Studying abroad is an important part of Carleton culture. Around 70 percent of our student body does an off-campus studies program at some point during their time at Carleton. We both spent time abroad fall term of last year, and would like to point out some of the reasons why we think that everyone who is able should take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad while at Carleton.
1. Culture shock
There is nothing quite like waking up and finding yourself in a place that six months ago you could not even imagine. Studying abroad affords you this opportunity time and again. From the mountains of Lesotho to the markets of Spain, stepping outside your comfort zone becomes a part of your daily life as you study abroad. Giving yourself over to the customs and traditions of a new culture allows you the chance to truly step into the shoes of another group of peoples and see how others live.
For people who study in a non-English-speaking country, language is an important part of the study abroad experience. Once you get past the first few days or weeks of potential awkwardness, being able to communicate in a foreign language becomes empowering. And of course, snafus in foreign languages provide great opportunities for funny stories upon your return to America.
3. Homestay experience
For many people, living with a local family can end up being one of the most valuable and rewarding parts of studying abroad. The relationships you can develop with your foreign host mother/father/sister/brother can last a lifetime. We know countless students here who still maintain regular contact with their host families. If nothing else, the experience of living with a family forces you to adapt quickly to language and customs.
4. True independence
For many of us, being abroad is the first time we are truly independent. Sure you have independence at Carleton, but even then, it may be difficult to escape the comforts and conveniences of life on campus. Of course, it depends on where you travel to, but studying abroad opens up all kinds of new possibilities in regard to where you can go and how you can get there. Getting lost is also a big part of the fun. The more you get lost, the more you are forced to look around and examine your surroundings.
It might go without saying, but weather is final perk of studying abroad. Especially if you go during winter term.
To the freshmen and sophomores who are considering going abroad—do it. You have twelve terms at Carleton, and it’s not a big deal to miss one (or even two) of them. Going abroad during college is an experience you may never have again—take advantage of it!