Education that goes beyond the classroom: Why everyone should study abroad

My decision to study abroad was one of the best I’ve ever made, and everyone should jump at the opportunity to do so

Taylor Reisdorf

More stories from Taylor Reisdorf

COVID-19 Statements
March 25, 2020


My semester in England, living and studying at Harlaxton College, taught me about the world and myself. Everyone should take the opportunity to study abroad.

I remember the day clearly: I’m sitting at my cluttered desk in my tiny dorm room, finger poised on my laptop mouse, a click away from making one of the biggest decisions of my life thus far. And then it happened: I clicked “Commit.”

Before starting college, the concept of studying abroad had always intrigued me. One of the many reasons behind my choosing to attend UW-Eau Claire was the amazing study abroad program offered here. While there was some back-and-forth, studying abroad had been something I knew I wanted and needed to do.

Of course, there was anxiety about leaving my life in Eau Claire — and my life in the United States behind. Living in a different country for an entire semester would require me to take a massive step out of my comfort zone, but not a day goes by where I don’t thank myself for taking that step.

For the 2017 spring semester I attended classes and lived in Harlaxton College, an indescribably beautiful manor tucked away in the hills of the English countryside.

I traveled to eight different countries and met amazing people from all over the United States and Europe. During those four months, I learned more about the world and myself than I could have imagined.

The college’s small population allowed for incredible bonds to be formed, and the student body as a whole connected deeply as the semester progressed. The people I met helped turn a once completely foreign space into a home away from home.

During the fifteen weeks I was gone, I traveled around England and the rest of the UK making stops in London, Nottingham, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birth town), the Lake District National Park, Edinburgh and Dublin. Additionally, I traveled to the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Northern Ireland, France, Denmark and Germany.  

I have thought about these countries, and the memories I made in them, every day since I returned to the United States. While not every moment was perfect and not every trip was executed without issue, the good greatly outweighed the bad.

Yes, there were flights cancelled or delayed, trains missed, tearful calls home, times spent lost in the pouring rain and nights spent on airport benches.

However, there were also endless laughs, copious amounts of landmarks checked off my bucketlist, unexpected and beautiful discoveries made and an abundance of new and delicious foods tasted.

There were street markets to wander through, trails to follow, cathedrals to climb and loads of history to be absorbed.

I returned to the U.S with an extensive knowledge of British culture which I learned both in and outside the classroom and European culture as a whole. I visited over 15 different cities, and fell in love with at least some part of every one of them.

Every moment from my experience good and bad resulted in personal growth. Being immersed into a completely unfamiliar setting with new people forced me to go beyond the comfortable, to be vulnerable and completely independent.

By removing myself from the familiar and stepping into a new world, I learned things no professor in any classroom could fully teach me.

I learned how to cope when things don’t go exactly as expected, maintain long-distance relationships while simultaneously forming new ones and make travel plans on a student budget.

Through my experience abroad I realized how capable I am of adjusting to and thriving in new situations.

I hope everyone takes the opportunity to spend time abroad. I feel it’s important, if not vital, for everyone to leave their comfort zone and explore the world around them at some point in their lives.