Studying abroad may be that defining moment in your education that impacts you for life. Leaving your home university for a semester, summer, or even a full year is a huge, but well worth-it, risk. Before you depart, you’ll need to mentally prepare yourself for the exciting, yet life-changing, experiences that you’ll encounter while living in a completely foreign country — nothing in your life presently will be quite the same after studying abroad, because:
- Your perspectives will be global.
- Your attitudes will be international.
- In some cases, your language proficiency will be advanced.
- Your resume will be more attractive.
- You will have new lifelong friendships.
- You will make memories that you will carry forever.
The largest misconception that prevents students from participating in study abroad is its perceived inaccessibility. Yet, students who do study abroad are often amazed at how easy it was to put the whole thing together! Financial aid is often available (check out GoAbroad's Scholarship Directory!), every major field of study can partake, and study abroad experiences are available to every student. It’s as easy as a working through your grocery list...
...And guess what? The following is just that! Well, it’s not your grocery list, but it is a helpful list! Since every college and university has its own study abroad policy and requirements, be sure that you work with your campus advisors and offices – this list should only serve to inform you of exactly what the advantages of study abroad are.
The Benefits of Studying Abroad
1. You’ll actually enjoy your classes.
One of the most tempting reasons why students study abroad to begin with, is the opportunity to earn academic credit. Why take an Italian history class back home when you could be taking an on-site Modern history of Rome class, 15 minutes away from the Colosseum while studying abroad in Italy? This changes how you approach your studies as a whole, meaning your interest and engagement in your coursework — even on your home campus — will be elevated. You’ll probably become a lifelong learner, so don’t be surprised if your bookmarks start filling up with news sources instead of cat videos.
In addition to the personal benefits of studying abroad, you should consider the type of credit you will earn during your program. Will you earn credit towards your major or elective credit only? Will you receive grades or pass/fail credit only? Will it count towards your GPA? You may study abroad to earn upper division credits in your major field, or you may be overseas to earn some of your elective or general education credits. It is important that you work with your campus study abroad and/or registrar’s office before committing to a study abroad program to make sure that the credits will count toward your degree.
2. You’ll learn the power of foreign languages.
One of the greatest benefits of study abroad, learning multiple languages changes how you see the world and makes you realize what a small sliver of information you have access to on the whole. A byproduct of speaking another language is increased empathy toward others and a willingness to consider foreign communities (and even strangers) in your everyday choices.
In a practical sense, the world marketplace is shrinking rapidly, and many companies require (or prefer) that their employees have second languages. Many universities abroad offer a variety of foreign language courses for you to choose from – the perfect solution to taking full advantage of your international experience. Beyond the classroom, consider leveraging your accommodations while abroad to also further strengthen your foreign language skills. Many study abroad experiences offer homestays, which means you will be living with a local family from that country. Living with a family will then further immerse you into the culture, and provide you with plenty of opportunities to practice and learn the local language.
Foreign languages are not only valuable in the workforce, they are valuable in the real world. It is proven that those who are bilingual, or know multiple language, excel further in terms of career and salary than those who are only proficient in one language. So while you might be on one path now, adding a second language to your repertoire may open dozens of new doors and routes for you to consider!
3. New opportunities await you.
Study abroad, coupled with an international internship, is an incredible way to gain some real world experience. You may find that only an international program can offer the real expertise you desire in your education. For example, Australia is a great place to study a marine biology, the engineering labs in Sweden may exceed your facilities at your home institution, and exploring conflict studies in Geneva would offer insight that couldn’t be matched in your classroom at home.
Every country has a variety of unique excursions and opportunities for you to indulge in. You may even find an interest or passion in a completely new field — get your feet wet! Either way, the fact that you’ll be exposed to a number of cultures and backgrounds, much more than you would have without study abroad experiences, will take your communication, collaboration, and problem solving skills to a completely new level. Hence, new opportunities can be some of the greatest benefits of studying abroad.
4. Your future career path will soar to new heights.
This is one of those advantages of study abroad to help convince mom or dad to let you sign up. International experience is ranked high among many employers as a critical asset for prospective employees. Studying abroad shows that you are resourceful, adventurous, internationally minded, and appreciate diversity. It also proves that you have had the opportunity to interact and communicate with those with a different cultural background than you, which is highly valued in many career paths – especially those in hospitality, international relations, and business. While studying abroad, you’ll also have the potential to network with international individuals in your field (you never know who you’ll run into at the local cafe!).
All of this combined means your future job prospects will not only be greater in number after studying abroad, but also greater in variety. Studying abroad affords you with the opportunity to intentionally reflect on your skill sets and assess how you want to use them in a professional context. In short, you might find your tunnel-vision career goal suddenly getting a little fuzzy around the edges – in a good way.
5. You’ll travel to places people have only dreamed of.
You probably have seen plenty of tropical beaches with lush green palm trees swaying in the breeze and the Eiffel Tower lit up bright in the starry Parisian night sky...on a postcard. It’s time to make some life-changing decisions, and to stop living vicariously through a picture someone else took. The best way to gain real-world experience that you’ll remember for your entire life is to travel, and to travel to many different places— not just one. One of the benefits of studying abroad, aside from having the chance to travel around the different cities and regions of your host country, is that you’ll also have the opportunity to travel to other cities and countries, depending on where you are.
Becoming comfortable with traveling and all that it entails (transportation, accommodations, booking activities, finding the top things to do, etc.) can seem impossible when you have a zillion tabs open on your computer. The process becomes less arduous the more you do it, so making travel a hobby is something that you will not only enjoy while abroad, but also when you get back home.
The gift of seeing your own country with the same eyes – full of wonderment and awe – that you use while studying abroad is special. It will make you more appreciative of where you come from, and more prone to continue exploring.
How many people get to fly out to Greece or Brisbane for the weekend? Traveling out of your host country will also give you a taste of other cultures and lifestyles, and broaden your international perspective as a whole.
6. You’ll gain the experience of a lifetime, and memories that will last forever.
Taking classes, living in a homestay, creating new friendships, and traveling around in a completely foreign country is not something you will forget easily. When the process is all said and done, you will definitely look back and remember almost every single detail of that time you went white water rafting in Croatia, or the time you got lost within the many narrow yet charming alleyways in Venice. The benefits of studying abroad will not be short-lived.
Study abroad experiences are a world apart from mere “vacation traveling,” because studying abroad provides you with with opportunity to not just visit a country, but to live in it, and gives you the ability to transform yourself into a local. In a couple of years, you may forget the name of your literature professor in Grenoble or the name of your dorm in Beijing, but you’ll never forget the friends you made or the incredible experiences you shared.
Your Flight to Adventure & Travel Awaits!
There isn’t that perfect and exact word that represents all the benefits of studying abroad on your life; if you’ve ever heard someone ask a study abroad alumni how their trip was, most of the time, the only adjective they could ever muster up is “great.” This is because there are so many thoughts, emotions, and memories bursting inside of them, that it is merely impossible for them to collect all of them into a jar of one word or one phrase.
Even though all six of these advantages of study abroad are definitely valid and accountable, these are only six of the many benefits of study abroad. A lot of times, studying abroad impacts your life in ways that words can’t describe, and for reasons that you won’t fully grasp the understanding of until you truly step foot on that plane. The only and greatest way you’ll ever find out how studying abroad will impact your life is to create your own journey and just go.