10 Advantages of Getting Your Undergraduate Degree Abroad (Besides Being Cooler Than Your Friends)

by Suzanne Bhagan

You’re graduating from high school. What’s next? University, right? Maybe you’re thinking of studying at a college in your hometown, or at your parents’ alma mater. Why should you stop there? While there are many benefits when going to a university in your own country, have you seriously considered (the joys, adventure, and all-around badass-ness of) getting your undergraduate degree in a FOREIGN country?

We’re not just talking about undergraduate study abroad here. College study abroad programs have their merits, but we know you’re ready for more. We’re talking the big kahuna. We’re talking multiple years. We’re talking true immersion.

A male university student reading in class

This may seem scary at first, but in the long run, getting your undergraduate degree abroad can not only help you become a better person, but can also help you stand out in a crowded and increasingly globalized job market. Here are 10 reasons why getting an undergraduate degree abroad is totally worth it:

1. Studying for a full degree abroad will only make you stronger.

Studying abroad full time (for three or four years) is no easy task. It means uprooting yourself from your home and trying to make it in a country that is not your own. As a foreign student, you will have to learn how to do normal things you may have taken for granted back home, such as how to set up a bank account, how to pay bills, or how to go grocery shopping. If you don’t know the language, it also means spending countless hours learning how to understand the locals and how to make them understand you. These things will challenge you to your core, but also make you a more self-reliant and independent young adult.

2. It teaches you skills that will make your CV/resume stand out from the crowd.

When you get a degree abroad, you are willingly immersing yourself in a foreign environment, outside of your comfort zone. You learn to adapt to a foreign culture and negotiate relationships with people from many different cultural backgrounds. These cross-cultural communication skills are essential if you intend to work in the international job market.

For example, if you complete your degree at a Chinese university and you want to work for a firm that has many Chinese clients, you can show your future employer that you are the best person for the job as you have first-hand experience with Chinese culture, and therefore can communicate with their clients in a more culturally sensitive manner.

3. It may be cheaper to study abroad.

Tuition fees at many Western universities have been climbing exponentially over the last couple of years, making the college experience further out of the reach for many students. Some universities, particularly in Europe, offer quality, government-subsidized undergraduate degrees. For example, public universities in Germany have phased out tuition fees for local and international students!

There’s also the option of applying for full or partial scholarships from private programs or university international offices, so don’t limit yourself. It’s also worth noting that if you choose to study at a university in Britain or Continental Europe, you’ll save money in the long run because you’ll graduate after three years instead of four at an American university.

Students watching their teacher dissect in science class

4. You will expose yourself to a new culture of learning.

Studying abroad exposes you to a different educational system. For instance, American and British universities differ on many levels; liberal arts majors at American colleges have more freedom to pick and mix their courses, whereas in a similar program at a British university, you may be more limited in your choices. Traditionally, there are no pre-law and pre-med options at British universities. Instead, students dive straight into law and medical degrees without doing qualifying undergraduate degree programs as in the United States.

Even the grading systems differ. While American universities tend to be more forgiving by offering continuous assessments that contribute to your final grade, UK universities may have courses that are 100 percent exam based, meaning that you pass or fail the entire course based on your final exam results.

This is just a small sample of the different education pedagogies and approaches you will be exposed to by getting your degree abroad. Who knows what will be unique about an Australian degree (surf days?)? The major takeaway is that there’s no “right way” to get a university degree.

5. You learn to understand people from varying backgrounds.

When you study abroad, you’re no longer on home turf. You are the foreigner, so you have to reach out to make friends. Usually, universities abroad have very diverse student bodies with international students from many different countries. If you study in one of your home country’s universities, you may be tempted to just hang out with other locals. But during university abroad programs, you can develop friendships with students from parts of the world you may have never heard about.

When you’re friends with people from diverse backgrounds, you become more open and tolerant of social, ethnic, national, even religious differences and the world becomes a less scary (and different seeming) place.
A student listening to her teacher

6. It makes learning a foreign language come alive.

If you’re passionate about learning a particular foreign language, maybe you should consider studying it in a place where it’s the native language. For example, if you’re interested in Spanish, it makes perfect sense to immerse yourself in any foreign country that speaks the language. Why not become more fluent by doing your undergraduate degree at a university in South America? An added bonus of living in a country that speaks the language you study is that you pick up words and phrases that you may not necessarily find in your textbooks.

7. You’ll learn that English isn’t just English.

If you intend to get your undergraduate degree in England, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia, you will have to write your papers in a variety of English dialects that differ from American English. That means knowing when to use “colour” instead of “color” and “realise” instead of “realize.” If you intend to make writing your career, this ability to switch seamlessly from American to British, New Zealand, or Australian English and vice versa, will make you any international editor’s darling.

8. You’ll expand your network.

At university abroad, you will meet many people from many different corners of world and develop lifelong friendships. Don’t underestimate the power of these friendships after you graduate as you’ll leave with an extensive network of professionals from all around the world that you can tap into if you want to explore working outside of your home country.

Trust us, this may not seem important now, but come graduation, having a community to reach out to will only strengthen your job hunt!

Students at a library

9. Getting your degree abroad means more <3 TRAVEL <3.

If you are able to stick to a budget and keep your living costs down, why not save some money to travel? Studying in the UK means that Europe is just a flight away for short weekend breaks. Studying in Australia or New Zealand also means that Southeast Asia and the Pacific countries are much more accessible. Studying abroad for the long haul also means that you are not just visiting but living in a foreign country for a more substantial period of time so that you are better able to experience and learn from the local people and culture.

The decision to pursue an undergraduate degree program abroad is not an easy one. However, studying abroad can mean becoming more fluent in a foreign language, developing a more adaptable, tolerant and self-reliant attitude, gaining more marketable skills for the global workforce and most importantly, saving you time and money in the long run.