For the majority of people, studying abroad is seen as a sort of badge of honour; when someone finds out someone has managed to live “on their own” in a foreign country (especially if the native language is not their mother/primary language) they tend to suddenly have a higher opinion of them.
They must be super independent and capable and responsible, they must be super cultured and educated and informed.
This is not true in the slightest. The only thing that knowing someone has studied abroad can tell you about them right off the bat is that they had enough money or were in the right circumstances to study abroad. That’s it. It tells you nothing about their character, the struggles they may or may not have gone through and how they might have [not] grown as a person. All of those things, they all come after you find out more about the person’s time abroad.
Studying abroad makes one look good on a CV and it is not exactly a walk in the park, sure, but it does not necessarily prove anything about a person’s true character. The worst part of this, however, is when the study abroad students themselves think that they are some kind of higher power because they have done what they have done, even if they had their hands held every single step of the way.
You are not as independent, responsible and grown-up as you think you are if you keep spending all of the money you got from whining to your parents every weekend on manga, band merchandise, clubbing, clothes or drinking. Contrary to popular belief, it is entirely possible for someone to be completely dependent on parents or spouses or fellow students even when living oceans away from them.
Another huge factor is that living in a different country with a vastly different culture certainly does not automatically make you more cultured or educated, either. I have met more misinformed, ignorant and racist people while living in Japan through my classmates & other study abroad students on campus, as well as other students from different universities than I ever had in any of the other 5 countries I’ve lived in or while travelling the world–where most people were not aspiring to be able to live in and adapt to another culture.
You’d think that someone must be a little more culturally sensitive if they’re planning on interacting with other cultures and potentially living in another country long-term, but you’d be wrong.
A good number of people studying abroad fall into this category perfectly. Where they constantly complain about the society or customs of the nation they are now living in, where they refuse to attempt to adapt, where they openly insult the people and culture in front of their very faces.
All in all, do not simply assume that someone is an all-knowing paragon of humanity just because they survived a semester or two in another nation–whether is be Japan, Italy, England, Egypt, or anywhere else.
You may very well meet just as many–or more!–bigots and arses on a year abroad in a different country as you would back in your home country; studying elsewhere is no exception!
That being said, it is entirely possible for people to, in fact, change for the better and that is the case with many as well!
There is not just one side of a coin.
Whether you let travelling or studying abroad change you, for the better or worse, is entirely up to YOU.
Only YOU can decide how the world and society shapes you in the end.