Should I study abroad? is a question many students will ask themselves before graduating from college. Leaving home, traveling alone overseas (perhaps to a place that doesn’t speak English), and dealing with culture shock can be scary thoughts to students. The decision to study abroad or not is ultimately one that can only be made by the student in question, but we highly encourage it.
Recently, we talked about how technology is changing the study abroad experience and making it easier to apply to programs and communicate with family back home. Now, we’re going to talk about what benefits you will gain by studying abroad. Here are our thoughts:
The experience will be worth the risk. Fear is one emotion that holds a lot of students back. And while there are some risks associated with traveling abroad, the vast majority of students find that their experiences more than made up for any initial fear or risks.
It’s worth the money (and time). Study abroad programs can be expensive, it’s true. But, there are also options to help students deal with the financial aspect. Many colleges and universities have scholarships available (particularly if you are a foreign language or international relations major). There are also a variety of program lengths to choose from: full school year, semester, two summer sessions, or one summer session. And while students will most certainly see more benefit from staying for a full year, a short four-week excursion could prove better for students that have tight finances or are concerned about getting homesick.
It’s one of the best ways to learn independence. Sure, going off to college teaches students a lot about independence, but there’s nothing like being out of your comfort zone to force self-sufficiency. Students who are able to be flexible, adaptive, and comfortable even in unfamiliar situations will be more successful in their careers and lives. What better way to learn than by traveling abroad?
To truly experience culture, you’ve got to be a part of it. I could have never fully understood Costa Rican culture or the phrase “Pura Vida” had I not traveled abroad there. Learning about cultures and lives outside of our tiny worlds can only truly happen when we place ourselves inside those cultures. And, living with a family will give students a much more realistic understanding of life abroad than they would get by traveling and staying in hotels.
It’s a fantastic way to gain international experience. Especially if you’re going into business or government work, having experience abroad will give you a leg up when it comes to finding a job after college. Besides showing employers that you are adventurous, resourceful, and capable of independence, it also shows them that you have the potential to better understand the global economy (since you’ve lived it). Oh, and you can add proficiency in a foreign language to your resume!
You’ll make global connections. Living with a family for weeks or months at a time and studying with other students who are also away from home has a way of creating special bonds. These are people you’re likely to keep in touch with after your experience abroad is over—which means you’ll have networking connections across the country as well as a “second family” abroad that you can go back and visit someday!
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