Why Study Abroad?
More students than ever before are choosing to study abroad, from the always popular
programs in the United Kingdom and Italy to countries across Africa and Asia that
have seen a growth in applicants. So why do they do it? The same reasons you should.
Study abroad is a good opportunity to do something different, and the stories you’ll
be able to tell upon your return may be worth the voyage alone. Ask around. Chances
are the friends you know that have spent some time overseas count it as one of the
most exciting and rewarding experiences of their college careers. Here are our top
10 reasons you should consider studying abroad if you’re on the fence.
- Broaden your horizons and your view of the world. You may not know how sheltered
you’ve been until you spend a significant period of time abroad. Studying abroad
gives you new perspectives on other cultures and how people outside of the United
States view Americans. Spending time overseas could make you think about adapting
your world view. Just know that you could be in for a reverse case of culture shock
when you’re done with your program and ready to return home.
- Break out of your routine. If you’re not paying much attention, it’s possible that
you’ll get a little too comfortable on campus, getting a little bored with that
same old semester to semester routine. Getting involved in different student groups
or challenging yourself with an elective outside of your major could give back some
of that excitement you felt as a freshman, but no experience will take you more
of your academic comfort zone than a study abroad program. You’ll be expected to
become familiar with a new way of doing things and a new way of learning, and could
potentially come back to your home school feeling a new sense of purpose.
- Explore new academic opportunities. Sure, it could be fun to go abroad, take electives
that won’t count toward your major, and focus instead on enjoying your time in a
new country. But studying abroad is also a good opportunity to take advantage of
programs that may be more impressive overseas than at your home school. International
internships, for example, could be a great way to get some experience that wouldn’t
necessarily be offered at home. Interested in global economies? Try a program in
China. Are you a future marine biologist? Supplement your academic record with a
program off a coast of Australia. You may find that a program abroad will give you
unique insights into your field, making you a more desirable job candidate post-graduation.
- Give your resume a boost. More and more companies are opening offices overseas,
both to save costs and become bigger players on the global market. Studying abroad
is then a smart move on not only a personal development level, but a professional
one. The skills you pick up abroad will also come in handy when you’re ready to
look for that job post-graduation. Play up your time abroad so that employers view
you as an independent self-starter who isn’t afraid to take risks
- Take advantage of an opportunity to travel. “I wish I was able to travel more” is
a common refrain you’ll likely hear once you enter the real world post-college.
New stresses and demands on your time will affect how often you’ll be able to travel,
and unless you work for a very generous employer who would approve a leave of absence
for you to go exploring abroad, you probably won’t have the opportunity to spend
months at a time overseas. To maximize study abroad as a travel opportunity, look
for programs that take you to various parts of a country as part of a program, or
look into whether you’d be able to extend your stay abroad once your program is
completed to explore bordering countries.
- Learn a language. If you’re interested in studying abroad in a country where the
language isn’t English, it could be a great opportunity to learn a new language
or brush up on a language you haven’t used since you were trying to meet those high
school requirements in intro to Spanish or French. Being immersed in a culture where
you’re going to be forced to at least memorize some conversation starters could
be difficult at first, but seeing and hearing a language on a daily basis is the
best way to learn a new language. You’ll also be exposed to slang and nuances in
the language that may not have come through in any foreign language courses you’ve
- Become more independent. Balancing schoolwork with every other responsibility –
or distracting – that you come across your first few years on campus is one thing.
Being responsible for yourself in a foreign country is another story. Few experiences
force you to become independent as fast as a study abroad program. While you’ll
have advisors and faculty to help you navigate your program overseas, it will be
up to you to prepare for the experience by researching your intended country’s customs
and traditions, and up to you to make the most of your time there. Chances are you’ll
pick up some self-confidence along the way.
- Develop new skills. Studying abroad forces you out of your comfort zone and shows
you that there’s much to be learned outside of the classroom. You’ll not only be
expected to excel in a program that may be unlike anything you’ve done at your home
school, but you’ll be responsible for getting around a foreign country where you
may not speak the language. The new, more independent you will probably become more
resilient, and you’ll find yourself developing your communication and problem-solving
skills as part of day-to-day life abroad.
- Make friends and contacts from around the country, and the world. The group that
you’ll be studying abroad with will probably consist of college students from across
the country, and, if you’re lucky, from around the world. Those friendships that
you make will be forged on an intense common experience, making your bond that much
stronger. Having friends in far-off places could come in handy years after your
trip, too, especially if you’re looking to eventually work overseas, or are simply
planning a trip on a budget and need a place to crash. Don’t underestimate your
networking possibilities on a study abroad trip.
- Have the experience of a lifetime. All of those reasons above aside, studying abroad
could be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have while in college. Think
of the stories you’ll be able to tell and retell years down the line, and how much
you could learn about yourself while spending time abroad. Find a program that excites
you, look into potential funding sources to help pay for the costs of going abroad,
and seriously consider making the leap. We doubt you’ll regret it.