Rewind to September 2015 and I am anxiously preparing for 6 months studying abroad in Salzburg, Austria. I had no friends in Salzburg, had never visited the city and barely spoke the language. Not to mention the fact I had only heard about Erasmus by chance and had applied 2 weeks past the final deadline. So understandably it came as a bit of a surprise when I found myself landing in W.A Mozart Airport at the beginning of term. Little did I know, the next semester was going to be the highlight of my entire university experience!
If you are considering studying abroad my advice is JUST DO IT! Below I have listed 16 ways studying abroad changed my life (for the better) and these reasons could all be relevant to you! Research where you want to go, think about what countries interest you most, which courses sound exciting and when you’ll be going. Do you want sun and sea or mountains and lakes? The world is your oyster! I spent one semester (approximately 6 months) studying in Salzburg, Austria on the EU funded Erasmus exchange program and it was amazing!
16 WAYS STUDYING ABROAD CHANGED MY LIFE!
I GOT TO TRAVEL… A LOT
I didn’t realise what a difference living in mainland Europe made in regards to travelling. I could get everywhere, easily! No flights, just super fast inter city trains and overnight busses if I was budgeting! But booked in advance, the trains were far cheaper than in the UK anyway so it was great. I got to explore Austria, visited Hungary and Germany and meeting people from all over the world lined up lots of future travel too. I knew I loved to travel, even back in 2015, but studying abroad really cemented that passion in me.
SAVING MONEY WAS EASIER IN AUSTRIA
This one might come as a surprise but seriously, I saved enough money to go backpacking in North America the next summer as well as return to Austria to visit friends, a holiday in Greece and meeting said friends in Paris! Despite Salzburg being one of the more expensive places to live in Austria/Europe my rent was cheaper than at home. I also had the grant from Erasmus on top of my student finance from home. Living costs were lower, ie. food, going out and activities so all in all I did very well! Having savings really impacted my life because it meant all the travel plus the freedom to open a savings account back home.
I MADE LIFE LONG FRIENDS
This is potentially the most important and impactful way studying abroad changed my life! All my lovely, inspiring, adventurous and welcoming friends. I was lucky to find such a great group and have an Erasmus Facebook group to thank. Just after arriving I posted on there, asking if anyone was going to Oktoberfest and if I could join. One person replied and I went with them and all their friends and the rest is beautiful history. I honestly found Salzburg and the Europeans/Internationals I met there incredibly welcoming, friendly and helpful. More so than most of the Brits I met at university in England.
I LEARNT A NEW LANGUAGE
Cough cough, ermm… almost learnt a new language. No, I’m joking. My German is far far better having studied abroad. Living in the country where the language you are learning is the native language spoken is the best way to improve. And what a skill for later life. It has broadened my horizons and I would love to live in Germany or Austria in later life.
STUDYING ABROAD MADE GETTING A JOB EASIER
We all know how hard it is to get a job these days, the fashion and textiles industry is particularly saturated with talented graduates! So having something that set me apart from my peers has been incredibly valuable. It is a talking point for interviews, something to help the memory of you stand out from the 100’s of other candidates. Employers also recognise how capable and independent you must be and the confidence it takes to move to a new country. I credit studying abroad a lot for the success I have had since graduating.
IT BUILT UP MY CONFIDENCE
Following on from the last point, studying abroad really did build up my confidence. I had to make new friends, navigate a new city, organise accommodation etc. Basically establish myself and create a life there. I now have no issue chatting to a stranger, and find making friends easy, fun even! None of my old anxieties connected to socialising effect me anymore.
I DATED DIFFERENT PEOPLE
Studying abroad generally means you are surrounded by new and exciting people! So I think it was pretty inevitable, I was going to date on my Erasmus and thankfully, I really enjoyed myself. Erasmus is pretty notorious for the partying and relationship side of things but you don’t have to go crazy. Maybe you’ll meet one person and fall for them. Maybe you’ll date a few people and nothing will come of it. But either way, dating different people is a positive and for me, personally it taught me a lot about men and myself!
I BECAME UBER INDEPENDENT
At university in England I made the decision to live far away from my parents and family. I was also self funded so even before moving to Austria I was pretty independent. However, another country is a whole new kettle of fish. I couldn’t call home and ask how something worked (such as registering residence in a new city) because a lot of the time they wouldn’t know. I had to work everything out for myself and, honestly it was great. Such a learning curve. And being uber independent is something I now pride myself on!
I FELL IN LOVE WITH ANOTHER COUNTRY & CULTURE
I mean, with a view like that how could I not fall in love. Salzburg is particularly beautiful and fairy tale like, especially in the snow. But I fell in love with the city for more than the beautiful architecture and surrounding mountains. I loved the vibe, the international and diverse population and the student life there. Not to mention Austrian culture which is very family orientated, social and active. It was perfect and to this day I try to re-visit Salzburg and the rest of the country as much as possible. Basically I have another home from home and what a great thing to collect that is!
MY CAPABILITIES WERE TESTED TO THE LIMIT
I wont lie to you, studying abroad has its challenging moments. I clearly remember reaching my dorm for the first time, plonking all my stuff down and immediately looking for WiFi. Well, there was no WiFi. Internet connection was wired and obviously (because things are never easy) my laptop didn’t have an Ethernet port. So I had to be resourceful, I went out to find a USB adaptor. Nope, it was Sunday which in Austria means NOTHING IS OPEN. Shit. I had no bedding, food or connection to the real world and I waned to go home. My capabilities were tested on more occasions after this but I managed.
STUDYING ABROAD MADE ME MORE AMBITIOUS
I had such an amazing time studying abroad that I now strive to reach that level of bliss all the time. I work hard, save up, travel and have amazing friends and I genuinely think I have my six months in Austria to at least partially thank for that. It has also made me more ambitious in regards to my career. I don’t want to settle for something I don’t enjoy and if the opportunity arised I would jump at the chance to work abroad. Actually, I actively seek jobs abroad, all pushed by ambition to have an amazing time!
I GOT TO EXPLORE MY HERITAGE
If you have read my ‘About Me’ page you will already know I am 1/4 Austrian! My grandmother moved to England with her British husband after the end of the Second World War. She has kept her Austrian heritage alive in lots of ways, teaching her children (my dad and auntie) German and then her grandchildren, for example. So I have a connection to the country which before living there, I hadn’t properly explored but wanted to. Maybe there is a country you have links to that you don’t know much about. Studying abroad is a great way to experience them properly, not just on a holiday but actually living there and understanding the culture. I made connections to distant and not so distant relatives that I hadn’t known before and ultimately, made some amazing friends who happen to be family members too.
THERE WERE ALWAYS OPPORTUNITIES TO TRY NEW THINGS
When you live in a new country there is obviously a lot to discover. In Salzburg in particular I went to many operas, classical music recitals and theatre productions, something I didn’t do a lot at home. But thanks to the Mozart influence it is a big part of the city’s culture. I also took full advantage of living near the Austrian Alps and having lots of new food (and beer/schnapps..) to try.
I LEARNT A LOT ABOUT MYSELF
A little cliche maybe? But actually super accurate. I was only 20 when I moved to Austria so really, I had no idea what was going on! But when I came home I was pretty different. Potentially not outwardly or to those who didn’t know me very well. But internally I was calmer, I learnt that problems always have solutions and a lot of the time situations will resolve themselves. I also realised what I value most in a relationship (friendships and romantic relationships) and I learnt to value what I deserve/need and occasionally even, put myself first!!
THE REALISATION THAT I CAN LIVE ANYWHERE AND MANAGE!
So I survived Erasmus, studying abroad, moving to a new country! And all I can think now is I want to do it again!! Maybe a year in Australia or Germany to practise my language skills a bit more. There is even a charity in Guatemala I would love to work for so who knows what the future holds. The point is I know I will manage!
I HAVE 6 MONTHS OF AMAZING MEMORIES TO LOOK BACK ON
I have zero regrets from my time studying abroad. Every second was spent having fun, developing myself and friendships which have stayed with me still, 4 years on. So have I swayed you? I think I’ve made a pretty convincing argument! If you have the opportunity to study abroad, take it. I promise you, you’ll have no regrets either. And if you don’t enjoy yourself, you can always go back home and continue studying at your main university. No harm done!