I've recently had the absolute pleasure of working on some custom travel journals for some students taking part in the Semester at Sea study program (one student that's literally just embarked this week) and it brought back a ton of memories for me from my time on the Erasmus European Exchange when I myself was a student many many moons ago!
It's an experience that's stayed with me till this day and if you're at College or University (or the parent of a young student who is) and an opportunity like this comes your way then my advice would be to grab it with both hands and go!
Semester at Sea for those who don't know is quite literally a voyage of discovery aboard a ship that's a classroom at sea, 'a floating campus' as it were. It's US based but open to International students and ERASMUS is the European equivalent where you can "study at universities in the EU member states for set periods of time" which is what I did. Check out the links at the end of this post for more information about study abroad programs.
My experience was just incredible. I was 18 years old and it was my 1st time away from home and my 1st trip overseas. I kept a travel journal whilst I was away and I still have it after all these years. Every once in a while it comes out for me to relive my experience. Taking a journal with me on that life changing trip was the best thing that I did. I was able to capture memories and document my journey, the highs as well as the lows, all the 1st's and all the never again's! An absolutely incredible journey that changed my life and was the door that opened up the rest of the world for me.
Fun fact, I've been to 28 countries since! Read on below for my top 5 benefits of studying abroad.
Before that though, here's some photos of the custom travel journals that were made for my Semester at Sea students. We took elements from several different journals that I have on the website to create each student's dream travel diary.
I love working on bespoke orders, so get in touch to if you'd like me to work with you to create your own custom travel journal or book. These are the perfect companions for an epic adventure, allowing you to savour, reflect and capture those wonderful memories.
5 BENEFITS OF STUDYING ABROAD:
1. Make lifelong friends
You will have the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful souls and to come away with friendships that can last a lifetime.
During my time as an International student I met such a diverse range of people from backgrounds that were so different to mine. I struck up friendships with people I never imagined I'd cross paths with from Koreans, to French, to Trinidadians and Greeks. It was an eclectic mix of nationalities and personalities and it was an honour to meet those people and to share a little of my culture with them and to learn about theirs. 20 years on I'm still in touch with a couple which is incredible.
2. Self Development
Learning about yourself, your limits, strengths and weaknesses will be incredible for your own self development.
The most remarkable thing for me was the change that happened within me during my journey. I set off as a timid, shy creature and even though I didn't shed the characteristics that make me who I am, I grew into my own skin and came back a more confident, independent and determined young woman. The whole experience really changed me for the better and made me more open to new opportunities and challenges that put me out of my comfort zone.
3. Experience A New Culture & Environment:
My advice would be to take it all in fully and experience as much as you can.
What I experienced as an exchange student in Helsinki, Finland was a dramatic contrast to my usual surroundings and day to day life. The biggest shock to my system was acclimatizing to the minus temperatures! I knew it would be cold but I was not prepared at all for exactly how cold it would be :) It was thoroughly enjoyable though to experience walking on the sea when it had frozen over and to indulging regularly in eating Finnish Pulla.
4.Travel And Explore Nearby Countries
Make the most of where you are and try and cross over to see nearby countries if you can.
As well as exploring Helsinki, Finland as a student, I had the incredible opportunity whilst there to visit nearby St Petersburg, Russia and Tallinn, Estonia. At 18 those places weren't even on my radar but the comforting pull of travelling with a group of international students meant that I jumped at the chance to cross over and see a few additional places on my journey.
5. Learn A New Language
I wish I could say I did this successfully, but I didn't and it's ok. Finnish is a difficult language to learn in 6 months as it has no connection to Latin which makes it harder for an English speaker to master. Randomly though, I can count to 7 in Finnish though after all these years! My brain seems to have wanted to keep that piece of information.
Here's some useful links if you're interested in finding out some more about Semester at Sea or Erasmus:
Semester at Sea official website
Semester at sea scholarships
Applying for Semester at Sea and how much it actually costs
Semester at Sea on Instagram
Erasmus official website