In the final instalment of this series created for Project Travel, Steve Vickers looks at the rewards of studying abroad. 

Christmas is nearly here and thoughts are turning to what might be waiting for us under the tree. But instead of unwrapping a new phone or a pair of socks that you’ll never wear, wouldn’t you rather receive a plane ticket, a train pass or a few weeks’ worth of travel insurance that you can use on a life-changing study abroad program? After all, research shows that it’s experiences, rather than possessions, that make us truly happy.

So what can you expect to gain from travelling abroad for your studies? Here’s a list of seven "gifts" that studying abroad will bring you, with some advice from a student who’s already taken the plunge.

Language skills

Studying abroad will take you away from the touristy places where you can survive with English alone. Every day you’ll be presented with new situations that demand a basic understanding of the local lingo – like finding the right room for your lecture, for example, or ordering drinks in a bar that’s far off the tourist radar. If all goes well, you’ll come home with the first, tentative building blocks you need to eventually become fluent in your new language.

Perspective

Studying abroad will help you see the world in a new light. “Seeing the way others live teaches you not only to appreciate their way of life, but also gives you new perspective on the way you live yours,” says Brandy Herrera, who grew up in Chicago and is now studying at the London School of Economics. “You learn to not only draw distinctions between your cultures, but you also learn to find commonalities, and to connect despite your differences.”

Piazza di Santa Maria de Trastevere

A new understanding of time

Attitudes to time vary around the world. What’s considered polite in Japan or Sweden, for instance, might seem a little too keen in other parts of the world. But it’s not all about punctuality; approaches to the actual studying vary hugely too, with different amounts of time allocated to seminars and private study. Fitting in with a new regime will keep you on your toes, and may even inspire you to get a better grip on your time when you get back home.

Money-saving skills

Saving up for a foreign trip is difficult, especially if your busy study schedule means that you don’t have much time for paid work. Though whether you scrape together funds from a couple of part-time jobs, or launch your own crowdfunding campaign with a site like Project Travel, you’ll finish up feeling pretty smug – and can then look forward to blasting your savings away on one unforgettable study abroad program.

“I want other students to know that community help is always there,” says Brandy. “Be it through local businesses or chambers of commerce, there are plenty of people who are more than happy to help students get abroad.”

"Local" status

There are loads of travel articles devoted to "living like a local" but the truth is, there’s only one way to do that properly – and that’s to become a local yourself. Spend time studying abroad and you’ll get to experience life exactly as the local people do, from stocking up on groceries at run-of-the-mill shops to attending hush-hush gigs and art exhibitions at small, quirky venues that few short-term visitors get to see.

Clachaig Inn, Glencoe, pub

Reduced (or non-existent) tuition fees

This depends on where you choose to study, of course, but you may actually be able to save money by studying abroad. Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland are among the countries offering free or very cheap education to foreign students.

Interesting new friends

Apart from meeting local people who know their city inside out, you’ll also get to meet like-minded foreign students who’ve decided to expand their horizons. Even if you’re only abroad for a couple of weeks or a single semester, the chances are that you’ll come away with a whole bunch of new friends, each with different stories to tell. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll have a sofa for you to sleep on the next time you go travelling.

This article is part of a continuing series covering study abroad programs with Project Travel, a company that helps students of all ages tap into the funding potential of their communities. Visit projecttravel.com/go/rough-guides for more information.