Alright fellas, we need to talk. In the past few decades the gender gap has steadily grown to an unprecedented size, and it shows no signs of stopping. Just what gender gap is that? The gender gap in students who study abroad of course! Current statistics from around the United States indicate that at any given time nearly TWO TIMES as many females students are studying abroad compared to their male counterparts.
But why exactly is there such a huge difference? What follows are four of the most common reasons male students believe they can’t study abroad as easily as female students, and why they are essentially just excuses, and bad ones at that!
1. “They don’t have my major there.”
When looking for an explanation as to why so few male students study abroad, one of the first arguments to be brought up revolves around the idea that guys and girls statistically are more likely to pursue different types of academic majors. Traditionally speaking, women are more likely to be enrolled in degree programs focused on subjects such as social sciences, arts, humanities, and education. Conversely, men are more likely to be studying more science-centered fields, like chemistry, engineering, or math.
Far too often the impression is given that those studying this second category of fields won’t reap as many benefits from an international experience, but this is far from accurate. The point of going to college in the first place is to enhance your education, with hopes of obtaining a stable and lucrative career after graduation of course; any international experience can be put on a resume and instantly help separate your application from the competition in any field.
Naturally, some jobs will not require an enormous amount of interaction with foreign people or places, but in today’s increasingly interconnected world more and more jobs require the ability to work with people from all different backgrounds and the ability to adapt to new environments and situations effectively.
In fact, science fields may be one of the best examples of a profession that requires the ability to work with individuals across the globe, therefore it is even more important for STEM majors to study abroad. Scientific breakthroughs and advances in technology or engineering are being made daily in all corners of the globe, so being able to collaborate with others on an international level will inevitably be central to the future of your career in nearly any field. These are exactly the types of skills that studying abroad provides.
2. “I can’t fit studying abroad into my degree schedule.”
Another common misconception among guys, especially those in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) majors, is that the curriculum required of their majors is so strict that there is no room for a study abroad program within the limited amount of time they have to complete required coursework as an undergraduate student. This may have been somewhat true in the past, but today’s international education environment is built to be as inclusive as possible, and that includes STEM students and those earning a degree in almost every field. There are now so many study abroad program possibilities in all different majors, locations, and durations that it is now not only possible to study abroad during a degree program with a strict curriculum, it is downright simple.
International education opportunities are available in all fields, from engineering to nursing and everything in between, but keep in mind that the process required for finding and taking part in a study abroad program is easiest when you start early. For a majority of majors, the first few semesters of coursework will be general education requirements; classes that universities all around the world are likely to offer as well. This means that you don’t need to wait until the “typical” junior year abroad to head overseas.
To make things even easier, nearly every major college and university in the United States will have an office or center for international programs, complete with advisors whose primary job is to help students organize and apply for study abroad opportunities. If you find yourself convinced that it just isn’t possible to study abroad in your major, just stop by your school’s international programs office some time and let the advisor quickly convince you otherwise.
3. “I wouldn’t be able to maintain a long-distance relationship with my significant other.”
Time to get sentimental. If a significant other is keeping you from studying abroad, fear not, there is hope for both you and your relationship! Long-distance relationships can certainly be challenging, but study abroad programs are hardly permanent. A vast majority of study abroad programs last no longer than a few months at most, which should be a manageable time span for any committed couple.
Don’t forget to add to that the fact that we are more connected as a society today than at any point in history (aka. it is possible to, at any time of the day, communicate with another human being in real time from almost anywhere on Earth using a device that fits in the palm of your hand). Programs like FaceTime, Skype, and Google Hangouts even allow for face-to-face conversations in real time, meaning that you can stare deep into your sweetheart’s eyes any time of the day even when you are thousands of miles apart.
Studying abroad can also present a fantastic opportunity for your significant other to join you for the vacation of a lifetime, either for the entire program or even just for a short visit. Sharing the experience of exploring a new place together and facing the challenges that come with it is something that can strengthen even the best of relationships!
4. “I won’t be able to make friends studying abroad and I don’t want to leave the ones I have at home.”
Another perceived notion of why more girls study abroad is related to the issues it poses for a student’s social life, which girls seem to be just naturally better at managing than many guys. However, the whole purpose of study abroad programs is to place students in a new environment and allow them to meet new, diverse group of people. The entire point of studying abroad is to make new friends!
Many international programs go well out of their way to help incoming study abroad students meet and socialize with other international students as well as local students. Unless you are intentionally spending all your time under a rock, it is almost impossible to not make friends while studying abroad. Ask almost any alumni of any international program and they will tell you that they made some of their best friends of their whole college career while studying abroad.
On a related note, regardless of whether it’s a good or bad thing, the United States is a polarizing player in the global arena, and in many English speaking study abroad locations simply saying “hello” in your American accent is all it takes to clue in a local as to where you come from. It is not uncommon for people in other countries to want to talk to you simply because you are not from their area of the world, and that’s OK. To them, you are interesting, and in at least in some small ways, different, simply due to the fact that you were born and raised in another country. People are naturally curious about how things work in other parts of the world, and you will find it easy to strike up conversations with just about anyone using only a friendly smile and the sound of your voice.
If you still have huge concerns about who you’ll spend your time with while studying abroad, take a friend along with! What guy hasn’t always wanted to go on some kind of huge adventure or international trip with just a few of their best friends? Studying abroad IS that adventure, and studying abroad presents the opportunity of a lifetime for a couple of good friends to have an incredible experience exploring new places together. Not only would you have a social support network close by, but your free time could be spent sharing in the challenges and experiences of being in a new country. So smack your bestie in the back of the head and tell him to pack his bags! You’re going on an adventure!