7 Reasons Why I’m Not Studying Abroad in a Western Country
I feel the need to preface this by saying I have nothing against Western countries. I’m American and I am very aware of the privilege that gives me to travel, let alone to have preferences on where I want to go.
However, I said what I said. I don’t have a burning desire to study abroad in a western country, and I realize that it’s an unpopular opinion.
I am not saying you shouldn’t study abroad if you get the chance. If you have the opportunity to study abroad in a Western country: DUH, GO.
The point of the article is to just get you thinking critically, and to empower you to look into all of your options, even the ones you didn’t know existed.
1. It’s cliché (no offense).
Mary Kate and Ashley have 5 movies about them going to Italy or Paris… It seems like no one in Disney ever wanted to go to Ulanbataar (props to the Cheetah Girls for exploring India though).
Studies have shown that 47.2% of American college students study abroad in Europe and Australia. That means 1 of 2 chooses to study abroad in the U.K., Spain, France, Ireland, Germany, or Italy. That’s not a very diverse selection, considering the 196-ish countries on Earth.
Maybe I’m a ~hipster~, but those Western countries lost their study abroad appeal for me knowing that 15 other friends had studied abroad there already. People share their experiences in those countries often enough to make me feel like I’ve already been to all of them. Personally I just tend down roads less traveled.
Not bashing Western countries AT ALL—I love visiting them and they are absolutely wonderful in their right. But if I’m studying abroad, especially since I’ve managed to do it for free, I want to make those months truly once in a lifetime.
2. It’s too convenient.
In terms of proximity and accessibility, it will always be more “convenient” for me to fly to Paris compared to Buenos Aires. Excluding Australia, the US and Western Europe have a multitude of flights and flight deals each day between the continents, and in general I’m just more able to pop over there the easiest. Many American companies even have locations in these western countries, so there’s a high chance for an opportunity to work in these western countries after graduation.
When I study abroad, I want it to be in a place that I may not ever get to experience this way ever again.When I study abroad, I want it to be in a place that I may not ever get to experience as deeply otherwise. Click To Tweet
It’s a common argument that it’s ideal to study in Western Europe because of its close-knit countries that are easy to hop between, and that is true.
But there are other continents with other amazing countries within driving distance and cheap flights between them. From Dubai, my friends and I have traveled to Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, the Republic of Georgia, and more.
I don’t want convenience to be a limitation, I want it to be a dare.
3. I don’t want a culture shock, I want a culture tsunami.
London, Oslo, Sydney… The real shock was when I looked at my credit card statement!
Not to take away from the amazing histories and cultures in every one of these countries, but the cultures from Ireland to Australia were not drastically different enough to truly shock me. There are no doubt differences in cultural nuances like tipping, social etiquette, slang, etc., but they aren’t uncomfortable enough to make me grow and change.
I want to struggle. I want a language barrier, I want to seek out locals and learn from them, I want to spend time finding similarities between my culture and theirs.
The first hand learning of a foreign culture is a huge part of the appeal for me.
4. We’ll always have Paris.
As I’ve said, in my case, being from the United States makes it 10x more convenient to take a last-minute trip to Paris or Lisbon than to Malaysia, South Africa, or Peru.
On a different note, I want to delve into non-Western countries because we may not always have access to them.
In short—it’s very easy to think in the future the U.S. will always be allies with countries like France, Scotland, Ireland, and England. Access is not so guaranteed with countries such as Egypt, China, Mexico, the Philippines, etc… Especially with the United States’ current with our current administration. Uck.
5. I need to get out of my comfort zone.
Admittedly, the reason I feel like I must get out of Western countries is because I don’t intuitively want to get out of Western countries.
The media has shoved the idea onto us that if we stay in this region of the world, we will be safe.
Of course that isn’t true. I can tell you you’re absolutely more likely to be mugged in Paris than in Dubai.
However, it’s been drilled into my—and I think a mass majority of western student’s—minds that if we stray from certain (cough, cough, white) countries, we’re instantly putting ourselves at risk.
I feel it is my obligation to see this bias within myself and actively challenge it.I feel it is my obligation to see this bias within myself and actively challenge it. Click To Tweet
6. To become a resource.
As I’ve said, virtually every other person who has studied abroad has done so in a Western country. They’ve also probably blogged, vlogged, and shared their stories about it.
If I choose a less popular location I’m helping to pave the way for my fellow classmates and underclassmen to do the same.
Aside from the thrill of adventure, I do want my experience to inspire and educate others as well.
7. There are special incentives.
The study abroad scholarship I won, the Boren Scholarship, awards up to 20,000USD to undergraduate student who has a desire to learn an in-demand foreign language like Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.
The catch? You can’t study abroad in a western country.
Even the US government sees a value in encouraging students to explore non-Western cultures.
Everything I’ve said comes from the perspective of a person who has grown up traveling internationally.
I think thats a very important point—I absolutely acknowledge my privilege as a person with a Western passport, previous experience abroad, and enough support and empowerment to jump headfirst into new waters with more excitement than fear. Because we all don’t come from the same background, this advice won’t apply to everyone.
If this is your first time abroad of course we likely have different ideas of what makes us comfortable and what we want.
Maybe it’s your dream to study abroad in Amsterdam or London—if that’s the case, GO! The last thing I want this article to do is travel-shame, or guilt you into not going somewhere you’re truly passionate about experiencing.
However, if you are comfortable traveling, you don’t feel especially drawn to any one country, or you are particularly adventurous and curious, I encourage you to seek out the opportunities in Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Central and South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, French Polynesia, etc…
I wrote this because I want to provide a new perspective. A devil’s advocate, whatever you like to call it. Every day we should be challenging our notions of the world and challenging ourselves.
At the end of the day no matter whatever region of the world you end up studying in I hope you actively challenge yourself to grow and change while there!
I’m sure there will be a variety of comments on this topic. Leave your comments below, and let’s have a dialogue!