Last year I took the third year of my Computer Science degree at Tec de Monterrey University in Mexico City, thanks to the University of Nottingham study abroad programme. I spent two semesters studying, making friends, eating new food, and seeing new places. Now I am back in Nottingham for my final year, I want to share my reflections on why you should take the opportunity to study abroad!
You’ll make lifelong friends — as well as meeting lots of people from Mexico I got to meet lots of international students from all over the world. This was one of the best aspects of study abroad and it has given me a global network of friends to keep in touch with and hopefully visit one day!
Save money — you will be able to take advantage of a reduced UK tuition fee and, in some places such as Mexico, cheaper living costs. Even if you are heading somewhere more costly (the USA or Australia for example) there is still lots of support in terms of scholarships and bursaries. I was lucky to receive a scholarship the Santander Latin America scholarship which helped me pay for my flights.
Take a break — studying abroad gave me a breather from my life in the UK and let me take a step back. Being a long way away from home was hard, but it definitely made me appreciate my family and friends even more.
See the world — you can take advantage of free time to explore — you might go hiking volcanoes, surfing in the sun or exploring urban jungles. As well as seeing lots of places within Mexico, I visited Peru and Bolivia which was a lot more convenient than if I had been going from the UK.
Enjoy some new food — one of my favourite memories was the delicious array of food Mexico has to offer. From tacos, quesadillas, tamales on the street or just buying fresh mangos, coconuts, avocados it was a culinary eye opener.
Build independence — when I arrived I felt proud of myself for just figuring out how to take the bus. Challenges like this cropped up throughout the year — I dealt with them and as a result I am a better problem solver than I was before.
Career opportunities — you will be able to try out living abroad which demonstrates a huge range of skills to employers. During your time abroad, you can network and talk to local employers and build links in your city that could even lead to a job after you graduate!
Build language skills — if you go to a country where English isn’t the first language you can build your language skills — and you still have the choice to take classes in English so you don’t have to worry about your grades. Although I had done A-Level Spanish, I benefitted greatly from immersing myself and bringing my ability level up to full fluency. It takes effort but it is much more fun to learn by experiencing real life in a different tongue!
Gain a global mindset — the world will seem a smaller place once you take on a study abroad programme. As a result of experiencing a different culture and meeting people from a variety of backgrounds you will gain a more balanced, informed world view.
Challenge yourself — ultimately studying abroad did present me with many challenges and opportunities (such as mountain hiking!) along the way. Overcoming small daily challenges and the larger challenges of living in a different environment will make you more self-reliant, confident and independent person upon your return.
Ultimately, taking the leap and studying abroad is a life changing experience and one I certainly don’t regret.