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Should You Stay or Should You Go? Making the Decision to Study Abroad

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Kyle Greggory
California State University, Northridge

Making the decision to study abroad is not nearly as difficult as coming to terms with what, exactly, studying abroad entails in terms of your personal life and finances.

The decision to study abroad is one that changes lives, and as such, is not an easy decision to make. Although it sounds as simple as checking the box that says, "Yes, I want to go," sooner or later you'll probably have to consider what, exactly, that means.

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I've been accepted to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan. But do I stay or do I go? After rounds of applications, interviews, agreement forms, and more, some issues still pester me. How am I going to pay for a study abroad program? Can I live without my family and friends for a year? What will be different when I return?

On top of that, I have a variety of personal concerns. Sure, I've been studying Japanese, but I'm not exactly fluent. I'm a strict vegetarian who is going to be living in a country known for its meat and fish consumption. And, on top of all that, Japan is expensive!

Here's the deal, though. When thinking rationally, I start to realize that every concern I have will cease to be an issue once I take the leap and go.

Studying abroad is not the end of my life at home. I'll have to say goodbye to people, and yes, a lot is bound to change while I'm gone, but I've been away from friends for longer than a year. Since I moved away for college, I've maintained friendships with a lot of people, all over the country. Long-distance communication doesn't require as much time as it used to, as well. You don't need to send a postcard via sea mail. We have social networking now.

In terms of money, it won't be easy, but there are a variety of means available to help pay for study abroad. Scholarships and grants are out there, as well as private student loans. For my spending cash, I plan on saving all the money I earn at a summer job, too.

In the end, the excitement of exploring all that a different country has to offer heavily outweighs the minor concerns. If I live there, it follows that my Japanese language proficiency will improve, for example. I will obviously find food to eat that's suitable for vegetarians. And I will discover an entire new world, full of new friends, new sights and smells, and new adventures waiting around every bend.

When considering study abroad, any con can easily turn into a pro. After all, it's all about adapting, having an amazing experience, and growing in the process. Any obstacles will simply stimulate that growth.

Ultimately, making the decision isn't the hard part. I'd made the decision long ago, when I first heard about the study abroad options that were available to me. The hard part was coming to terms with that decision, realizing how my life and my world will change, and understanding that these changes don't mean that I'm losing anything. Instead, by studying abroad, I will be gaining everything.

Study abroad can take your life to great places, and I don't just mean other countries. Where will you go?