India-Manipal-Manipal Univ


This is the third in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” This post will address the “who” part of the question. This series is written for American students interested in studying abroad, but it provides useful information and thoughts for everyone.

Living in a foreign country is not for everyone, and that’s perfectly ok. The problem is that some students misunderstand what studying abroad is about, and end up in an environment that they didn’t expect and don’t enjoy. So before spending considerable time and money you should take a moment to consider if studying abroad is something that would suit and benefit you.


Studying abroad is an experience that would be extremely valuable for the majority of students, so it’s easier to talk about who should think twice before studying abroad. In my opinion, the most important issue is the popular confusion between living abroad and traveling abroad, because expectations (and ultimately the overall experience) hinges on initial motivations.

One of my pet peeves is being asked how I managed to travel for twelve years. This is the question I sometimes get when I tell people that I lived overseas for twelve years. It’s immediately clear that they see me as a kind of global Christopher McCandless, hitching rides from one place to another with a dusty backpack and not a care in the world. Living abroad is not like that. For whatever reason, American culture confuses being abroad with travel, and travel with vacation. Disappointing experiences abroad often stem from this confusion.

Close your eyes and picture yourself “studying abroad.” Do you see yourself sunbathing on a beach, taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, or partying with exciting foreigners? Then you’ve probably fallen prey to this popular misconception. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about those things and looking forward to them as part of your experience, but if they are your primary motivations then maybe you’re really looking for a vacation. A vacation is about getting away from reality and enjoying creature comforts, living abroad is about embracing an unknown reality and getting outside your comfort zone. If the latter sounds exciting to you (and it’s completely normal if that excitement is mingled with nervousness), then you probably have the right kind of personality for studying abroad.

Getting out of your comfort zone has become something of a cliché, so let’s look a little deeper. Do you enjoy meeting new people, trying unknown food, visiting unfamiliar cities, or starting new activities? These things define life as a foreigner and will be part of your daily experience, at least for the first few months. Everything is new, from figuring out where to do your grocery shopping to creating new social circles. This is intimidating to everyone at first, but if you already dislike change in your home country and a life of constant adjustment and unknowns sounds terrifying then you should seriously examine your motivations for studying abroad. Similar to this is homesickness, which is something everyone deals with to some degree, but if you’ve had recent experiences when being away from home for more than a couple weeks was nearly unbearable, then there’s no reason why being in another country would magically change this and there’s a good chance you’d have a very difficult time getting much enjoyment from living abroad.

To be fair, I have known people who went abroad because they were introverts, homebodies, or generally unadventurous, and they wanted to change those characteristics. In most cases they were quite successful in these goals, so clearly all personality types can benefit. I think the key is entering the experience knowing that it will be hard and wanting to grow and change as a result, so again the key is a willingness to step outside comfort zones and embrace the new and different. You can be even more sure of your readiness if you close your eyes and see yourself practicing a foreign language, experiencing how people live differently from you, and discovering new food, music, art, sports, hobbies, and passions that you never knew existed. These are the defining features of study abroad.


Moving on to more practical concerns, Matthew Karsten sums it up well when explaining why he never studied abroad: “Like many people, I assumed it was expensive, I’d fall behind in credits, would have difficulty with the language, and was nervous of the whole idea.” (http://expertvagabond.com/reasons-to-study-abroad/) He goes on to explain why all of these were misconceptions. If fact, because American tuition is higher than in much of the world, studying abroad can often be managed for the same cost (or even less! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2014/10/29/7-countries-where-americans-can-study-at-universities-in-english-for-free-or-almost-free/ ) as a semester at your home university. Likewise for falling behind academically, there’s no reason why studying abroad should slow you down if you plan carefully. There are study abroad programs designed for practically every major imaginable (and studyabroad101.com is a great place to start with this list of study abroad programs by major: https://www.studyabroad101.com/subjects), and if you go early in your college career you will have considerable flexibility in taking courses for GE credit. Finally, foreign language is definitely a perk of studying abroad but not at all a prerequisite. You could study in one of many English speaking countries like Ireland, New Zealand, or South Africa, or a country where English is commonly spoken like Sweden, Singapore, or Ghana. There are also countless programs taught entirely in English all over the world, so don’t let a lack of foreign language skills slow you down. For better or worse, studying in a foreign country does not mean studying in a foreign language. So, none of these concerns should stop you from at least researching your options further.

However, there are other practical elements that should give you pause. If you do all the math, apply for scholarships, and realize that in the end you’ll go deeper into debt in order to study abroad, then you need to think carefully about what it will bring to you in terms of career opportunities and academic advancement. As valuable as it is I’m not going to tell you that studying abroad is worth any cost at all, especially when there’s the option to wait and plan for a tuition free graduate degree abroad, for example. Health is another factor, although I’ve met people who went abroad despite being blind or in a wheelchair, so there are ways to make it work with proper preparation. But in general living abroad means being ready for the unexpected, so if you have a condition that means an unexpected event could result in a life or death situation, then you need to be sure that the benefit to you is worth the higher level of risk that your situation entails. Being in a serious relationship is also a factor. Long distance relationships are not impossible to maintain, but it definitely adds a strain and requires discipline from you to invest time into the relationship despite being far away. Could the two of you study abroad together? Would you be able to visit each other every few months? In all these cases of financial, medical, or relationship concerns, consider short term study abroad program for two to four weeks. That would mitigate the risk, and if you absolutely love it then you’ll be able to plan for a longer program with the confidence that it’s worth it.

Some readers probably found this article because they’re wondering if they’re old enough to study abroad. I see this more as a question of maturity, since there are some 14-year-olds who are absolutely ready and others of any age who will well suited for the challenge. More and more high school students are studying abroad, whether for a few weeks or a year, but it’s more complex than for college students because it’s definitely not cheaper than studying in a public high school at home, the program needs more oversight and adult supervision, and it can be difficult to make sure that credits abroad fit into the standard high school curriculum. That said, as I will detail in the “When to Study Abroad” article next week, if there’s a will and a way then the sooner the better! As for maturity, it goes back to the first section of this article: If you’re ready to embrace change, accept differences in people without judgement, seek opportunities for personal growth, and the idea of being pushed out of of your comfort zone sounds like an adventure, then you’re probably mature enough!


There’s a final question about who should study abroad in a challenging country. There will be a lot more information about this in the “Where to Study Abroad” article, so don’t miss that. In that article I will explain why I strongly recommend studying in a less mainstream country (i.e. outside Europe). However, this means that everything I’ve said here about evaluating your flexibility and openness to change counts doubly. Living in Paris or Rome is already a challenge, even though the way of life is not dramatically different than in the US. Before considering a less-developed country you need to do some deeper self-examination. How would you respond to suddenly not having electricity for a day? How would you handle standing out as a foreigner everywhere you go? Could you cope with the presence of critters (bugs and small reptiles) in your home? Are you ready to eat something you can’t identify? These are just a few examples, so be sure to read about the experiences of students who lived there in study abroad reviews and blogs, and ask yourself honestly if the challenges they faced would prevent you from enjoying the overall experience. That being said, and as I’ll explain in a future article, greater challenge means greater reward!


Ultimately there is no solid checklist or personality test you that can clearly demonstrate how well suited you are to studying abroad, so I can only stress the importance of internal evaluation. If the idea of being immersed in an entirely different culture fills you with excitement rather than fear, if meeting a new circle of people sound like an adventure rather than hell, and if being pushed out of your comfort zone to do new things sounds like an opportunity for growth rather than senseless torture, then you’re probably the type of person who would thrive abroad. If that’s your case, then no logistical concerns should stop you from at least taking the next step in researching your opportunities. There are programs to advance every major, scholarships abound, and medical obstacles can be overcome. Talk to your academic advisor, do some more research, and pursue the goal!

You should be very cautious, however, if your list of primary motivations for studying abroad make it sound like a long vacation. Likewise, if you find yourself saying things like “I just need to get away,” or “I need a break from my problems here,” then you’ll probably be disappointed to discover the truth of the saying “wherever you go, there you are.” We have a way of taking our problems with us, and a new environment do not magically transform us unless we are first open to changing and growing irrespective of the environment. If your motivations are good, however, I truly believe that nothing will help you grow and learn faster than studying abroad.

Feel free to share this article with someone who’s considering studying abroad, and all comments or questions below will be answered. Next week we’ll discuss “When to Study Abroad,” so don’t miss it! Thanks for reading!

Caleb House –

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and administrator. He holds graduate degrees in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his soulmate in her tiny village in France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted with questions on his Facebook page “How to Go Abroad” or on Twitter @HowToGoAbroad.  


Why Study Abroad, Part II

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This is the second in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” This post will continue the question “Why Study Abroad?” In the previous post you may have noticed that most of the arguments for studying abroad apply to living abroad in any capacity, as a student, teacher, volunteer, or businessman abroad. So this post is targeted at students who find the idea of living abroad appealing, but are considering finishing their education first and finding a way to go abroad after their studies. While that’s a perfectly reasonable option, I think that if you have the opportunity to go abroad as a student then you should seize it. Why? Read on!


Study abroad is to life abroad as university is to “real life.” It’s designed to be a transition that guides and prepares you while maintaining a security net to protect you from the harder falls. In short, it offers nearly all of the benefits of living abroad while excluding the more annoying difficulties. This is because there will be at least two and possibly three entire offices of professionals (your original school, the school abroad, and often a third study abroad “provider” that organizes the exchange) dedicated to making the experience as smooth and rewarding as possible. There is no other opportunity to live abroad that will offer you that kind of support. This means that some of the most frustrating elements of living abroad (finding a place to live, getting through visa bureaucracy, learning how to get around, paying bills correctly, even going to the post office!) will all be made much easier for you, if not taken care of entirely!


In most cases, you’ll have a much better start socially as well. Living in a foreign country can be a very lonely experience even for the most outgoing people. While study abroad programs vary widely according to whether you spend most of your time with locals, other internationals, or students from your own country, in almost all cases you are immediately introduced into a social group that you’ll spend a lot of time with and you’ll have a lot of social opportunities from the beginning. Very few other opportunities abroad offer this kind of “ready to wear” social environment. This is critical, because in my experience living in nine different countries, what makes or breaks the experience is the friends you do or do not make.


Finally, there’s the long-term structural benefit of studying abroad. You won’t need to take “time out” from your long-term goals to experience life abroad, and soaking up a foreign culture and language while taking your necessary classes is like catching two fish with one net! It’s also easier to explain that fact to others, like parents, university admissions departments, and prospective employers. Whether it’s the only time you’ll live in a foreign country or the beginning of an international life, study abroad translates onto résumés and application letter better than any other experience abroad (with the possible exception of something prestigious, like the Peace Corps or Doctors Without Borders). Teaching in Korea, or volunteering in Tanzania, or backpacking across India, as wonderful as the experiences are, need to be explained and carefully translated so that the gate-keepers of your next life-step understand how the experience made you more valuable to them as an employee or student. Depending on the person you’re trying to convince, it’s not always easy. Study abroad, however, is a universally accepted concept that everyone understands (or thinks they do), and it is always seen positively.


Of course, these are the advantages to studying abroad compared to other foreign opportunities, and study abroad comes with all the rewards discussed in earlier posts that apply to living abroad in any capacity. The adventure, increased independence and tolerance, foreign language experience, the revolutionized worldview, the way it enriches your passion for the world and makes you a more interesting person, and the excitement of stepping out of your comfort zone and really “living life,” these are all benefits of living abroad, and no less so for study abroad! So if living abroad is on your bucket list, there’s no time like the present!

Next week I’ll discuss who should study abroad, and how to know if you’re “ready.”  To find a study abroad program that suits you please visit www.studyabroad101.com 


– Caleb House

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and school administrator. He holds an M.A. in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and an M.S. in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his French soulmate in her tiny village in the north of France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted on his facebook community page, “How To Go Abroad,” or on Twitter: @HowToGoAbroad.  


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Part One

This is the first in a series of posts about “who-what-when-where-why-how to study abroad.” Today we’ll start with “why.”

So you’ve heard of this “study abroad” thing and you’re wondering what it’s all about, if it’s for you, and how it works. You’ve come to the right place, although I should warn you that I’m a bit biased in favor of study abroad. I studied in Prague, Czech Republic for a semester during my BA, then did a two-year MA degree program in Germany (for FREE, by the way, but we’ll get to that), then a one-year MS program at a business school in France. Let me tell you now, study abroad is pretty great. However, it is not without challenges and difficulties, and the whole idea can seem very daunting especially if you haven’t spent much time out of your home country. So let’s take it one step at a time! For this post I want to suggest a few reasons why you should seriously consider studying abroad. It’s not difficult to find lists of up to 100 reasons, but I’m going to narrow it down to the ones I find more significant.


This is not an easy thing to do, and that’s kind of the point. As intimidating as living in a foreign country might seem, take a moment to imagine how you’ll feel at the end of the program as you’re preparing to come home. There is incredible power in knowing that you faced every difficulty and learned how to stand on your own two feet in a different culture, and had a lot of fun doing it! You’ll learn how to navigate a new environment (probably after getting lost a couple times, but you also learn that it’s okay to get lost), to be comfortable with new people, to deal with the unexpected more confidently, to simply be more comfortable in your skin. I truly believe there is no faster way to grow up than living abroad, outside your comfort zone. Later, when you consider how nervous you were at the beginning and how much fun and adventure you ended up having, no challenge or problem will seem as intimidating again. But don’t take it from me, if you look through the thousands of study abroad student reviews on Abroad101 it will only take you a minute or two to find students using phrases like “life changing” and “I learned to be independent” and “my confidence skyrocketed.” These students have earned the right to say to themselves: “I’ve been places, I’ve explored boldly, I have proven that I am brave and strong.” All it takes is jumping into the experience, and the confidence you gain is something no one will ever be able to take away from you.


There is a wide range of skills that you can learn faster and better being abroad. Language is the most obvious example, and you’ll find that six months of immersion in a language is equivalent to years of classroom study, if you approach it correctly. Other skills like writing and photography might suddenly blossom because everything around you is new and interesting, and the creative part of your brain will work overtime trying to capture the magic of your surroundings. There’s also the high potential of discovering passions you never knew you had by coming into contact with your host country’s sports, games, cuisine, fashion, history, landscape, etc. If you do get fascinated by something culturally specific like a Chinese martial art, or cricket in India, or French wine, or Spanish cooking, or Japanese flower arranging, then where better to develop your new skills than in the country that created it? You will very likely return home with abilities and interests you never knew existed. Not only does that bring joy to your life, but it makes you an interesting person who stands out from the crowd.

Broader Worldview

Broadening your horizons and perception of the world is kind of a skill in itself, but it stands alone as an extremely valuable reward of living abroad. Without seeing the real world beyond our own country with our own eyes, it is difficult or impossible to really grasp the complexity and diversity of our planet. The first few weeks abroad your mind will be working overtime to process everything that seems familiar but is so different, and everything that seems so strange but is actually quite logical. The result will be a much more tolerant, intelligent, and mindful approach to life, informed by a new understanding of how you impact the lives of others and how they impact you. The more you open yourself to new experiences and ideas, the more you’ll have the sensation of not being rooted to one small corner of the world, but of being a true citizen of the world. The freedom, excitement, and fascination that comes with this realization is truly life changing in all the best ways.

Job and College Applications

I suppose you can see where I’m going with this one. These days, whether you’re applying to universities or writing a cover letter for your dream job, the name of the game is to stand out and be exceptional. While everyone can talk about their maturity, determination, self-sufficiency, and willingness to try new things, no one can prove those things more easily than someone who made the choice to live in a foreign country. In 2014 the number of Americans studying abroad was less than 1.5% of the total number of students in higher education in the US. Anything that puts you in a category of the most confident and experienced 1.5% of students is probably going to benefit you greatly, sooner rather than later. This will make admissions departments and prospective employers sit up and take notice.

Fun and Memories

Let’s not forget, living abroad is an incredible experience that will fill your life with more adventurous stories and happy memories than many years in your comfort zone. Every day offers something new, you meet locals who enrich your life and like-minded internationals to share in your experience. Every person’s story is different, and that’s the beauty of it, but everyone agrees that it’s most satisfying and worthwhile experience imaginable. Again, look through the 28,000 student reviews on Abroad101, and while you’ll see a few that had more difficulties than they expected and left negative reviews, I challenge you to find one student who says they wish they had just stayed home. If you find one, then feel free to stay home as well, but otherwise it’s time to consider joining the thousands of study abroad alumni in embracing this life changing opportunity!

Next week I’ll discuss why Study Abroad is the best way to experience international living, and why sooner is better than later.  To find a study abroad program that suits you please visit www.studyabroad101.com 

– Caleb House

Caleb House grew up in Northern California and has lived in the Czech Republic, Japan, India, Tanzania, France, South Korea, Germany, and Côte d’Ivoire as a student, teacher, volunteer, backpacker, researcher, and school administrator. He holds an M.A. in Modern Global History from Jacobs University Bremen and an M.S. in International Management from the Burgundy School of Business. He recently married his French soulmate in her tiny village in the north of France, and the two currently find themselves in Washington D.C. He is preparing the launch of his website, HowToGoAbroad.com, and in the meantime can be contacted on his facebook page “How To Go Abroad” or on Twitter @HowToGoAbroad.