By Divine Hanna
Looking back at my time studying abroad, I realize that it was possibly the best decision I ever made. In 2021, I was privileged enough to receive the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship, a scholarship that covered all expenses to study abroad in Germany. This included the cost to attend a German high school, flight tickets, and language lessons, as well as a carefully chosen host family to spend my exchange year with. It was not the traditional route of studying abroad, as it is more common for students to partake in this activity during their college years, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
I will admit that it was truly a challenge to pack up my entire life in California inside one suitcase, especially to a foriegn country where everything was different, leaving behind school, my family and friends, and any sense of familiarity. I often had to find comfort in my own company as I traveled around the country, but learned to cherish my own presence.
Unfortunately, COVID cases increased and my exchange was cut short. Nonetheless, this opportunity gifted me the chance to become independent, learn a new language, make lifelong friends, and experience a million memories that I will never forget. From celebrating my sixteenth birthday in Dresden to seeing the most remarkably structured churches in Nuremberg, I am grateful to have discovered the ravishing culture and country that is Germany, even if I didn’t get to spend my entire junior year there.
From my own experience, I believe every student should have the opportunity to study abroad. Being able to interact with people from different countries is a spectacular experience because it allows you to gain knowledge of a new language and a different culture.
The educational system in different parts of the world also varies tremendously, and some may find it more appealing than the U.S. Essentially, there is so much to discover beyond Southern California, and studying abroad is one of the best ways to experience the world.
Although there are many perks, there is one aspect that tends to be the deal-breaker for those considering studying abroad, and that is the cost. Traveling abroad is very expensive in itself, but studying abroad for a longer time racks up the total. However, there are full scholarships available for both high school and graduate-level students to make studying abroad more feasible.
NSLI-Y, YES, FLEX, and CBYX are just some of the scholarship programs funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs that allow students to study abroad. From Albania to Egypt to Turkey, there are multiple programs offered to give students a chance to experience a new country. YES, FLEX, and CBYX applications are currently open until mid-December.
If you are interested in stepping outside of your comfort zone and discovering more about yourself and the world, this is the chance for you to fulfill that dream.