Why should I Study Abroad? You’ve probably heard returning study abroad students rave about their experiences and offer advice: “It changed my life!”“It was the best experience ever!”“Don’t just think about it, do it!” These are the three most common open-ended responses.
Significant Aspects of higher Education
Most students say that their experience abroad was one of the most significant aspects of their higher education.
Pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone and experience another culture and education system in person is what makes studying abroad such a meaningful and enlightening event.
You shouldn’t consider it to be a tangential or separate part of your college education, but instead an integral part of it.
And this includes studying content that will offer you a broader perspective, including taking an international marketing class in Paris, studying Mechanical engineering in Stockholm, or researching public policy in Berlin.
International experiences can enhance your life academically, socially, culturally, personally and professionally.
Keep in mind, though, that “the best experience of your life” is not guaranteed to be all fun and games. Some of the best growth experiences come from mistakes and lessons learned. That doesn’t diminish the value of the experience—it enhances it. Just don’t expect study abroad to be easy.
Discover Learning in a New Way
With the right preparation, the classes you take while studying abroad will count as credit toward your degree. Moreover, you will generally have opportunity to take classes that are not offered at your home campus.
Meanwhile you are abroad, you willl discover learning in a new way. As the higher education systems of other countries differ greatly from those of the your homeland. This means that you’ll experience a different approach to teaching, learning, assignments and homework.
Working through these differences will prepare you to work with colleagues, supervisors and clients who come from different back grounds.
Change in Mindset
After studying abroad, most students never view their education in the same way again. The experience is so powerful, it often influences subsequent educational endeavors, including the decision to pursue higher degrees.
Study abroad students return home with a reinvigorated interest in academic pursuits and a renewed passion for lifelong learning. Moreover, studying abroad forces you to take a break from traditional campus life. While you equip with real-life, hands-on skills that no class room can match.
Proficiency in a Second Language
Studies show the best way to gain proficiency in a second language is to have no choice but to use it (the way babies learn). Taking classes in a second language, not in English, provides an indispensable benefit for students who wish to master that particular language.
That’s why many foreign language majors are required to study in a country where that language is spoken. Becoming proficient in a language is one of the top reasons students have studied abroad for decades.
When you study abroad, you will be brought into close, everyday contact with classmates from other countries, and with hundreds of students from your host country. Some of the personal friendships you will make will last for years. They might even be the beginning of a global network that eventually leads to job prospects.
Living and studying overseas inevitably fosters a sense of teamwork. As the group you live or study with becomes closer as you collectively experience the challenges of a multicultural situation. On the other end of the spectrum, you will also learn to depend more upon yourself. When push comes to shove, you will have to be the one proactively asking questions and soliciting help.
The cultural benefits of studying abroad are obvious. Spending time in a foreign country can’t help but open your eyes to the wider world. Especially to different ways of going about everyday human activities. You’ll have a much more expansive definition of “different”. While, You may learn that people pray differently and to different gods and on different days.
Meanwhile, You’ll meet people who shake hands, bowor kiss each other on the cheek to say hello. You’ll find that bath rooms can be different, that concepts of “being on time” can vary widely, and that the foods some people eat can seem really strange.
You will learn that there are grains of truth in some stereotypes, but also that many are inaccurate and potentially harmful. You’ll probably laugh at others’ perceptions and feel compelled to communicate “the truth”about your own culture.
As a result, you will probably become both more reflective about homeland’s culture and what that culture has instilled in you, and increasingly appreciative of what other cultures have to offer.
Paradoxically, you’ll also learn that people around the world are more alike than different. This openness to different approaches should make you a better problem-solver and team player.
Personal Growth & Development
By immersing yourself in a new culture and experiencing new ways of thinking, you will inevitably undergo personal growth. Most students return home not only with expanded ideas about other people and cultures, but also with new perspectives on themselves.
You may find yourself questioning your life long personal beliefs and values, which may lead you to either strengthen or abandon them. You will also develop more self-awareness and self-confidence as you rise to the challenge of mastering a whole range of new situations.
Navigating the sub way system in a new city may not seem like a big deal—but wait until you have to do it using foreign currency, interpreting route maps and schedules that are not in English, and, quite possibly, having to ask for help from strangers. By the time you’ve successfully arrived at your destination, you’ll feel as though you’ve conquered a mountain! Experiences like these not only make you feel good about yourself, they also result in an improved sense of maturity and independence.
The confidence is critical to future success, both in life and especially in the workplace. Travel, always an enriching experience, expands the mind. But international travel can often be difficult and expensive to organize from home. For financial or other reasons, not every study abroad student seizes the opportunity for extra travel while overseas. But such travel is much easier and cheaper if you are already living in another country.
While studying abroad, you should have many opportunities to take interesting excursions, whether for a few days in the immediate area or for longer visits that may be a plane ride away. The adventures you’ll go on and the life experiences that you’ll have will enhance your studies and add a new dimension to your time on the ground.
Enhance Career Opportunities
Study abroad is one of the best ways and is often the only way for a student to acquire marketable international qualifications and cross-cultural competency, two of the most critical skills for workers today, prior to graduation. But there is more to studying abroad than just picking up and leaving the country.
You need to plan carefully and select both the type of program and destination that is right for you.
We encourage you to make the most of the opportunity by selecting the country where you can best improve your language skills, or a non traditional location in an emerging market.
Increasingly, employers seek workers who can speak another language (or two) and who understand other cultures.
For students who are contemplating careers in international business, foreign relations and diplomacy, studying abroad is almost imperative. But for all future job seekers, certain soft skills especially communication, analytical abilities, teamwork and flexibility—are highly prized, and studying abroad is an excellent way to develop them.
We also urge you to think about global issues that you are passionate about or areas where you can make a difference, and do some research on what countries and cultures would best prepare you for work in the fields that interest you.
You will need to take some steps to be sure you are getting the most out of your international experience. First, be sure to connect the skills and the overall experience you gain during study abroad to your on-campus learning—both prior to departure and upon re entry.
Second, make sure these newly learned skills or characteristics can be applied in the work force. And when you get back, highlight them clearly on your résumé, with compelling examples provided during the course of a job interview, to show that you know how to make it relevant to a potential employer and apply it while working on a cross-cultural virtual team in the future.
Third, be prepared to appreciate and communicate your experience in away that your prospective employer will appreciate. Don’t simply leave it to employers to make the connections. You must illustrate your experience and explain what transferable skills you’ve learned and how you can adapt them to the workplace.
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