Why Study Abroad?
As a student, you may have heard talk about studying abroad. Perhaps your friends are considering it or maybe your school even requires some degree of off-campus study. You may be hesitant. You ask, “Why study abroad?”
You might love to see the world, but your education has to come first. Or maybe you have avoided the experience because you are not sure you would like being on your own for so long in a foreign country. While those are certainly understandable reasons for never having seriously considered studying abroad, here is an opportunity to reconsider.
When you take advantage of study abroad opportunities, you gain so much more than just a classroom education. You can meet new people, make new friends, live with a host family, take classes from international professors, learn about different cultures firsthand, build your resume, and truly embark on an adventure.
Advantages of Study Abroad
The most obvious advantage to studying abroad is in its educational opportunities. Indeed there are several ways to answer the questions, “Why study abroad?” While some students choose to focus on their futures and view studying abroad as only a resume-building experience, others choose to see it for its value in the present, which means taking advantage of every opportunity in the destination country. Here are some of the educational benefits to studying abroad:
- Professors: When you study abroad, you can study under professors to whom you otherwise would not have access. When choosing a study-abroad program, research some of the professors in your chosen field. You could discover a teacher that has made big contributions in your field, providing an opportunity to learn from the best.
- Language: If studying a foreign language in your home country, traveling to a country that speaks that language provides unparalleled language immersion. A U.S. student studying Spanish, for example, might choose to experience language immersion in Spain, Argentina or Peru. You will be able to learn how native speakers talk and gain insight into how the culture shapes the language.
- Immersion: If you are interested in learning about different cultures, then the best way to do this is to totally immerse yourself in those cultures. Resources like books and firsthand cultural accounts can only teach so much. To truly understand a different culture you need to live in it and experience it.
- People: Much of your educational experience will be based on the people you meet and the conversations you have. Whether in or out of the classroom, you have an opportunity to learn from those around you.
Another reason to study abroad is for personal growth. Studying abroad not only benefits your education and future career, but it is beneficial to shaping you as a person, as well. You are likely to experience things many others haven’t, which may lead to a fuller, richer life. If you enter the study-abroad experience with an open mind, you can expect to develop a heightened awareness of the world and its peoples.
- Diversity: Expect to contact people from all types of unfamiliar backgrounds. This may make you a bit uncomfortable and may force you to think about things you have never considered. In the end, how you choose to deal with this diversity could influence you the rest of your life. By accepting the diversity around you, you will be able to gain knowledge from the culture and people around you.
- Self-awareness: When you first arrive to your temporary new home, you will feel alone. This can be a scary experience. When forced to be alone for any amount of time, you can truly learn who you are, what you believe, and how you feel about life. This is an opportunity to expand your self-awareness.
- Maturity: Because you will be in a foreign country and on your own, you are likely going to have to do a lot of growing up. Since you are taking the initiative to travel and study abroad, you are most likely already fairly mature, but the experiences and opportunities you will have while abroad will test you and teach you how to handle new situations. Dealing with the diversity and the different culture surrounding you may take great maturity because it could be something to which you are not accustomed.
- Independence: You will be forced to become more independent. When you go to school in your home country you still have access to a support system. When you go abroad, though, that support system is more remote. For some, this elicits feelings of insecurity and may prevent them considering study abroad. When you make the decision to study abroad, however, you learn to rely on yourself and create a new support system for yourself. You gain self-sufficiency.
Build Your Resume
Including your study-abroad experience on your resume is a great way to distinguish any job application. The experiences from studying abroad will strengthen and add real depth to your resume. Here are some characteristics you may gain as a result of studying abroad. When you have a job interview, you can use examples from that experience to illustrate these attributes.
- Independent: Even those who are in college and away from home still have some sort of support system upon which they depend. For most it is family or friends or a combination of both. When you study abroad, you are not only starting over, but doing so in a foreign country. In this unfamiliar setting, you will most likely gain real independence, which is something employers will appreciate.
- Shows Initiative: Because there is a process involved with studying abroad and you will have to seek out the opportunity, you show initiative. Not only do you gain knowledge, you also learn to think for yourself in the real world, not just the classroom.
- Self-Motivated: Studying abroad demonstrates commitment, and you need motivation to achieve commitment. Employers will interpret your decision to study abroad as the choice of someone that who is capable of motivating himself or herself to undertake a big task. Remember, you sought out the opportunity to study abroad and made it happen.
- Risk-Taker: By traveling abroad on your own while in college, you demonstrate that you are not afraid of taking risks. Depending upon your career field, you will probably need to be able to take some risks in your work. Showing that you are not afraid to take calculated risks can be an important job-related attribute.
- Networker: Something that you cannot measure or put on your resume is all the contacts you will make while studying abroad. Especially for those students that study abroad for longer periods of time, you will meet professors, professionals, and other students who all have the potential to help you out in your future career. If you decide you would like to live abroad for a while after graduation, then these people could potentially help you find a job in a foreign country. The contacts you make could also help you in the future, if you are involved with a company that has any sort of business with others who are abroad.
The reasons and benefits of studying abroad far outweigh the reasons to forego studying abroad. If you have a desire to travel and study in a foreign country, don’t let understandable apprehension prevent it. The opportunities you create for yourself will continue to change your life long after you have returned home. Whether through future employment, education, or personal growth, you are bound to gain experience through studying abroad that you will not be able to replicate elsewhere.