Most universities now offer the opportunity to study abroad as part of your degree. With some degree courses, this extends your degree time to four years and you spend your third year abroad. With others, it forms all, or part, of your second year. It won’t cost you any extra fees-wise to go abroad as you’ll pay whatever you pay now to your current university.
I went to Calgary in Canada for the first semester of my second year last September and had the time of my life. I came back sorely regretting not going for the full year. I was really nervous before I went and in the weeks before my flight I wondered what I’d got myself into, but as soon as I was there I settled in quickly and made lots of friends from all over the world. The work was hard, but it was really interesting to look at a different country’s history from within. I found that ice hockey is my new favourite sport, and controversially American football isn’t worth the time. I lived in halls with many other internationals but shared a flat with two Canadians, one of whom invited me to her house to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Studying abroad is a great way to widen your travel horizons while gaining important CV points. I had a long weekend in Vancouver and many of my friends travelled all over America once they had finished studying. It can be a great opportunity to visit a country you’ve always wanted to go to and explore another part of the world. You also learn a lot about other people’s cultures – even in English speaking countries there can be interesting cultural differences that you might not have realised.
For those who are studying a language degree then a year abroad will probably be a compulsory part of your degree. For people who aren’t, there are plenty of opportunities to study in non-English speaking countries and learn a new language, or develop one you already know.
Finance wise, you just need to tell Student Finance that you are going abroad. This can be done online or over the phone but it’s best not to leave it to the last minute. You’ll probably find that you get a little more money for your time abroad. If you’re going to study within Europe, you might even get an Erasmus grant to help with living costs. It’s worth remembering that things could possibly be more expensive in your host country. When planning your spending, it’s always better to over-estimate the costs. If you can get a job to help support yourself this will definitely be a bonus but remember to make sure you have the right visa and are legally allowed to.
The most important thing about an exchange is to have fun and make the most of all the opportunities offered to you. Living in another country is an exciting experience that I think everyone should get to have.