Benefits of Studying Abroad
Studying abroad is a major decision, and plenty of smaller decisions fall under its umbrella. Sure, it’s easy to decide you’ll study abroad. However, once you decide to go, you need to do some research. Where are you going to study? What are you going to study? Do you want a foreign-language program? How are you going to get there? How do you apply for the program? How much is it going to cost to study abroad? What options are there for financial aid? These questions can be overwhelming, but don’t let them deter you. After all, there are many great benefits to studying abroad.
The decision should not be made quickly, as you need to consider many questions. The benefits of study abroad, not all the little details of the experience, are really what the opportunity is all about. To help you learn about the benefits of studying abroad, check out the sections below.
Furthering Your Education
You may choose to study abroad because it provides you with a unique and one-of-a-kind classroom experience. The classroom is where the majority of your education will take place, and when you travel abroad, your classroom expands. Your education is no longer confined to a building but stretches out to encompass the people and the city surrounding you. You will be able to study with new professors, which means the topics you learn about could potentially be very different, or you may gain further insight into material you learned on your home campus. The discussions you have with fellow classmates will also enhance your classroom education because their backgrounds and their cultures will influence their thinking differently than your way of thinking. This could lead you to discover and articulate new ideas and opinions.
Learning Outside the Classroom
Just like those classroom discussions, your discussions outside of the classroom will have a large impact on your learning. You will meet people of different backgrounds, and the conversations you have with them will challenge you and your perspectives. By keeping an open mind, you will undoubtedly learn many worthwhile things. This applies to the new culture you will find yourself immersed in. It’s probable that you’ll encounter customs and ways of living that perplex and intrigue you. Some of these customs may be things you want to take home with you and adopt into your life. It is extremely important that during your time abroad you keep an open mind and try new things, so that you can learn everything that you possibly can.
Many students take advantage of study abroad opportunities to experience language immersion. Among the best places to study abroad are those where students must step outside their comfort zones by having to navigate another culture in a foreign language. Immersing yourself in your chosen language will not only force you to speak and listen to native speakers, but the surrounding culture will give you insight into slang, idioms, mannerisms, and even historical context that explains the why behind language tics.
Just as you’ll immerse yourself in the language, you will also immerse yourself in the culture around you. By allowing yourself to experience and engage with the culture around you, you will find the true benefits of studying abroad.
You will learn how people interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s at home or in the supermarket. You will learn how your host family invites and treats their guests. You will learn how news is reported and what kinds of stories are given top billing. You will learn how people pass their time in restaurants and cafés. It is easy to be intimidated by your new surroundings and never go out and explore. By exploring, however, you will be able to learn and benefit from new people you meet.
Finding New Interests
When you immerse yourself in the culture, you will most likely discover a new interest, whether it’s in local music or the city’s biggest soccer team. You might find this interest because you’ve done some exploring, or you’ve spoken with a local, or you were struck by something in class. It is in your best interest to keep an open mind and try new things. Maybe you will come to appreciate art or the architecture around you. Maybe your new interest will simply be to travel and keep learning. No matter what comes your way, do your best to at least give it a try before you move on to the next thing. And who knows? That new interest may influence the rest of your life.
Meeting New People
Another great personal benefit of studying abroad is that you have the opportunity to meet new people. For some students, this may mean making great contacts for your future, which could come in handy with a future job application. For other students, it could mean making lifelong friendships. Either way, embrace these new people and try to learn as much as you can from them. You will have conversations that run the gamut from funny and inconsequential to life-changing. In comparing cultures and backgrounds, your view of the world will change and expand.
Improving Your Problem-Solving Skills
The personal skills you gain while studying abroad cannot be measured, but you can certainly expect them to morph and improve. One area of skills that will surely be honed is problem-solving. As a study-abroad student, you are going to face challenges and diversity that you simply are not used to. Working through these new challenges, not to mention culture shock, will give you the opportunity to improve your creative ability to solve problems.
Discovering Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
Because you are going to be on your own more than you probably have ever been, you will likely “discover yourself” to some degree. For college students, the college experience is about discovering who they are. Studying abroad accelerates that process. You will find yourself in new situations, with new people, maybe even immersed in a new language, and you will notice your reactions to these new stimuli. Those reactions will point out your strengths and weaknesses, thereby setting the stage for your own growth.
Expanding Communication Skills
As you travel and study abroad you are going to run into language and communication barriers. Whether or not you have good or bad communication skills before you leave home, you are going to be forced to expand those skills and hone them. You may have daily contact with people who do not speak your native language, which will force you to find creative ways around communication barriers.
Building Your Resume
Studying abroad is an experience that you should include on your resume. Employers like to see candidates who engaged meaningfully with another culture and language, and any pertinent stories you share in an interview can help your job prospects. The decision to study abroad and the attendant responsibilities demonstrate your self-motivation, independence, problem-solving skills, ambition, and risk-taking. Further, the knowledge you gained about yourself and the world while studying abroad means you have perspective and self-awareness, things other candidates may not possess. Including your time abroad on your resume distinguishes you from the crowd and shows that you have an interest in learning about the world.
These are the most basic benefits of studying abroad, but you will likely find many more once you take the plunge for yourself. Also, you have the unique opportunity to craft an educational experience tailored completely to your desires and needs. Do not take this opportunity lightly. Do you want to learn about local cuisine? Folk music? Politics? Really consider what you want and research potential programs thoroughly.
Some of the things you learn on your trip may be unexpected, and that’s perfect. The things you learn and value the most during your time abroad may end up being the things you were not expecting. The benefits of any study-abroad experience really are endless, and the best way to truly understand the benefits is to just take the chance and go. In the end, if you keep an open mind, embrace the culture, explore, and step out of your comfort zone from time to time, the experience will most likely be one of the best things you ever do.