Study abroad isn’t really a vacation, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t help you to relax, refresh, and gear up for your last year before graduation.

While you’ll still have classwork to do while studying abroad, you may find that your workload is reduced, which gives you time to reflect and refocus on your goals. Here are five ways studying abroad can help you gain a new lease on your studies.

1. You’ll be exposed to new ideas and new ways of thinking in your discipline.

If you’re taking even the most basic classes towards your major while studying abroad, you’ll often gain exposure to new ideas just by the way the curriculum is set up in your host university. Since universities set up their course schedules and curricula differently, students learn about certain concepts out-of-order (compared to your own school) and in a different way than what you would have learned at your home university.

The change in pace and shift in direction can help you refocus on the subject matter by providing a welcome revision of things you’ve already learned, as well as an introduction to a completely new set of ideas. Your professor’s research abroad might also be vastly different from your faculty advisor’s focus, causing him to teach about topics your other professors may have found irrelevant or uninteresting.

Whether this changes your understanding of the cutting-edge issues in your field or reignites your excitement about various topics is up to you, but you’ll certainly return from study abroad with a deeper understanding of your major.

2. You’ll get a break from the routine of your home university.

Sophomore slump is more than a myth, and taking a break from the tedium of your home university after four or five semesters can definitely help you to recharge your batteries and become more focused on what it is that you want to do after graduation.

The difficulty of your study abroad program and your language classes is almost a moot point, because the very fact of changing your routine and getting out of your old habits is bound to change your thinking and your priorities. You won’t have as many extracurricular activities and as much responsibility as you do at your home school, allowing you to travel, wander around the city exploring, devoting time to your hobbies, and getting some much-needed rest.

3. Communicating in a foreign language will change the way you think.

In French, you don’t “drop” something, you “let it fall” or “cause it to fall” (laisser tomber, or faire tomber). And there are thousands of other expressions to learn in every language that don’t mean what they say.

The very act of learning a second language, especially as a rational adult, helps you to become more critical about your native language and why you say the things you do. Ever thought about why it’s a pair of pants and not a pants, for example? The word is singular in most European languages.

Being forced to communicate in a different language will make you constantly question whether you’re expressing yourself properly in the foreign language, and in turn, you’ll start doubting your English skills. While you certainly won’t forget how to speak your native language, you’ll find yourself wondering things like, “Is mischievous really what I mean here?” and becoming much more precise in your language use.

4. You’ll discover new fields you didn’t know existed.

Before I went to France, I didn’t know that studying folklore could be an academic discipline. I was surprised to find a class on what I considered children’s stories, and ended up returning to my study abroad university to write my master’s thesis on Algerian fairy tales with a professor from my program. You never know.

Getting away from your home university allows you to discover subjects outside of your department’s field of vision, and potentially discover new passions you didn’t know you had. Your home university’s anthropology department may focus heavily on political anthropology, but once abroad, you may find that your host university has a great linguistic anthropology class that blows your mind. Hello, senior thesis topic.

When you go abroad, make sure you explore all of the possibilities at your host university and take courses that your home university doesn’t offer. You may find it’s the best decision you could have made.

5. Being away from your faculty advisor will give you a new perspective.

No matter how awesome your faculty advisor in your major may be, she’s used to the way things operate in your home university and expects you to follow the department’s curriculum to a T. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can be refreshing to meet other professors in the same field and to learn about other ways your subject is taught.

Whether you’re majoring in a foreign language or molecular biology, studying with professors outside of your department and their worldview will give you access to a whole new understanding of your field. The courses you take in your major while abroad will both help you understand things you already know in a new light, and introduce you to ideas you’ve never heard of before.

Hopefully, this freedom will challenge you and help you to think in new ways.