But actually?

Study abroad is— well, it is— you can pretty easily define it as…

Who knew it was so hard to find the perfect study abroad definition? How do you communicate what does it mean to study abroad? It’s everything! The importance and impact of study abroad is nearly impossible to wrap up in a neat and tidy soundbite, but we sure tried.

GoAbroad asked pro-travelers the seemingly obvious, but actually puzzling question, “What is study abroad?” Find the transcript below!

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Video Transcript

What is study abroad?

Hello travelers! My name is Rebecca Murphy. I’m Niki Kraska. Hi, my name is Dominic Fusco. Hello, my name is Mary Ellen Dingley. I’m Jennifer Bangoura. I’m Kerianne Baylor, and I’ve been a meaningful traveler since…forever.

So tell us… Where did you study abroad? 

[Kerianne] studied abroad in Madrid, Spain for a year. [Dominic] studied abroad in 2012 in Delhi, India. [Rebecca] studied abroad for one semester in Austria and then I studied abroad for another semester in Argentina. [Mary Ellen] studied abroad in Peru in 2011. [Jennifer] on a high school study abroad trip to Paris, France. [Niki] studied abroad in South Africa and that’s where I say I found true happiness.

How would you define study abroad? 

Well, studying abroad, you can define it simply as going to another country and learning—taking classes there and pursuing whatever you’re interested in academically.

No, but really… 

Studying abroad means going to a different country with the genuine intention of doing more than just seeing the sights and checking places off your bucket list. It’s a great way to learn in an immersive environment. Studying abroad is so much more than what you learn in a classroom. Study abroad really gives you the opportunity to take classes in a new context. We met once a week and the class was more or less like a walking tour around the city. Our textbook was the history of Madrid and how it grew. Go somewhere that is completely new to you, that you’re not comfortable at all in, and that is how you will learn and grow. As an experiential learner, really benefitted from not just reading about something in a textbook, but living it.

What else do you learn outside the classroom? 

Not only are you introducing yourself to the world around you, but you’re introducing yourself to yourself. And, that type of personal growth that you get from studying and living in a foreign country is completely irreplaceable. Studying abroad helps you, like one traveler met told me, come face to face with yourself. Because it forces you to say, “what do I actually believe?” “What do I actually think about the world?” Because you’re suddenly put in a place where that’s not taken for granted. It really pushed to learn. And, not just about my host country, which I did, but also about myself and how I was interacting – and able to interact with – my host family because I understood the news better and could contribute to conversation. So, that’s another essential component of studying abroad.

Pushing yourself to learn and not just being a passive recipient. It helps you be more empathetic to be around people who have very different worldviews and life experiences, but to welcome them as friends and often as lifesavers. Because, when you’re abroad and you don’t know what’s going on, you need all the help you can get. Really, study abroad is about expanding those boundaries we put on ourselves and challenging everything that you’re used to.

Let’s recap! 

Study abroad is… More than just sightseeing. It’s taking big leaps, going with the flow, thinking in new ways, singing new songs, tasting new flavors, adventuring far and wide, overcoming challenges, raising cultural awareness, marching to your own beat, catching the sunset, and discovering yourself. TBH, it’s a can’t miss experience.

Nobody has ever regretted studying abroad or immersing themselves in a new culture. In fact, usually it’s the other way around. Study abroad is an awesome thing that everyone should do. End of story. Go out there and explore. Study abroad, it’s awesome. Happy travels, friends!

Next Steps to Studying Abroad

holding a paper airplane out a window in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Study abroad is taking that next step to become a global citizen.

Now that you know exactly what is study abroad and have started to formulate your own study abroad definition, it’s time to discover its impact for yourself. We know you don’t want extra homework, but this reading list will take you from submitting your application to printing your boarding pass in no time.

The above will put you on the right path toward turning your study abroad reveries into reality.

A Handful of Recommended Study Abroad Programs for 2017-2018

man in beanie with backpack looking out over rolling hills in Slovakia
Study abroad is the worn straps on your backpack and the sun on your face.

Find out for yourself exactly what does it mean to study abroad. Now that you’re thoroughly inspired and have a great study abroad starter kit to make it all happen, here are a few study programs to save, compare, and love!

Summer study abroad programs:

Semester study abroad programs:

Off-the-beaten-path study abroad programs:

High school study abroad programs:

A big THANK YOU to our video contributors for sharing their wonderful words of wisdom — Jennifer Bangoura, Kerianne Baylor, Mary Ellen Dingley, Dominic Fusco, Niki Kraska, and Rebecca Murphy (Learn more about each of them here!).

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