Ben was one of our Economics and Finance students who was fortunate enough to get out on study abroad, before the Covid-19 pandemic cut his experience short, studying at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. Read about his experiences living and studying overseas.
If you are interested in completing a placement or study abroad year between Stage 2 and Stage 3, you can find out more in the Business School UG Stage 2 Community 2021-22 on Canvas, or contact the NUBS Student Experience team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Studying abroad is a scary thing, yet everybody comes back saying the same thing – ‘it was the best thing that’s ever happened to me’. Even having faced the worst-case scenario with the pandemic cutting my year short, I still have to agree with them. Here’s a few reasons why.
Before I left, I had a crash in confidence when the reality hit that I was about to move to the other side of the world and I didn’t know anybody for thousands of miles around. I wasn’t wrong, that’s scary. What I’d forgotten was that I’d been in this situation before. When we start university, we move into a new room in a new city, surrounded by people we don’t know, and we make new friends.
Looking back, when I started meeting people in my first year in Newcastle, every person asked the same three questions: Where are you from, what are you studying, which halls are you in? Going abroad means that you don’t have to do that anymore; making friends is so much easier. Why? Because you will be the exotic person, the unique one. Everybody else is going to take an interest in you for one reason or another, and that takes some getting used to. If you go to America like I did, everybody will obsess over your accent, or they’ll ask you questions about English muffins and the Queen. Whatever it is, they’ll show an interest in you and before you know it, you’ve stopped worrying about making friends because you’ve made so many that you can’t remember all their names!
Travelling in America was so much better than any other trips I’ve been on in the past. I knew before I even arrived that I wanted to have a full American experience. I chose to turn down a room in the international house so that I would live with Americans instead, and chose to have a roommate like I had seen in films.
I also wanted to travel with Americans and try to experience everything through their perspective as well as my own. Obviously, you are there to study, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take advantage of every opportunity you get to travel while you’re there. I had a four-week road trip planned for the end of my year which had to be cancelled because of COVID-19, but I still feel like I’ve experienced more of America than most locals. I joined the tennis team and travelled with them to loads of different states to play in tournaments. I went to Louisiana for my Spring Break.
My highlight, though, was going to Chicago. I had been dying to go since I arrived as it is the closest major city to Indianapolis. I had just met a girl who mentioned that she grew up there and two weeks later, we were driving there for what would be the best trip of my life. When I was up in the Willis tower I heard some English people walk past and it was the best feeling. It was the first time I had heard an English accent since I’d arrived, but I think the feeling came from the fact that they had travelled all the way from England just to come here for a city break, whereas I had driven a measly 2 hours from my accommodation. I felt so lucky to have all of these huge cities (Chicago, New York, Toronto, Philadelphia) within driving distance from me. My one regret is that I didn’t go to more of them while I had the chance, so please let me live vicariously through you, and visit everywhere you can whilst you’re abroad. My biggest tip is to befriend the locals as they will love watching your reactions to their favourite places, and will make it so much cheaper for you.
Employers know that studying abroad usually isn’t that important for your degree grade, but they still admire people who mention studying abroad on their CV. Why? Because you learn new skills that most people will never otherwise learn. Every single person that I have met who has done a study abroad year is confident, enthusiastic, motivated, courageous and calm under pressure. If you have a way to show that to employers without them even needing to meet you, you’re going to do great in job applications.
The year before my study abroad year, I applied to countless internships only to get rejected from every single interview. Fast-forward to the year after going abroad, and I have had zero rejections and had offers from two of the Big Four accountancy firms. The difference is that I knew how I had changed as a person over that year, and I knew that those changes are exactly what firms want to see in an applicant. I went from somebody who would be a nervous wreck in an interview room and would avoid making eye contact with anybody, to being the person shaking everybody’s hand, trying to make friends because I want to meet new people. When you have met so many people through studying abroad you become great at asking the right questions and having conversations, so you become less nervous for interviews as it feels like somebody is just curious to know more about you.
Dealing with problems
Over the course of the year, something at some point will go wrong. Usually, it is out of your control, but you will have problems that you will have to deal with. You will learn to improvise and find creative ways to deal with whatever life throws at you. My advice is to think in advance what you will do when something goes wrong, and as long as that answer isn’t ‘panic’ then you will be just fine. The exchange coordinator that I had at my American university was an angel, and she would call people up and shout at them for not doing their job properly on my behalf. If you know any adults in the country, have them set as a favourite in your phone. If you really want to be cautious, have an idea of where your nearest UK embassy is.
Here are a few examples of things that went wrong. Hopefully things won’t go wrong for your trip but knowing that I was able to solve all of these issues, while living in an unfamiliar country, might give you confidence that you can get through anything, too.
- I arrived to find that the bedding pack I had ordered never arrived, so I had to spend my first week without any bedding/towels.
- I chipped my tooth and needed to get it repaired.
- I needed to get chicken pox vaccines from immigration support even though I had chicken pox as a child.
- I had to get home after the ban on flights between the US and UK was enforced.
- Once I closed my bank account, they sent me a cheque for all of my savings, and it was lost in the mail.
You must know that whatever you make of a trip is what you will get from it. If you go into your study abroad wanting to make the most of it, you will have the best year of your life. You will make memories that you will never forget, and will make life-long friends and connections all over the world.