01/30/2013 05:52 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2013

Four Reasons to Try an Unconventional Study Abroad Experience

As I pack my bags, ready to head to my semester abroad in Morocco, I reflect on the choice I made. I applied to two very different programs. One was located near the party beach of Brighton and had a unique Media and Culture department. After my first two and a half years of college, I was ready for a semester of bikinis and tanned skin, but on the other hand, I had found this organization called SIT Study Abroad.

SIT takes students from American universities and immerses them in a completely different culture. They have programs in 50 countries, but the one that struck me was a journalism and media program in Morocco.

The Morocco program definitely sounded fascinating, but it would put me outside my comfort zone in a major way. So do I choose a semester of guaranteed fun, which I am in desperate need of, or immerse myself in a nerve-wrecking experience I'll probably never get again? Here are four reasons why I chose Morocco over the safer option:

Challenging your comfort zone: As daunting as it sounds, you will always wonder about the more daring choice and maybe even regret not rising to the occasion. The only way you can realize your potential, in terms of social and academic standards, is by pushing your limits. This will allow you to strengthen metaphorical muscles you don't even know exist and grow as a person.

Education outside the classroom: Unconventional study abroad experiences often involve learning in a manner where you won't be exposed in a classroom. Whether it is a culture, socio-economic or environmental factor, you will learn things about yourself and the world that you never knew.

Meeting interesting people: Whether they are students on the program with you or professors, these people will have a very different outlook on life, from other students, that you can learn from. Also, if your study abroad program is focused on something you feel passionate about, you will interact with people who feel the same way about the subject. For instance, I don't know many journalism students, so I am very excited to meet new people who share that passion for the work.

Building your resume: This is a very inconsequent reason but it definitely helps. If you're doing a study abroad program that is unique and stands out, a prospective boss is more likely to remember you for your unusual experience.

No matter what you choose, a study abroad experience is what you make of it. After all, your choices and attitude determine whether or not you enjoy it. However, my advice is to do things that you wouldn't think to do at your own college. There is a whole unexplored world out there so take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

By Ailsa Sachdev, Mt. Holyoke College