It’s becoming a popular choice to spend a semester abroad as a student.
But why should you leave your friends and familiar surroundings for half a year to go somewhere else? You won’t know anyone and will be an absolute stranger. So is the risk worth it?
I believe it is. Let me explain why. We are living in a modern and interconnected world, where organisations demand high standards of their employees. Nowadays, if you apply for a placement or jobs, employers not only want to see your qualifications, they also need other points to differentiate you from other applicants.
Positioning brand you
Everyone in the PR and marketing sectors knows that the key to success lies in positioning, promotion, being different and meeting the needs of the target audience.
Imagine yourself to be a product in an integrated marketing campaign. It is fundamentally important to have a clear picture about who your target audience is.
Put yourself in the shoes of an executive and reflect on the expectations you would have towards a new employee.
Would you be more impressed by someone who was brave enough to go to another country and continue his/her studies whilst improving their second language – or by somebody who just received good marks?
Even if this was a rhetorical question, I think it is important to consider what makes you stand out. In this case the product is you or your workforce and the features are your personal skills.
Doesn’t it sound impressive for a product to be flexible, adaptable and competitive – and not restricted to a particular country’s perspective or values?
A semester abroad offers the possibility to acquire intercultural competences, adapt to other customs and lifestyles, and to push your career.
On a personal level you can discover new places, become independent and make lots of new friends. Doesn’t this sound lovely? It does to me.
That is why I decided to apply for a semester abroad at Leeds Metropolitan University and I don’t regret it at all. It astonishes how different universities are and what a massive impact culture has on our everyday life.
Music, tiny houses and tea
Even if it is close to Germany, this is my first time in the UK and I really like it. I have already seen so many things; have been to York and admired all the tiny houses, explored the Beatles Museum in Liverpool and have enjoyed a traditional English afternoon tea with a delicious piece of cake. I have also enjoyed the Christmas markets in Leeds and Manchester where I drank mulled wine.
The promise made on Leeds Met’s website about Leeds being a student city, with a great nightlife and lots of shopping is absolutely true.
The weekend I spent in London was just amazing. London is such a vibrant and exciting city that I will definitely be revisiting. I have had so many great experiences here, but there were hard times too. It is funny, because I remember the stage play the university staff performed for the arrival of all the international students perfectly described my feelings.
The play dealt with the culture shock experienced by students going to another country. First of all there is the honeymoon stage, where everything is new and exciting. You get to know so many new people, go to a different university and make yourself familiar with the new culture and country. Then half way through period of residence the disintegration stage takes place. You get used to your daily routine and start to miss home badly.
Certainly, academic writing in another language is really difficult. It took me so much longer to finish an essay than I was used to. At my home university, we have mostly lectures in the first year. Therefore I wasn’t used to writing assignments and papers, especially not in English.
Don’t give up hope because the reintegration stage comes next and is followed by the autonomy and independent stage, which makes you come out stronger. Even if there are ups and downs, I highly recommend going abroad. It is a wonderful opportunity and a nice feature for your future applications.
For me, it was absolutely worth it because I learnt so many things that you won’t find in any academic textbook.
It is all about your own experience! If you invest in the experience putting lots of efforts into it, you will better appreciate your time abroad.
For those who are interested in going abroad, there are several organizations to support you in this undertaking. The most common programs are study abroad and ERASMUS. Their websites should help you find the right destination.