Advantages of Studying Abroad

Steve Toews
02/04/2020
Advantages of Studying Abroad

Hop on any social media platform and you'll notice how small the world has become. It's shrinking by the minute. Succeeding in any aspect of life, including school, business, and relationships means you'll have to interact with people and ideas from across the planet.

Want to give yourself a serious head start? Below, you'll find the most important advantages of studying abroad, including:

This blog also tackles advantages specifically related to:

Click one of the above links to jump ahead —or keep reading!

Personal and Cultural Advantages of Studying Abroad

The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), a leading provider of study-abroad programs, gathered data from more than 3,400 alumni who had the advantage of studying abroad from 1950 to 1999.

The institute's data "shows that studying abroad is usually a defining moment in a young person's life and continues to impact the participant's life for years after the experience."

Experience Personal Growth

When asked about personal growth, here's how IES respondents said their study-abroad experience impacted them:

  • A better understanding of their own values and biases (98%)
  • Increased maturity (97%)
  • Increased self-confidence (96%)
  • Lasting impact on their worldview (95%)
  • Enhanced interactions with people from different cultures (94%)
  • Greater tolerance for ambiguity (89%)
  • More sophisticated worldview (82%)
  • Influence on family life decisions to this day (73%)

"It's been nearly 10 years since I was a student in Vienna, but not a single day goes by where its impact is not felt in my life," said Jason Thornberb in his feedback to IES. "My time there fundamentally changed how I view the world and has given me the ability to view the world and its issues from several perspectives."

Upgrade Your Brain

One of the advantages of studying abroad is that it literally improves your brain.

Time magazine reports that studies show "a multilingual brain is nimbler, quicker, better able to deal with ambiguities, resolve conflicts, and even resist Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia longer."

The Beverly Hills Lingual Institute concurs, listing bilingual benefits such as:

  • Improved memory
  • Better decision-making
  • Improved cognitive skills
  • Greater ability to focus and switch between tasks

These brain boosts mean higher test scores and a lower risk of dementia for bilinguals. There's no better (or faster) way to master a new language than immersion in a culture, making studying abroad an ideal recipe for supercharging your brain.

Explore the 15 best study abroad organizations around the world.

Improve Your First Language

The Oxford University Press reports that learning a new language by immersing yourself in another culture is a great way to improve your familiarity with your own language. Researchers suggest that by focusing on the grammatical and structural niceties of another language, learners pick up on new rules and structure of their mother tongue.

Educational Advantages of Studying Abroad

According to the IES study, 87% of respondents said that studying abroad influenced their subsequent educational path (like deciding on a major or whether to pursue grad school).

Boost Your Chances of Getting Accepted into Grad School

In addition to influencing their educational path, a whopping 97% of IES study-abroad alumni were accepted into their first or second-choice grad school, says the University of California, Merced (UC Merced).

"Graduate school admissions boards look very highly on study-abroad experiences," explains InternationalStudent.com, because those students "display diversity and show they aren't afraid to seek out new challenges and put themselves in difficult situations."

Those students show they have the commitment, curiosity, and "educational acumen to be a leader in graduate school."

Adapt to Different Teaching Styles

It's no secret that different countries and cultures exhibit different styles of behavior, interaction, and argument. The same is true of their educational and teaching methods.

Teachers from different countries report vastly different styles of educating their pupils. From authoritative teaching styles to practical learning, the differences are as numerous as they are profound.

This educational benefit translates to the workplace later on. As a current student and future employee, you will be expected to adapt to different management styles and methods of leadership. Learning how to deal with different teaching styles is an excellent way to learn this skill.

Improve Your Network

Those who study domestically are usually limited by their own national borders when building their personal network. However, students who have the advantage of studying abroad are able to expand their personal network worldwide.

advantages of study abroad


Further, the connections you form during international study will be especially deep. Your separation from home will encourage you to participate fully in your social circles. As a result, your international personal network will bear fruit for years to come.

Use this study abroad checklist to prepare for your educational experience abroad!

Career Advantages of Studying Abroad

How can study abroad benefit your career? Studying abroad brings with it a host of career advantages and opportunities. These benefits are not frequently found anywhere else in the world of postsecondary education.

Additionally, job opportunities after studying abroad are typically more numerous and lucrative than those available to domestic grads.

Enhance Your CV

Does studying abroad help you get a job? Yes! Study-abroad alumni are twice as likely to find a job, says UC Merced.

advantages of study abroad

97% of IES students found employment within twelve months of graduation, compared to 49% of domestic college grads. But that's not all. Of those who landed a job in the first year, 90% did so within the first six months.

That's a considerable advantage, and one that is supported by studies in both the U.S. and U.K., the university points out.

It happens, in part, because students return from studying abroad "with a new perspective on culture, language skills, a great education, and a willingness to learn," explains InternationalStudent.com. All of these skills make employers swoon.

Make More Moolah

The professional benefits of studying abroad are not just limited to the number of jobs available to you. If employers are drawn to the skills that come with studying abroad, it makes sense that employees with those skills should have an edge in their careers, including their income.

Research demonstrates that study-abroad alumni average a 25% higher salary and make about $7,000 more per year than college grads who didn't study abroad. This translates to a $567,500 increase in total earnings over the course of a typical career in the United States. This is clear evidence that study abroad pays.

The greatest salary increase was for students with these specific majors:

  • Computer science
  • Electrical engineering
  • Physical geographical science
  • Sociology
  • Theology and religious studies

If you're considering studying abroad, the data is on your side, making it a phenomenal value for your investment. So much so that Michael Preziosi, an IES alumnus, makes it mandatory in his household:

"My wife and I feel so strongly about the value of this experience that we have told our two daughters that a semester abroad while at college is an absolute requirement for each of them. It is not an experience to be missed."

It's cliché but true: studying abroad will change your life.

Increase Your Job Satisfaction

Doing well and being paid well lead to better job satisfaction. This finding was confirmed by an American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS) survey. It found that 70% of its alumni are more satisfied with their jobs, thanks to their time studying abroad.

The ability to work with people from many different backgrounds is paramount for today's graduates. Building strong relationships with managers, peers, and subordinates is a challenge for anyone, but study-abroad alumni have a much easier time relating to others.

Part of this success may come from increased self-confidence and maturity, something nearly all alumni claim as a result of their studies abroad.

Discover the potential disadvantages of studying abroad — and their solutions!

Advantages Specific to High School Study Abroad

Study abroad for high school students comes highly recommended by a wide variety of authorities. It improves educational outcomes, looks great on college applications, and teaches skills that can't be learned anywhere else.

Learn a New Language

By far, one of the greatest benefits of a course of study abroad for high school students is learning a new language. Some programs of language study report a pace of language learning as high as 12 times the speed of traditional language classes in domestic schools.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these skills are sorely needed. While 90% of European students learn English in high school (and earlier), American students are "woefully underprepared to meaningfully interact with colleagues and competitors from around the world."

Improve Your Educational Outcomes

Across the board, educational outcomes are improved by a course of study abroad for high school students. NAFSA reports that grade point averages are consistently increased for graduates of study-abroad programs.

Additionally, rates of retention, completion, and graduation are markedly improved for study-abroad students. The increase is particularly true for at-risk youth, who usually have much higher rates of drop-out and failure to complete courses of study.

Enhance Your University Applications

Many programs that offer concentrated trips abroad for high school students tout the college acceptance-related benefits of studying abroad. That's because study abroad for high school students dramatically improves the quality of their college applications.

advantages of study abroad


The improvement is due to several factors:

  • The college application stands out from the crowd
  • The student learns new skills and abilities while traveling abroad, which he or she can showcase on the application
  • The student gains an appreciation of diverse cultures, a necessary skill in a diverse student body like the one found at most universities
  • The added life experience improves students' abilities to identify what course of study they wish to pursue, which helps them focus their college applications

Advantages Specific to International Community College

Study abroad doesn't have to be limited to elite universities. International community colleges can be tremendous sources of inexpensive education and experience. Don't overlook the opportunities they offer!

Save Money on Tuition Fees

Community colleges are normally cheaper than the more prestigious universities and colleges. Outstanding U.S. student loan debt is increasing by $2,726.27 every minute, and the average cost to attend a four-year university for one year is $36,589. These statistics make more affordable options like community college attractive to many.

advantages of study abroad

At an average of $23,860 for one year, the cost of a two-year community college is more than $10,000 cheaper than the average four-year university.

In addition, many community colleges offer scholarships. You can typically find information about scholarship options by visiting the college's website.

Transfer Credits to a Four-Year Institution

Often, community colleges have articulation agreements with four-year institutions. This is where students who complete specific tracks in the community college can transfer credits to the four-year institution to finish with a bachelor's degree in addition to an associate degree.

This can open up more job opportunities after graduation, as well as the opportunity to seek a graduate degree.

This avenue can also provide students who did not get into a four-year school the opportunity to prove themselves and gain acceptance after completing their associate degree.

Enjoy Smaller Class Sizes

Large four-year universities often have huge class sizes that can exceed 300 students. In these classes, getting to know the professors can be difficult. In addition, you may find these large classes more challenging while you're acclimating to a new culture (and if you're learning subjects in a second language).

Community colleges tend to have smaller class sizes, which allow for more personalized attention for students. This can be great for international students who are still becoming familiar with how the education system works in their host country.

Experience Guaranteed Acceptance

Many community colleges are open-enrollment colleges, meaning they do not require test scores, such as SAT scores, and you're assured acceptance.

Advantages Specific to Graduate Study Abroad

Graduate study abroad can be a fantastic alternative to studying in your home country. In addition to meeting new professionals and grad students from around the world, you can often find amazing deals for a world-class education.

Lower Your Tuition Costs

Many people assume that "graduate study abroad" is synonymous with "heavy financial burden." For U.S. students, however, tuition fees at international universities are often significantly lower than at American colleges — even when the cost of room and board is included.

Whether or not you're an American student, be sure to check out these 7 countries where graduate school is a fraction of U.S. costs.

While there are a thousand advantages to studying abroad, there are some potential disadvantages, too. Be prepared with these solutions!

Finish Your Program Faster

International graduate programs tend to be shorter than American graduate programs (they generally take about a year to complete). Not only will this allow you to move forward with your life much more quickly, but you'll spend far less money on tuition and room and board.

advantages of study abroad

Enhance Your Job Market Value

Studying abroad not only allows you to gain perspective on foreign issues, but it helps you to understand human relations on an international scale. Whether you're looking for a career in your home country or a career that spans continents, today's employers are actively seeking globally-minded candidates.

The adaptability you'll have no choice but to acquire while abroad will certainly bolster your potential as a job candidate. Companies will be looking for individuals who can survive in a rapidly-changing corporate world.

Final Thoughts

Whether you're a high school student, undergraduate, or grad student, studying abroad can be a tremendously rewarding experience. But keep in mind that there are potential drawbacks as well! You can prepare yourself for these by taking a look at our guide to overcoming the disadvantages of study abroad.

Finally, to prepare yourself for both the challenges and benefits of studying abroad, peruse our "Essential Study Abroad Checklist." You'll learn everything you need to know about how to prepare for this exciting journey.

FREE Study Abroad Checklist


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