Often times when I tell people that I studied abroad in Australia I get snarky reactions such as “They speak English, isn’t that a cop out?” or “it’s not really studying abroad because they speak English”. Woah there. While I know the opportunity to learn a new language is a huge aspect of study abroad, that doesn’t mean going to an English speaking country is not an opportunity to experience new things and grow immensely. While I never had the experience of getting lost in a foreign country and not knowing how to ask for directions home or the feeling of isolation that so many of my friends who went to non-English speaking countries speak of, I still had my own struggles and obstacles to overcome.
No matter what the language of your host country is, you’re still transplanting yourself to a foreign country for a semester. Personally I went through a third party program, which meant going to Australia for four and a half months knowing that I wouldn’t know a single person when I got there. Having experiences like that though is what makes a person grow through study abroad. By in a sense going alone I learned to break out of my shell and befriend people who I might not normally have even talked to. Having that experience has been invaluable for me since I got home. Not only that but no matter where you choose to study abroad at, it shows that you can take (good) risks, can adapt to new situations, can be independent, and are more culturally aware than the average citizen. As I said earlier, these are skills that you can learn no matter what language your host country speaks. These are also some of the qualities that make study abroad students so much more attractive to potential employers.
Because of studying abroad I have grown up so much. I even managed to land my dream internship at South By Southwest this year because I was able to properly articulate these skills I learned through study abroad. It didn’t matter to them what language my host country spoke, simply the fact that I studied abroad set me apart from the mountain of applicants they received. Considering the fact that less than 1% of American students study abroad, simply showing that you have the initiative to study abroad sets you apart.
In short, if you’re worrying about studying abroad in an English speaking country because it will be “too similar”, don’t worry. Studying abroad is such a personal experience that you really have to follow your heart on. While you most likely will not get the same communication skills as students in non-English speaking countries will, you will still learn and grow so much. You will still be living in a foreign country experiencing a new culture and learning how to deal with situations on your own. No matter where you go, the skills you learn while abroad will still be invaluable to you later in life.