Deciding to Study Abroad

Lisa Penfield headshot
Lisa Penfield
February 9, 2024

In the fall of 2022, I submitted an “Intent to Study Abroad” form, officially alerting my school, “Hey, I’m not going to study here next year and will leave my family, friends, and professors to join a university in a foreign country,” what a totally unscary decision! When I was deciding to study abroad, I found the decision to be intimidating due to the 3 F’s:

1.  Family/friends
2. Fear
3. Financials

1. Why should I leave my family and friends?
One of my biggest concerns about studying abroad was leaving my family and friends but after speaking with my parents, they supported my decision to study abroad, stating that studying abroad is the perfect time to experience another culture in a highly supportive environment. Instead of adjusting to new customs, new norms, and new status quos by myself, studying abroad provides a unique opportunity of autonomy mixed with a support network in the abroad university.

Although my parents supported this decision, I still had doubts about leaving them and my friends. However, this slight panic I felt at the thought of leaving was a similar emotion I felt when I took my first flight alone, said goodbye to my parents in my freshman year of college, and moved to a rural town for a summer internship. By navigating those experiences, I successfully proved to myself that I’m capable of adapting to new environments without my close loved ones (even if I wish I could bundle my loved ones in a suitcase and take them all to New Zealand).

2. Why should I replace familiarity with fear?
The dread I felt at the thought of leaving my family and friends was largely rooted in the fear of leaving an environment I was already comfortable in. I started to ask questions: Why should I adjust to new professors? Why should I adjust to a new campus? Why should I adjust to a whole new learning system? The answers to these questions became more clear as I researched studying abroad through school seminars, online videos, and word-of-mouth. Through this research, there was one common theme: personal growth. By studying abroad, these people shared stories and experiences that could not be shared if they didn’t go. For example, one person shared their experience of practicing their Japanese in a restaurant, stumbling through the menu to order a small breakfast sandwich. These people chose to replace their familiarity with fulfillment, not fear. Their experiences amplified their resilience, cross-cultural communication skills, and confidence, ultimately inspiring my decision to study abroad.

3. How can I afford to study abroad?
We’ve arrived at the last “F”, financials, an essential factor to consider when studying abroad. And again, studying abroad is a unique opportunity where you’re not alone and have access to a large support system. This system includes scholarship opportunities, grants, and transferrable financial aid to support anyone’s time abroad. For me, I also found that my jobs in the past year can also help fund my trip abroad!

4. The secret “F”!
There’s one “F” I didn’t mention that certainly played a role in influencing my decision to study abroad, FUN. By studying abroad, I can take courses that don’t exist at my school or even in the U.S. For example, at the University of Auckland, I can enroll in a course in the Māori Studies department or enroll in a geology course that explores the Pacific communities and landforms. Apart from school, I can explore the city and travel to new destinations. During my time in New Zealand, I can travel to gorgeous landforms such as the Bay of Islands, the glistening lakes of the Tongariro National Park, or the towering peaks of the mountains! I’m most intrigued by New Zealand’s Nevis Swing, one of the largest swings in the world.

Although I considered choosing to study abroad to be a daunting decision, with research and self-reflection, I also found that saying “yes” to studying abroad was ultimately the right choice!

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs
Lisa Penfield headshot

Lisa Penfield

At Tufts University I’m a Sustainable Solutions Fellow, a member of the Chinese Students Association, and a Volunteer Coordinator for the Food Rescue Collaborative. Outside of school, I enjoy running, baking, and learning to play frisbee!

Home University:
Tufts University
Engineering - Environmental
Explore Blogs