Advice From Students Who Went Abroad this Semester: "Just Do It!"

Students on a cliff

Thinking of studying abroad but have hesitations? Our recent IES Abroad participants were in your shoes not so long ago, so we asked them what advice they have. Most said, "just do it!" But aside from the obvious, here are seven pieces of advice for students thinking about study abroad from recent participants:

1. Take the Leap 

Taking the leap to study abroad can be an intimidating concept. For most, it’s an experience that’s outside your comfort zone and filled with risks and challenges. At the same time, it’s also a life-altering opportunity to get to know yourself better and the world around you. Hopping on a plane somewhere foreign, thousands of miles from home can, of course, be scary, but the risks you take studying abroad come with far greater rewards than you can imagine.  

Take it from students who have studied abroad themselves and shared their advice about overcoming fears to take that necessary leap of faith:

Anthony Ratliff
“Everything that is worth doing is a little scary.”
Anthony Ratliff | Knox College | IES Abroad Milan – Fashion Design & Merchandising  

Cari Metz
“It's terrifying to take the leap and decide to study abroad, but it is so worth it. Your future self will wake up in a beautiful foreign country one day and thank you for the effort that you're currently putting in. It's hard to leave everything behind to immerse yourself in the unfamiliar, but only through discomfort can you truly push your boundaries and grow into the person you were meant to be.”
Cari Metz | Indiana University | IES Abroad Christchurch Direct Enrollment – University of Canterbury  

Emily Welcher
“Take the leap and see where you may end up. Yes, it is a scary thought of being away from everything you know, but don't you want to know more?”
Emily Welcher | Penn State University | IES Abroad Siena – Business & Economics of Italian Food & Wine  

Kaya Heimowitz
“I would tell them to take the leap of faith and do it! Studying abroad is the most worthwhile experience and the best way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Studying abroad provides the most resources you'll ever have to live in another country, so take advantage of it!”
Kaya Heimowitz | University of Puget Sound | IES Abroad Dublin – Writer’s Program 

2. A Once in A Lifetime Opportunity  

We know that just doing it and taking a leap of faith can be easier said than done. Beyond taking that initial step, it's important to consider, what makes study abroad so special? For many of our students, study abroad has left a lasting impact and was an opportunity they wouldn't otherwise have. Take it from the students themselves:

Abigail Sajdak
“Being able to explore a different culture and communicate with a whole new nation of people is not a waste. Rather, it is a privilege, and not one that you want to deny yourself of.”
Abigail Sajdak| Occidental College | IES Abroad Tokyo – Language & Culture  

Adam Smith
“ If you can you should. Do your research into the technicalities, but if it's possible then this is something you will never be able to do again in your life if you pass it up now…. There's too many reasons to do it and too few reasons not to do it. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and there is no point in living to regret it if you have even the slightest inclination to believe it is something that you would enjoy.”
Adam Smith | Drew University | IES Abroad Barcelona – Journalism & Communications 

Woohyun Kwen
“I want to remind everyone that studying abroad is a unique opportunity that you may not have in the future, and taking advantage of this chance can leave a really positive impact on your life. So if anyone is considering studying abroad, I really recommend exploring all of your options and staying positive throughout the process!”
Woohyun Kwen | Amherst College | IES Abroad Salamanca – Psychology 

Simon Wallace
“I'm tempted to say something like, "Just do it. There's no reason not to. You won't regret it." Because that's very much how the process unfolded for me. However, there are things you might have to consider before pulling the trigger. … That being said, a semester abroad is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and one that my friends and family have always said they were so glad they seized. Not to get too Carpe Diem, but I think that is exactly the right word. Seize. … Don't let yourself miss out on an experience abroad because of what can feel like a long, overwhelming process.”
Simon Wallace | Penn State University | IES Abroad Madrid – Engineering, Mathematics, & Science 

3. Use the Support & Resources Around You

Our students are never alone in their study abroad journey. From predeparture to on-site arrival and everything in between, there is a team of IES Abroad staff members who are working diligently to guide and provide support for students.

Mads Kwasnik
“If I were to give advice to any student in the early stages of deciding to study abroad, I would tell them to reach out and ask questions to everyone!”
Mads Kwasnik | Washington and Lee University | IES Abroad Madrid - Business & Economics 

Kaitlyn Morales
“Do it! It may seem daunting. And it can be, but there is always support, there are peers going through the exact same thing of being in a new country, trying to navigate on their own. It takes effort and I can guarantee it Will be worth it.”
Kaitlyn Morales | University of the Pacific | IES Abroad Barcelona – Arts & Culture  

4. Keep an Open Mind 

Fortunately, study abroad options are anything but limited. There are a wide variety of programs to choose from - whether you're taking classes or doing an internship, focusing on Engineering or language immersion, studying in Asia or Europe, or somewhere in between, the choices are seemingly limitless. Choosing the right fit can be tough, but students who have been there say to keep an open mind! Hear more:

Kyung Yeon Jang
“Keep an open mind! If you have even the slightest bit of interest, or are questioning it, just apply. You can change your mind down the road, but you want to keep that opportunity possible.”
Kyung Yeon Jang | Santa Clara University | IES Abroad Seoul Direct Enrollment – Yonsei University  

Alexandra Wnuk
“Due to my experience [as an engineering student], I would tell students to keep an open mind and don't think you are restricted in your options to study abroad.”
Alexandra Wnuk | Lehigh University | Milan – Fashion Design & Merchandising  

5. For Those on the Fence 

Having doubts is normal, but students say not to let those fears get in the way of making it happen. Here's why:

Zev Ross
“I would probably tell them that if they're on the fence, they should just go for it. Study abroad is a rare opportunity to immerse yourself in a foreign culture and language for an extended period of time without having to worry about your career. There are so many amazing places to see in the world, and this may be the only chance for many to dive past a tourism-level view of a foreign country.”
Zev Ross | Brandeis University | IES Abroad Tokyo – Language & Culture 

Josef Kiesenhofer
“If your gut is telling you that you want to study abroad, go for it! Don't let the backseat drivers dictate how you reach your destination.”
Josef Kiesenhofer | Tulane University | IES Abroad Berlin – Language & Area Studies 

Elizabeth Page
“If you have any doubts, don't. It is such a unique opportunity to go abroad at a young age and experience a different part of the world. If you feel unsure about committing to such a big thing or overwhelmed by the process, know that you'll be helpfully guided through every step of applying and the experience will broaden your horizon and leave you better off. If you're on the fence, do it!”
Elizabeth Page | Hofstra University | IES Abroad Dublin – Writer’s Program 

6. Follow Your Heart ❤️

We know it can be cliché, but for many students, following their passions led to genuine fulfillment. Hear from students who saw meaningful results when they followed their own path and didn't let anyone stop them along the way: 

“My biggest piece of advice to future students is to follow your own path! Your decision on what program to choose should be your own, do not base it off the agendas of friends or persuasion of others. This is a deeply personal experience and a time to discover yourself in a new setting. The choice of where you go should be your own!”
Zoe Koutsokostas | Gettysburg College | IES Abroad Rome – Language & Area Studies 

Yuchen Wang
“Just go and experience. Your passion matters more than anything else.”
Yuchen Wang | Knox College | IES Abroad Dublin – Writer’s Program  

Timaira Hinton
“Persevere. There may be counselors, family members, and anyone else telling you to look elsewhere or ‘get your degree and focus strictly on that!’ But you didn't gain interest in studying abroad for no reason. The fact that you even looked into it is the necessary push you need.”
Timaira Hinton | Howard University | IES Abroad Oxford Direct Enrollment – St. Catherine’s College 

7. The Risk is Worth the Reward 

We won't glorify the study abroad experience. There will be inevitable challenges - whether that's living far from home for the first time, a language barrier, meeting new people, or getting on an airplane, but by taking those risks, the beautiful streets of Spain could become your home away from home, the strangers in class could become your best friends, and a foreign language might not feel so foreign after a while.

But you'll never know until you try. These students gave it a shot and here's what came out of it:

Devon Carlson
“I would tell them to not be afraid of unfamiliar experiences. Sure, there might be things to adjust to in a new city, and maybe you'll make a fool of yourself at the supermarket or even miss a couple trains, but the memories made will 100% make it worth it.”
Devon Carlson | Northwestern University | IES Abroad Paris – Business & International Affairs 

Shane Sedlock
“Just do it. It’s an amazing opportunity that for some may be a once in a lifetime experience. The sights and culture are unlike anything else and the only way to truly experience that it to be immersed in it.”
Shane Sedlock | Benedictine University | IES Abroad Nagoya Direct Enrollment – Nanzan University 

Riana Santos headshot
“If the student has been thinking about study abroad for a while, I'd tell them to go for it!! They have so much to gain from the experience, whether that's meeting new people or exploring a new culture or even taking a class that's not available in their home institution.”
Riana Santos | Santa Clara University | IES Abroad Seoul Direct Enrollment – Yonsei University  

Alicia Strader
“I believe it is important to acknowledge how challenging and nerve-wracking study abroad can be, but it is also important to look at these challenges from a different perspective so that you can realize how much your efforts will pay off.”
Alicia Strader | Fordham University | IES Abroad Paris – Business & International Affairs 

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