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 a land that’s tied to your roots.
In the short-term, studying abroad can round out your education and look good on a resume, but in in the long-term it also provides an opportunity for significant personal development and life-changing experiences. Studying in a country that’s tied to your heritage opens up even more opportunity for self-discovery as you learn more about where you came from and your family story.
Below are just a few benefits of studying abroad in the places that teach you about your cultural identity. (Don’t know your heritage? Learn more here.)
1. You Can Learn the Language of Your Ancestors
As you study abroad and learn your ancestors’ language, you might notice where some of your family sayings, names, and nicknames originated from.
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 abroad 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? Studying your ancestors’ culture may give you some answers. You may even pick up a few traditions!
As you study abroad in a country tied to your ancestral roots, you may notice some similarities between you and the people there. 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. Taste Authentic Dishes Tied to Your Heritage
Food is one way to connect to a new area, and you’ll feel even more connected to the country if you know that the meals are part of your personal history. Try native recipes, and study the cooking techniques. Some of your family’s recipes may have come from their homeland—and you may be able to bring some new recipes home with you!
You might even be surprised by what the authentic food of your heritage says about the history of the country. For example, much of traditional Welsh cuisine is inspired by food that the working class could produce or afford. In trying and studying authentic dishes abroad, you can learn about the resources that were available to your ancestors.
4. Walk Where Your Ancestors Walked
As you study abroad, you can visit the 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. Study 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.
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!
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.
Sally Odekirk and Jessica Grimaud contributed to this post.