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 taken.
- 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.
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