You’re off to college!
Ready to expand your horizons and begin a new adventure away from home. For many students – maybe you? – this is the first time you’ll be outside the comfort zone provided by your family and the familiar surroundings of your home town. You’ll meet new people, live in a dorm with a bunch of strangers, or in some other type of college housing, and you’ll get a first-hand look at diversity like you’ve never seen before.
When you decide to study abroad, your lifestyle will change again. And if you choose a big city as your destination, those changes can be pretty dramatic. You might feel a little scared, but the life experiences and opportunities that will be opened up to you make those fears melt away.
This is your sneak peek at what it’s like to live in a major city and you’ll quickly discover there’s no better way to learn who you are and what you want in life. Sometimes you just have to take adventures to figure out where you belong.
So how do you prepare yourself for the new lifestyle you’re about to experience, in a city much larger than what you’re used to?
The majority of the students I’ve interviewed on The Study Abroadcast have completed their international studies in cities that are bigger than their home town or university town. With a little research and advance planning, you, like them, can be well prepared to adjust to this brand new way of living and viewing the world around you.
Once you’ve made the decision to study abroad you need to select your destination. Determine if you want a rural or urban setting and learn the pros and cons of each. Words and pictures can only tell part of the story of any city or campus so talk with your study abroad advisor about what you can expect.
It’s also helpful to talk with other students who have studied in the city you have in mind. Combine their advice and insights with the research you do online and you’ll find the place that’s right for you.
Life at an urban university is influenced by the city where it’s located.
The size of the city, its cultural and social life, even the geography of the region are all factors. Unlike being in a small town where the university is the focal point of daily life, you’ll find that activities at an urban university extend far beyond campus.
In a big city, students have a much wider choice when it comes to things like entertainment, restaurants, art and cultural outlets, shopping, and housing options. Not to mention the ease of traveling around to visit other interesting locales. If these types of things are important to you, then big city living probably will be a great choice for your international experience.
On the other hand, the hustle of urban living brings with it things you may not be used to such as air pollution, traffic, and noise. So if being in a calmer, more comfortable and safe environment with fewer distractions is more your style, you’ll be better off moving to a smaller town.
The location of your school can have a major impact on your overall college experience, especially when it’s in a foreign country. Factor this in when choosing where you want to be.
6 Benefits of Studying Abroad In a Big City [Infographic]
Living in a big city means there’s always something interesting, fun, and exciting to do in your spare time. And you’re not limited to what’s available on campus. Maybe you’d enjoy exploring local museums, or trying an intriguing dish at a local restaurant. Metropolitan areas are renown for restaurants and eateries that accommodate all tastes and budgets. You won’t have a hard time finding tasty options even on a limited student budget.
Or maybe you’d like to take in a play, music concert, or sporting event, or spend time with new friends at your favorite coffee shop or pub. How about hitting the unique shops and stores to discover special mementos to bring back home for family, friends – and yourself.
Between classes, lectures, and lab sessions, studying abroad gives you a lot of time to absorb your new environment. Use that time to mingle and meet new people, barter at a local market, or visit an iconic landmark. It’s particularly easy to do these in a big city where you can discover something new and interesting around every corner. Remember, you’re thousands of miles from home in a place you’ve never been before, so take advantage of this exciting adventure you’re on and grab every opportunity to explore and learn.
Major cities have awesome public transportation systems that make it super easy to get around. Hop on a bus, subway, above-ground metro, or train to get just about anywhere you want to be in and around town. And do it efficiently and cheaply. With public transit, any type of commute is a breeze. If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of the city, it’s just as easy to escape to a quieter setting and enjoy beautiful and natural surroundings. Or to visit another exciting locale or attraction.
When studying abroad, most students want to soak up as much local culture as they can. Chances are that’s what you’ll want to do. After all, who knows when, if ever, you’ll have this opportunity again. Living in a large city makes it easy to plan the extra adventures that make special memories happen. That was the case for me.
While I was a study abroad student in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I took the subway and the bus every day and it prepared me for life in Los Angeles without a car after graduation. I wouldn’t have been as prepared as I was had I not studied abroad.
ACCESSIBILITY TO PRODUCTS & SERVICES
Specialty food markets, supermarkets, coffee shops with that special blend you loved back home, clothing stores, book stores – as a city dweller, just about about any product and service you need will be at your fingertips, often right in your neighborhood. Conversely, if you choose rural living you may need to forego the conveniences you’re used to. They simply won’t be available so you’ll have to either adapt to what is there or do without.
Big cities are melting pots of cultures. As a student in an urban setting, you will be exposed to people from a diverse assortment of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, not only at your university but among the general population. What a great way to learn first-hand about the world. And what a boost for a future career anyplace around the globe – international experience is always looked on favorably by employers.
Living in an urban setting in a foreign country has one more advantage. As you increase your knowledge about the cultures surrounding you, you also will develop the cultural sensitivity that comes with being in a foreign environment. In the process you’ll begin to see your own culture through fresh eyes and develop your own personal points of view.
Whether in class, at work or at play around town, you’ll acquire a new global mind-set that will prove to be invaluable many times over throughout your life, both personally and professionally.
INTERNSHIP AND WORK OPPORTUNITIES
If you’re considering an internship or working at a job related to your field of study, an urban setting will provide greater opportunities and easier access to both. It also will increase your chances to make connections and network with people who can open career doors after you graduate that otherwise would be difficult or even impossible to open on your own. And, unlike in a small town setting, language is not likely to be a problem.
Jobs and internships in small cities are harder to come by and the available options typically aren’t too great. You may only end up with a student job on your university campus.
GAINING LIFE EXPERIENCE
This is the ultimate goal of studying abroad.
Yes, you’ve signed up for this international program to further your academic studies in a new and challenging way. But at the same time, you’re leaping into the unknown, opening your mind to new experiences, fending for yourself, and handling unforeseen situations. You’re storing up important life experiences, learning what you’re good at, and what you’re not so good at.
It’s not easy being independent, but gaining self-reliance sure feels great. The end product of this amazing journey is a more confident, independent and self-sufficient you. Living in a big city as part of your personal study abroad experience is an unbeatable way to learn about yourself and grow. I can’t think of anything better, can you?
Don’t Lose Sight of Your Studies
Students, parents, advisors, professors – everyone agrees that there are a million great reasons to study abroad. University life in a major city can be especially exciting and offer you countless special ways to experience a new culture. Just remember that having all these opportunities within easy reach can distract you from your studies.
So if you’re thinking of transitioning to a big city for your study abroad experience, make sure you have the discipline to keep on track with your educational goals. If you do, then go for it!