How to Write a Unique Study Abroad Essay
Sometimes, the process of studying abroad can feel almost as difficult as applying for college. You have to choose the country you want to study in, compare and contrast programs (hint: MyGoAbroad), collect your transcripts and references and, inevitably, you will have to write a personal statement and study abroad essay for your application.
When applying for a study abroad program – especially a competitive one – your personal statement and/or study abroad essay can make or break your application. After all, your program wants to know who it is exactly that will be representing their program in another country! They want to know exactly why you’ve decided to make the life-changing decision to spend a summer, semester, or even a year abroad.
Sound intimidating? Don’t you fret. We’re here to give you 10 study abroad essay tips so you can WOW your study abroad program with your application.
Most study abroad applications will ask you something along the lines of, “Tell us about yourself,” and “Why do you want to study abroad?” Simple questions, right? Actually, these can be pretty tough, when you consider how many ideas you need to narrow down to fit into a 500 word response. Remember that writing is a process. And, the best first step to streamline your study abroad essay-writing process is to just scribble some ideas down and do some good ol’ fashioned brainstorming.
Write down the things you’re excited to see, do, eat while abroad. Think about what intimidates you or what will be challenging in a new country. Doodle some of your goals for your summer/semester/year abroad, and really think about what it is that has made studying abroad so important to you. Is it the idea of finally exploring that country you’ve been reading about since you were seven? Is it because this will be your first time living independently and far away from home? Are you just over the moon to be learning about your favorite subject in a place that is relevant to your studies? Whatever it is, write it, draw it, sing it— but get those ideas out there, so you can plan out the best essay you can possibly write.
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2. Outlines, Outlines, Outlines
Yeah, yeah, we know: since day one, your teachers and professors have pushed the idea of an essay outline. You’ve done about a billion of them, but breaking down your study abroad essay and knowing exactly where you’re going to go in your writing can help you have a more concise argument as to why your chosen study abroad program should choose you. We repeat: writing. Is. A. Process.
3. First Impressions Matter
You always want to have that eye-grabbing introduction: who are you as a student, a person, and a traveler? In just one to two sentences, try to summarize and explain exactly who you are and why you want to study abroad (easy-peasy, right?). Don’t be afraid to get personal and really let your true colors fly — this is how you’ll stand out to the admissions counselors who are reading hundreds of personal statements and essays!
[How to master study abroad scholarships for international students]
For example: “My grandparents emigrated from Argentina at the ripe, young age of 20 years-old, and throughout my entire life, I have been taught to love a country I have never met. My passion for studying the Spanish language, and gaining a deeper understanding of where my family comes from, has inspired me to apply to ______ study abroad program in Buenos Aires, Argentina.”
4. Supporting Statements
Up next in our study abroad essay tips: support your statement on why you want to study abroad by expanding on the ideas you presented in your introduction. This is where your brainstorming comes in! What has brought you to this point? What subjects studied, projects completed, or passions followed have made you choose to not only study abroad, but study abroad with this particular program?
Be honest and sincere. It’s okay if the main reason why you want to study literature in England is because you spent your childhood reading Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s perfectly acceptable if your love of the ocean comes from an obsession with sea turtles, which is why you’ve decided to study marine conservation in Costa Rica. Maybe you want to study in Germany because you’ve always had the goal of working in international business! These are the things that make you a unique and interesting prospective study abroad student!
Just be sure to always tie your passions, goals, and dreams back to how this study abroad experience will help you expand on these things and carry them with you through the rest of your life.
5. Get Detailed
When you’re describing the who, what, when, and why of your decision to study abroad, be sure to state your goals clearly. Passion is one thing, but your study abroad program also wants to know what it is exactly that you plan on gaining from this experience. How will this summer, semester, or year abroad bring you closer to your academic or career goals in the future?
Example: “Through this study abroad program in Israel, I will expand my worldview and understanding of Middle Eastern cultures, which will, in turn, prepare me for my plans to pursue a graduate degree in Global Peace and Conflict Studies. With this, I hope to eventually utilize my experience and passion to work for the United Nations. Studying abroad will help me achieve these goals.”
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6. Be Yourself!
In the world of academia, being formal and professional is key, but in the world of study abroad, it’s all about making those human connections beyond the borders of your own country! That’s why it’s so important to be yourself when writing your study abroad essay. Of course, always put in the time and effort so that your writing sounds smart, but don’t be afraid to add a little pizzaz and let your personality shine through! This will set you apart from other study abroad applications, and will give your study abroad program a much clearer sense of who you are as a student and a person.
7. A Two-Way Street
Ask not what you can do for your study abroad program, but what your study abroad program can do for you! Studying abroad isn’t just about what your study abroad program can provide you — you also need to prove your worth to the program’s officials. After all, you’ll be serving as an ambassador of your home country and this program in a completely different country. They want to be sure that they’re accepting dedicated and deserving students into their program, so that years from now, when you’re a famous scientist or a world-leading politician, they can point to you and say: “See that person? They studied abroad on our program!”
A study abroad program’s reputation is dependent not only on the opportunities they build for their students, but also on the caliber of students that they bring in. So when writing your personal essay, be sure to highlight what you bring to the table and how you look forward to continuing your study abroad program’s mission.
Example: “As a participant in this program, I know that I could expand my worldview and continue <Insert Study Abroad Program Provider’s Namer>’s mission of creating global citizens by creating bridges between myself and other cultures.”
8. A Solid Sprint to the Finish Line
As you conclude your study abroad essay, be sure to nail the point home and finish with a strong conclusion. You’ll have to tie together your original introduction, the reasons for studying abroad, and your goals for the future all together in a nice, clean, concluding two to three sentences. Don’t repeat yourself, but be sure that these final sentences pack a punch, and leave your study abroad program admissions officers ready to buy you your plane ticket outta here.
9. Edits & Revisions
Never hit submit without first revising and editing your essay two or three times! You might notice typos or awkward sentences at second glance, and you might also think of an exciting new idea you want to add in after your third look-over! It’s also always a good idea to have someone else to look at your essay, to get a fresh pair of eyes on your writing.
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10. Submit! (on time)
Once you’ve cleaned up your essay, upload that application and click submit! But, don’t forget to pay attention to all of the application deadlines, and be sure to get all of your relevant documents to the study abroad program on time! There’s no worse feeling in the world than having spent weeks perfecting an essay and application, only to have missed the deadline.
A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Study Abroad Essay
With all of these study abroad essay tips, you might as well start packing! You’re well on your way to your grand adventure abroad, and by investing so much time and effort into your writing, your chosen study abroad program will be sure to accept you! Applying to study abroad can seem like a lot of work, but the minute you step off that plane and into your new home, you’ll realize that it was all worth it.
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10 Benefits to Studying Abroad
Studying abroad may be one of the most beneficial experiences for a college student. By studying abroad, students have the opportunity to study in a foreign nation and take in the allure and culture of a new land. Here is a list of the top 10 reasons to study abroad!
1. See the World
The biggest reason you should consider a study abroad program is the opportunity to see the world . By studying abroad, you will experience a brand-new country with incredible new outlooks, customs and activities. The benefits of studying abroad include the opportunity to see new terrains, natural wonders, museums and landmarks of your host nation.
In addition, when you’re abroad, you won’t be limited to traveling in just the nation in which you are studying – you can see neighboring countries as well! For example, if you study in France, you’ll have the option to travel through various parts of Europe including London , Barcelona , and Rome.
Another reason you might consider studying abroad is for the chance to experience different styles of education. By enrolling in a study abroad program, you’ll have the chance to see a side of your major that you may not have been exposed to at home.
You’ll find that completely immersing yourself in the education system of your host country is a great way to really experience and understand the people, its traditions, and its culture. Education is the centerpiece of any study abroad trip—it is, after all, a study abroad program—and choosing the right school is a very important factor.
3. Take in a New Culture
Many students who choose to study abroad are leaving their home for the first time. When they arrive in their new host country, they are fascinated by the distinct cultural perspectives. When you study abroad you will find incredible new foods, customs, traditions, and social atmospheres.
You will find that you have a better understanding and appreciation for the nation’s people and history. You will have the opportunity to witness a completely new way of life.
4. Hone Your Language Skills
Chances are if you’re planning on studying abroad, one of the major draws is the opportunity to study a foreign language. Studying abroad grants you the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in a new language, and there is no better way to learn than to dive right in.
In addition to the considerable language practice you will get just in day to day life, your host university will likely offer language courses to provide you with a more formal education. Immerse yourself in a new culture and go beyond a purely academic experience
5. Career Opportunities
When you finish your study abroad program and return home, you will return with a new perspective on culture, language skills, a great education, and a willingness to learn. Needless to say, all of these are very attractive to future employers.
Many students find that they love their host country so much that they decide to seek work there. If you can relate, you will find that a local education will be very valuable when searching for a potential job in that country.
6. Find New Interests
If you are still questioning why to study abroad, you should know that studying in a different country offers many new activities and interests that you may never have discovered if you’d stayed at home. You might find that you have an as-yet undiscovered talent for hiking, water sports, snow skiing, golf, or various other new sports you may never have tried back home.
You’ll also have the chance to discover other new and exciting forms of entertainment. Plays, movies, dancing, nightclubs, and concerts are just a few activities that you can enjoy.
7. Make Lifelong Friends
One of the biggest benefits of studying abroad is the opportunity to meet new lifelong friends from different backgrounds. While studying abroad, you will attend school and live with students from your host country. This gives you the opportunity to really get to know and create lasting relationships with your fellow students.
After the study abroad program ends, make an effort stay in contact with your international friends. In addition to rewarding personal relationships, these friends can also be important networking tools later down the road.
8. Personal Development
There is nothing quite like being on your own in a foreign country. You might find that studying abroad really brings out your independent nature. Students who study abroad become explorers of their new nation and really discover the curiosity and excitement that they harbor.
A benefit to studying abroad is the opportunity to discover yourself while gaining an understanding of a different culture. Being in a new place by yourself can be overwhelming at times, and it tests your ability to adapt to diverse situations while being able to problem solve.
9. Graduate School Admissions
Like future employers, graduate school admissions boards look very highly on study abroad experiences. Students that study abroad display diversity and show that they aren’t afraid to seek out new challenges or put themselves in difficult situations.
Most importantly, students who have studied abroad show just how committed they are to their education. Graduate schools regularly look for candidates who will bring a unique aspect to their university. Students who have studied abroad have shown that they have the curiosity and educational acumen to be a leader in graduate school.
10. Life Experience
Why study abroad? For most students, this time may be the only opportunity they ever get to travel abroad for a long period of time. Eventually you will find a job and career, and the opportunity to study abroad may turn out to be a once in a life time opportunity.
Take this opportunity to travel the world with no commitments but to study and learn about new cultures. Studying abroad is an experience unlike any other.
Study Abroad Guide