you don’t have to pay extra money to the host uni you’d be going to. It would be just like studying at the uni where you currently are, just in a different country. But of course, along with studying abroad comes extra expenses such as flight tickets and any other adventures you want to go on while in another country. I think I was the only one on the planet who didn’t know that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world! I got there and quickly started to realise that I’d have to be very careful with my money. I managed to go on so many adventures and actually survive living there and if I can do it, so can you. Trust me. It’s all about budgeting! But if this still doesn’t convince you, rest with the knowledge that there’s a programme that offers you money for studying abroad. Most uni’s are part of The Erasmus Programme which is a programme where you basically receive a grant to help you survive in the country where you’re studying. Funny enough, Switzerland isn’t actually part of the Erasmus Programme but they have their own programme that gives you a grant which you also don’t have to pay back. So for any of you worrying about how Brexit might come into it, I’m not 100% sure but just know that there are countries out there that have their own programmes rather than being part of the Erasmus Programme which is provided by the EU commission. Now if all of the above still doesn’t convince you, there are plenty of grants and bursaries you can apply for too.
Travelling on your own
It’s an experience everyone should have. The way I saw it was that “I’ll have to travel on my own at some point, I might as well do it now”. You’re never going to always travel with people. Especially as you get older you’ll start to do more things on your own. Studying abroad is a brilliant opportunity to see how you do. It’s like a practice run. Just like learning a language, it’s good to do it while you’re young as you’ll probably learn much faster and be much more ready for later life when you actually have to travel alone. It’s also such an amazing feeling doing all the things you want to do without worrying about making sure you’re doing things that everyone else wants to do.
This was a huge factor in my study abroad. It doesn’t matter if the experience will be positive or negative, you will grow. Studying abroad in another country by yourself will really teach you so much about yourself. When I first arrived in Switzerland, I had to live on my own for a bit because my flatmates hadn’t arrived yet and this honestly taught me so much about myself. I quickly learned that I enjoy my own company but only to some extent. I also enjoy being around people so I don’t know if I would ever really enjoy living on my own. You’ll become so much more independent and confident in who you are and it will show.
Find New Interests
As you’ll be exposed to a new culture, you may start to find out about things you may never have discovered. Think of studying abroad like a clean slate. Go and try out things you wouldn’t normally do, and do things you’ve done before and see how it differs in another country. The point is to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take advantage of all the spare time you suddenly have. It’s experiences like this that will really shape you into the person you’re supposed to become.
If you’re considering studying abroad this next thing is probably very familiar to you. I won’t be the first person who’s brought up the “it will look good on your CV” phrase. But I’m here to say that it is so true. When applying for a job nowadays you’ll be competing with people who have also gone to uni so what will make you stand out? Having studied abroad is an amazing conversation starter and makes you look like you’ve gone the extra mile. Probably because you have. And not just one, but hundreds or even thousands. Not too long after my study abroad, I got the amazing opportunity to feature in an art exhibition curated by an established artist in Zürich. An opportunity I 100% would not have had if I hadn’t studied abroad. You might even decide to work in the country where you studied. Having studied there, even if it was only for a term, would look great on your application. It shows a genuine interest in the country where you want to work. There are so many skills that you have to have in order to survive studying abroad. These skills include good communication skills, problem-solving skills and even self-confidence. If you’ve studied abroad then trust me, it’ll be obvious that you’ve got these skills.
Take in a New Culture
Academic education is important, but nothing beats being a well-traveled person. It is when you go to other countries and experience different cultures first hand that you truly become educated. You’ll see new outlooks on life without just watching it through a screen. When you go to another country you not only experience something new, it becomes more real. It broadens your horizons, from finding a new love for a particular type of food to the way people dress. And you’re not just limited to this one country. You can also decide to visit neighbouring countries as well to make the most of it. You’ll return home with a new perspective on life!
I highly recommend studying abroad. It’s really opened my eyes to the world around me and the same would happen to you too! You’ll also make life-long friends! I honestly met some amazing people while being abroad. So why not just step out of your comfort zone and just do it?