Studying abroad is one of the best things that came out of open borders, economies and geopolitical influence. One submerges in a different culture and gets to know people from all over the place.
More than two decades ago, I passed on an acceptance letter to do my undergraduate degree in France. Two years after that, I found myself on a plane to Shanghai with a five-year scholarship in the top 3 Chinese universities. And almost 10 years ago, I was on my way to Madrid for the masters in business.
It wasn’t an easy journey at first. Every foreign student was obliged to go through a one-year Mandarin course before joining the real classes. It turned out that one-year taught us how to order food, ask for direction and have a frivolous and somewhat awkward conversation with Chinese girls, but almost nothing applicable in the management theory class.
In my particular experience, my Chinese classmates were often asking the professors to speak in Mandarin. Which they did for the next 5 minutes and then they switched again to whatever dialect they were brought up with. Rather frustrating for anyone and especially for the four foreign lads sitting on the last bench.
The real treasure, however, was the foreign students’ campus – 3000 you people from all over the world at any given time. And as it goes with this age group, sports, partying and alcohol can go a long way with making friends and practising languages you’ve never learned after the fifth beer.
Madrid was no different with the internationally part. If only studying was not requiring long hours, the partying would have been even more amazing. But business schools are business schools just cause they are a reflection of a particularly ambitious professional life – work hard, play hard.
I have never had the opportunity to be part of an Erasmus program. My undergraduate was paid by the Chinese government and for my masters, I paid myself with the help of a few honourable individuals. But Erasmus has been constantly putting European Union students through exchange programs.
In 2016, 725 000 people studied, trained or volunteered abroad with Erasmus. And this is just for that year. Since the program was established in 1987, millions of people got to learn something about other cultures, master another language, get into an intercultural relationship or fall in love with morcilla (the Spanish version of blood sausage).
Most of all, studying abroad allows you to get a different perspective on learning. Things are always different from what you are used to studying in your home country. This combined with classmates and professors having a completely different background, broadens up your views and thinking arsenal.
As you can guess, I am a big proponent to studying abroad. I honestly believe that this choice has changed my life for the better. If could do it just once more…
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