Weigh the Advantages & Disadvantages of Studying Abroad

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She loves me. She loves me not. She loves me. She loves… the idea of studying abroad. And so do we! But it’s more than the idea of the studying abroad that we love. It’s the wake-up-in-a-different-part-of-the-world kind of love that we’re talking about. And with that fuzzy new morning feeling of being in a foreign land. It’s the food, the culture, and the foreign languages that we love. Along with the opportunities to make lifelong friends and take new and exciting university courses. This idea that we can change and challenge our perspectives. Are you starting to see the big picture here? Trust us, if studying abroad was a she, she loves you. 

Man standing on edge of rock looking at waterfall

Aside from the potential jet lag, are there really any disadvantages to study abroad?

There’s more than this romantic idea of studying abroad though. There are some real advantages and (a few!) disadvantages of studying abroad too. Let’s discuss!

The advantages of studying abroad 👍👍👍

Here’s why studying abroad is good—or dare we say GREAT. It’d be impossible to summarize a lengthy list of all of the advantages of studying abroad, but here are some major ones that most students enjoy:

College Credit 📚

Earn that college credit of yours at a host university abroad. You can still take the standard 12 - 15 credits in a semester abroad like you would as a full-time student at home. Knock out some of your general education requirements and take advantage of different options than what your host university offers. Study abroad programs often offer courses specific to international students where you might find yourself with a cohort of fellow international students. You can equally find yourself sitting in a course as the only non-native. Take advantage of earning college credit it a more exotic way!

Language Immersion 🗣

What are the advantages of studying abroad? One major one is the chance to improve your language skills. If you’re majoring or minoring in a foreign language—or care about living in a multilingual society—you should seriously consider studying abroad. Being immersed in a foreign environment is one of the most efficient and effective ways to learn a new language. Whether you are a beginner or near-professional in a foreign language, you can certainly hone your language skills. And build more confidence using it! You might improve so much that you can test into higher level courses upon your return home. Cha-ching!

Gif, new girl, group hug in bathroom New Frieeeend

New *international* friend!

New Friends! Lifelong Friends! 👫👫👫

A major advantage of studying abroad is the personal relationships that you will surely develop. You will be forced to meet new people and step out of your comfort zone, and by doing so, you will have the opportunity to build some amazing new friendships. What’s cool is that you and your new BFF’s are experiencing something that friends back home most likely won’t relate to. You share a special bond. Bonus: these news friends might be from other dreamy places abroad. You come to visit me, I’ll come visit you. 

Fresh Education Perspective 🤔

Foreign universities will certainly differ from what you have grown accustomed to in the classes that you’re currently doodling in. Education standards are not the same and in fact, may differ greatly from university to university. One of the advantages of study abroad is that studying at a foreign university will broaden your intellectual horizon and (hopefully) challenge you academically. The way content is delivered in Italy differs from Brazil which differers from Canada. Give yourself a break from what you’re used to and fall in love with learning for the sake of learning again—trust us, it’s one of the best souvenirs you can ask for.

Change of Scenery 🌍

Speaking of giving yourself a break, odds are you’re going to be changing latitudes and longitudes. And with that, you’ll be exposed to a new climate, vegetation, and wildlife. Not to mention a change in cultural climate as well. Studying abroad will expose you to all sorts of new. Trade the fields and plaines for the sea or a megacity.

[Browse ALL the Study Abroad Programs Out There!]

Discover New Foods 🤤

What can you gain from studying abroad? A few extra pounds for sure. ;) One of the elements of travel that definitely keeps us on the move is the tasty, tasty food! Food is an excellent insight into a new culture. Adding a little spice to your life never hurt anyone. From simple and delicious street food to elaborate local delicacies, let more than your eyes feast on local dishes. Studying abroad is an excellent way to expand your palate.

Gif, guy in cap and gown with thumbs up and falling caps

Get that paper—and by that we mean your diploma, and by that we mean you will get college credit for studying abroad.

Personal Development ⭐️

Confidence, resilience, and independence aren’t on agenda at most undergraduate universities. These are the skills that we can’t necessarily learn in the classroom. Conquering a semester or year abroad will certainly equip you with the skills to be successful in more than undergraduate coursework—and this newfound self-awareness is why studying abroad is good. Undoubtedly, you will be faced with challenges that you have not experienced in the comforts of your home country. And odds are, you will overcome those challenges. Yes, you can! Minor bumps in the road are stellar opportunities to develop and grow as an individual.  

Save Money!? (But Actually…) 💰

Believe it or not, you can save money by studying abroad. Tuition is expensive if you’re familiar with the going rates in the State, for example. Scholastic fees are typically much lower (and sometimes even free) in Europe, Asia, and South America. Go abroad and save a little — you’ll have more to spend on extracurricular activities. Here’s an example of how to study on a shoestring in Vietnam.

Spruce Up Your Resume ✨

All hail the bright and beautiful curriculum vitae (fancy for “resume”). A nice plus to studying abroad is being able to add that experience from the land down under or Peru to your list of academic experiences. It’s a nice way to show cultural competency and your ability to mitigate those challenges as a student and fellow human in a foreign environment.

[3 Steps to Include Study Abroad on Your Resume]

Become an Explorer! 🗺

Nearly everything will be new while abroad. A trip to the local grocery story or bodega could potentially be the setting of your next novel. You know how sometimes you’re so comfortable that you fail to recognize your surroundings? Well being abroad will invigorate your senses and those sometimes mundade activities will become new and fresh again. You will have so much exploring to do. And think about the exciting weekend getaways you can take advantage of. A train to the mediterranean for an extended weekend or perhaps a guided weekend through the amazon. You’re going to have so much to do!

The studying abroad cons 👎👎

gif, girl crying on beach, I take a nap right here

Jet lag is no joke, though… 

So what’s the catch? You’ve got a pretty strong game in the arena of studying abroad. You’re an optimist and of course the glass isn’t half full, it’s to the brim. But it’s not all fun and games. 

There are some disadvantages of studying abroad. Speaking of games, there might be a bit of paperwork involved—you know, the legal and administration stuff. Visas, applications, school-specific requirements, etc. It might require a little more of an effort on your behalf but it’s only a drop in the bucket. 

[International Visas: What You Need to Know

You know that dog at home that you love so dearly? It might be hard to pack it with you. Homesickness can be a tough adversary. But don’t worry *too* much about this one. If you’re headed to India, there won’t be a shortage of dogs (they may or may not be safe to pet though—watch yo’ self!).

 Jet lag is real—and definitely one of the disadvantages of study abroad. Most study abroad students will take a plane to their new home away from home. You might feel as if you were struck by said plane those first few days while adjusting to your new timezone. Some say, for each timezone we traverse, count on a day of acclimation. Long live the siesta!

gif, cartoon person crying I am so homesick

Luckily homesickness is easy enough to overcome!

 One that might not seem so obvious is culture shock. This is an element of studying abroad that might sneak up on you. Sometimes the cultural differences are so obvious and there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period. It’s when we travel to a new country that looks similar to our own when we might be a bit surprised. “If we look alike, we must think and therefore act alike.” Right? No, not at all. In fact, the way we look has little to do with how we perceive and act in this world. Culture shock is unavoidable but we can prepare ourselves to help diminish any not-so-pleasant feelings.

[Get a Grip: The Secrets of Coping with Culture Shock]

Another one of the studying abroad cons is that college is short. You only get eight semesters. Now, only seven!? Relax, it will happen in a flash whether you like it or not! All the comforts of home will be still there upon your return. Think about what you will gain rather than what you might lose out on.  

Holidays! You might have to get creative when it comes to putting together your Thanksgiving spread abroad. Missing out on holidays can be tough, but don’t worry though, there’s always a trade off. Imagine experiencing Ramadan in Morocco or Día de Muertos in Latin America. This glass is half-full. Or to the brim. ;-)

[How to Avoid Feeling Homesick While Studying Abroad Over the Holidays]

Clearly the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad skew heavily positive…

Studying abroad will help you and your future in countless ways. Whether you plan to join the workforce or further your studies with a graduate or professional degree, you will certainly make yourself more competitive in whatever arena you decide to play in. But it’s not only about marketing yourself. It’s to nourish yourself in a new way.

The question is not “Why should I study abroad?,” but rather “When should I study abroad?!” (Psst: check out this helpful infographic to aid in that decision-making process!).

Real talk: You really have nothing to lose. Sure, there are some advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad, but it’s truly up to YOU to weigh those options. Studying abroad can impact your life in myriad ways. Just remember that after graduating and starting that big girl/boy job, you might not have the luxury to say “a plus!” to responsibilities and spend several months abroad. Do it while you can. Home is always only a flight (or three) away. 

What’s next?

Now that you’ve seen some of the pros and cons to studying abroad here’s a little something to help you understand how to study abroad. Okay, okay, you might need a moment to realize that you’re actually going to do this study abroad thing. We’ll give you that. Start by making your MyGoAbroad account to help you along the way. Have specific questions or concerns? We’re here for you. 

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