The Benefits of Studying Abroad in Your Ancestors’ Homelands

January 1, 2020  - by 

Are you feeling an itch to see the world and experience a new culture, eat delicious foreign food, and appreciate art and architecture? The benefits of studying abroad can go beyond even these incredible experiences—especially when you choose to study abroad in the land of your heritage. (Don’t know your heritage? Learn more here.)

Here are just a few benefits of studying abroad in the places that teach you about your cultural identity.

1. You Can Learn the Language You Would Have Spoken

As you learn your ancestors’ language, you might notice where some of your family sayings, names, and nicknames originated from.

Women speak to eachother over lunch

Many languages have words with meanings that are completely unique to the culture. For example, the Danish word hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) can’t be translated into one single word in English. Hygge, however, captures in one sentiment the Danish culture of “cozy, comfortable contentment.” What other clues to your heritage can you discover in the language of your ancestors? Learn more about your Danish heritage.

2. Identify Where Your Family Traditions and Culture Came From

Have you wondered where some of your family traditions came from? Learning about your ancestors’ culture may give you some answers.

Girl learns weaving tradition on a study abroad

For example, have you ever wondered where your love of nature came from? If you’re from Norway, it may be because of your heritage: Norwegians are known for their deep reverence or appreciation of nature, as described by the Norwegian word “friluftsliv,” which means “free-air life.” Learn more about your Norwegian heritage.

3. Discover the Foods Your Ancestors Ate

Women laugh and eat traditional food together outside

Food is one way to connect to a new area. Try native recipes, and watch the cooking techniques. Did some of your family’s recipes come from their homeland?

You might even be surprised by what the authentic food of your heritage says about the history of your homeland. For example, much of traditional Welsh cuisine is inspired by food that the working class could produce or afford. In trying authentic dishes, you can learn about the resources that were available to your ancestors.

4. Walk Where Your Ancestors Walked

Woman puts hand on ancestor's gravestone

Visit ancestral hometowns, cemeteries, and places that were important to your family. When you visit areas important to your ancestors, these places become more than just spots on the map. Sights and sounds familiar to those who came before you will connect you to them. You can even participate in a pilgrimage that your ancestors went on.

5. Learn about Local History—and How It Might Have Forever Affected Your Life

As you learn about the country’s history, you can think about what your ancestors experienced. How did local history impact your family? Many towns have histories. See if you can find your family mentioned in the histories to give you new insight into their lives.

Student on study abroad in a museum

6. Adjust to a New Environment, and Develop Self-Reliance

When you study abroad in your ancestors’ homeland, you can think about what your ancestors dealt with as they adjusted to a different environment. How can their experiences help you? Some research even shows that learning about your family history can help you become more resilient.

7. Make Connections with People around You.

A major benefit of studying abroad is the lifelong connections you make. Who knows? The people you meet may be distant cousins!

People at a festival eat food together

8. Learn More about Yourself.

As you learn about those who came before you, you will learn about yourself—your talents, your traits, and your own uniqueness.

Discover the full benefits of studying abroad by traveling to your ancestors’ homeland. You can find out where that is by looking at your Family Tree. If you already know where your ancestors came from, FamilySearch’s country pages can help you learn more, or you can check out some of our tailored travel tips below.


Learn More about Heritage Travel and Its Amazing Benefits

Two sisters smiling hold a map in Italy

Kathryn Grant

Kathryn is a writer, teacher, and family history enthusiast. Her specialty is mentoring new family historians and helping them find success--and maybe even avoid some of the mistakes she's made. She believes that with the right guidance, everyone can learn to love and do family history.

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