Have you ever told someone you’re majoring in a liberal art, like philosophy, English, or languages, just to be met with a blank stare and a “What kind of job are you going to get with that?” Truth is, you don’t really need to have an answer, but if you’re looking for one, studying liberal arts abroad is a great means to an end. Ultimately, studying in a different country as a liberal arts student will enrich your academic and personal life while also improving your cultural competency. This willingness to experience new and exciting things is a cornerstone of liberal arts.
Why Study Liberal Arts Abroad
Living in the land of generalities is only satisfying for so long. Why not use a study abroad experience as a launch pad to better understand what you want to focus on or specialize in under the great big umbrella that is the liberal arts?!
“To be or not to be”…as a study abroad student...“that is the question.”
As you know, studying liberal arts does not prepare you for a specific job (like our good friends the doctors and enginerds); instead, by giving you broad knowledge and an array of useful skill sets (decision-making, communicating, etc.) that can be utilized in almost any job you pursue, a liberal arts major prepares you for the world at large. Therefore, studying liberal arts abroad gives you the chance to practice your cross cultural skills and possibly even become proficient in another language, which are just two of some of the most valuable skills to have in the world today.
Employers love study abroad alum. Pair your international street cred with your desirable soft skills (besides, most people can be taught the technical skills of a job) and you can consider yourself a “1-2-3-hired” liberal arts graduate.
So you’ve decided, “YES, I want to diversify my liberal arts education in another country”, but now the question remains: “Where should you go?” Due to the broad appeal of a liberal arts degree, finding a destination where you can study liberal arts abroad should be fairly easy once you know the subject or field you would like to focus on during your time abroad.
Italy. The birthplace of the Renaissance and many artists, philosophers, and poets, Italy is home to some of the best liberal arts schools in the world. While walking around cities like Rome, Florence, or Venice, take in the sites by exploring some of history’s best architecture and art collections. If you are studying in some of the most artistic cities in the world, don’t expect to be sitting in a classroom all day! You’ll instead be viewing sites like the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican, and the Pantheon instead of sticking your nose in a dirty ol’ book.
South Africa. Home to one of the most well-known social justice advocates of our time, Nelson Mandela, South Africa has so much to offer those interested in social causes and philosophy. Students will have access to social and cultural activities outside of the classroom, some of which may involve conversations with political activists, exposure to local artists and philosophers, and the occasional safari. Located on the southern tip of Africa, study abroad in South Africa will not be lacking in beautiful landscapes or wildlife.
Peru. The local music, cuisine, geography, and history will make any liberal arts major fascinated with study abroad in Peru. The traditional aspects of its history are woven into the present day society, and you will be able to experience this while studying in Lima (Peru’s modern capital) or Cusco (the historical capital). Liberal arts student are encouraged to explore the cities, villages, and historic sites that truly make Peru a magical place to study abroad in.
As a liberal arts major, the world is literally your oyster - so follow your heart flutter to whatever corner of the planet (and subsequent study abroad program) feels right.
Liberal Arts Study Abroad
Since liberal arts is such a broad field, there are a number of classes that can be considered part of liberal arts study abroad, from economics and mathematics to literature and film studies. Most liberal arts course options abroad will focus on the humanities, history, arts, languages, and other social sciences. While studying abroad, liberal arts majors can easily fulfill a multitude of electives or enroll specifically in courses required for a liberal arts degree.
If you have a focus or passion for a specific niche within the liberal arts, you will certainly be able to find unique study abroad programs that provide more in-depth and specialized courses. We always recommend students choose to take classes that relate directly with the location of their study abroad program too (especially if they are majoring in liberal arts), so as to really capitalize on the potential of the whole experience. It’s way more fun to learn about Spanish politics while in Spain than back home right?!
No matter your area of interest within the field of liberal arts, you should seriously consider studying a foreign language while abroad. However, that is not to say that classes are always necessarily conducted in a foreign language abroad, because you can certainly find liberal arts study abroad programs that are entirely taught in English.
Benefits & Challenges
Liberal arts were originally designed for the free man, to provide them with the skills necessary to be civically engaged, successful in debate, and attractive to employ. Things haven’t changed all too much since Ancient Greece. The skills acquired through studying liberal arts abroad will make you more competitive in the work force, especially as someone who has gained tangible skills (such as communication, problem-solving, and independence) in an international environment.
However, liberal arts can sometimes seem too general, which can make it more challenging for you to choose, let alone focus, on a concentration for study abroad. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all of the directions you can move in, you’re not alone. The silver lining is that your study abroad experience can help you make a decision on what you will do next in your college career, further focusing your liberal arts studies at home.
Fulfill the classic liberal arts mission of “learning how to learn” in an entirely new, foreign, and exciting context. Study liberal arts abroad, dag-nabbit!