Well, the time has come to say goodbye. The last months in Strasbourg have been amazing. We went to Nice, France, to Monaco, spent Spring Break partly at the Almafi Coast in Italy, and partly in Ireland. Later, after my finals were finished, I met a friend of mine in Prague and Budapest then ventured to Bratislava, Slovakia for a 2 days alone before I met my parents in Paris and spent family vacation in Paris, Villefranche (a BEAUTIFUL part of southern France), and Lyon. I could go on and on about the beauty of Prague, the excitement and atmosphere that surrounds Budapest, as well as the luxurious vacation we enjoyed in Villefranche, but I’d rather talk about my European experience and why everyone needs to study abroad.

A little over a year ago, I (randomly) thought – “Hey, I should seize the opportunity and study abroad before I graduate. How many other times will I be able to move to the country of my choice and travel to different places on the weekends?” Probably never. It’s not exactly feasible to just up and move while you have a full-time job or take lengthy vacations. I picked a semester REEP because I thought that I’d enjoy more of an immersion experience as opposed to other Mays study abroad programs which consist of a month traveling from city to city in what seems like a glorified vacation. If this sounds like your type of thinking, a semester is for you. I’ve been to 13 countries, probably around 30 total cities, and done so much in all that time. It’s so funny to me that I decided to study abroad, I did it for five months, and now I’m home. It really does go by in the blink of an eye.

So, for my last blog post, I thought I’d create a list. Here it is…

8 reasons to study abroad:

1. OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! (Thank you, Dr. Seuss) Think about this really quick. I mean really think about it. Travel in Europe is easy, cheap and quick. You will be able to travel all over – an opportunity and blessing very few people receive. Take me for example: I never thought I’d travel almost every weekend in the 5 months I was in Europe and see so much. It really is amazing when I look back on it! The sky’s the limit… so dream big and set out to see the world!

2. It’s affordable. Really, I’m serious. Mays CIBS gives you a great deal of financial backing for the semester REEP, and I encourage anyone who is interested to at least go speak to a counselor. Save up a little bit of your own money from a summer of working, and make that money stretch. If you want to make it happen you can.

3. You’ll learn a LOT. And I mean A LOT. Whether or not you’re the type of person who loves to discuss current events, politics, and world affairs (like I am), I still encourage you to bring up these things to people from different countries. No one in the world thinks like Americans do, especially Americans from the south, and you’ll likely find different peoples’ views and thoughts fascinating. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had was at a famous brewery in Vienna, Austria with a group of Viennese students. I learned a lot about Europe as a whole from them. Hungarian people also are fascinating to talk to, as they have been through a lot and have a lot to say. I don’t care if people discourage you from bringing up certain topics, do it carefully and with an open mind, and you’ll find your best conversation will come from people who have strong opinions.

4. You pick up some of the language.

* While you may not know have any prior experience with the language (ahem, almost all the girls I went to Strasbourg with along with me), you have a fun time attempting to navigate through the country and, trust me, English will get you by. Also, I’ve picked up on a good amount of French! I can now add ‘knows a little bit of French’ to my resume. (Let’s just hope the interviewer doesn’t know any.)

* And for those of y’all who have some familiarity with a foreign language already, you will leave your country speaking better than you ever thought possible.

5. Your sense of appreciation reaches a record high. This is a big one. Being able to study abroad already puts you in the top .00000000001% of people on this planet who are able to do so. Also, some countries more than others have a higher percentage of poverty and if it takes bussing through the outskirts of Naples, Italy to see it, then so be it. I can safely say I feel SO STINKING BLESSED to be able to see and do all that I’ve done. And on a lighter note, you will miss American food and feel more appreciative about the wealth of choices we can select from in the states. Appreciation for everything, even the smallest things, goes up when you spend so much time in Europe.

6. You become independent – ACTUALLY independent. Not “I moved out of my parents’ place and I can pay my cell phone bill” independent. More like “I can show up in a new country, know nothing and emerge with 43 new friends I met last night and now know the city like the back of my hand” independent. I remember at the beginning of the year I met people who were traveling around Europe alone and I thought, “WOW, I so cannot do that, ever. Think of how dangerous that would be and how lonely I’d be!” Well, I took on Budapest alone for five days after my travel buddy returned home, and I navigated through Bratislava alone, as well. If I can conquer eastern Europe unscathed, I can do anything. But really, traveling alone allows you to meet so many more people and be open to little things such as grabbing dinner with someone you met 5 minutes ago. Just be aware and careful and trust your gut and you’ll be fine.

7. Your career options are enhanced and recruiters/interviewers will be fascinated by your choice to study abroad for such a lengthy time. Seriously, I’ve had four phone interviews while in Europe and the first fifteen minutes consisted of me describing my experiences and why I’m calling from Prague… yadda yadda yadda. Think about your future interviews and all the examples and experiences you’ll be able to draw from. “Oh, this one time I worked with a really opinionated guy from Bulgaria who taught me how to work with people from REALLY different backgrounds”… just think of how fascinating you now are and how much you’ll stand out from all the other applicants.

8. And my favorite reason: You meet all walks of life, people from all over the globe, all with different agendas and you learn something from EACH ONE. I really can’t fully explain the impact on me from every person I’ve met – good and bad. I’m not here to tell you that everyone you meet in Europe is going to be a fantastic human being or a lifelong friend… but throughout your experiences and the experiences they share with you, you’ll part with a new understanding. Another pro-tip: friend the people you meet on Facebook. It’s a cool way to keep in touch and see where their travels/life take them and if you ever find yourself in their little corner of the world – hey, there’s someone you can hang out with.

So there ya have it. Study abroad. It’s truly amazing.

Au revoir,

Lauren