The Transformative Power of Studying Abroad
Guten tag! Konnichiwa! Bienvenido! That's just three ways to welcome someone,
but there are hundreds out there. The world is truly massive and contains billions
of people in thousands of unique and distinct cultures. How are you supposed to learn
about all of these people? Sadly, you'll never have enough time to experience them all, but with a study abroad program, you can have the chance to learn with and about a unique culture by diving in and getting hands-on.
Study abroad programs come in many shapes and sizes. The typical program allows a student to spend a semester studying abroad, but some programs run for multiple semesters or up to years. Some are geared solely around studying and attending a foreign university, while others emphasize internships or volunteer experiences. Programs also vary in how the student is supported, with some having a 'host family' situation, whereby the two students who are “exchanging experience” at the other's respective house. Other programs simply provide a dorm or apartment for the student, the known “campus life” being one of the most popular decisions.
A recent trend among college graduates has been the opportunity to teach abroad, frequently as part of a master's degree program to become a teacher in their home country. Others participate in research endeavors at foreign universities while pursuing graduate education.
Researchers have recently been investigating the benefits of study abroad programs, and the results have been very promising. Here's a quick rundown of just a few major benefits experienced by study abroad program:
This one seems fairly obvious, but it's pretty hard to live in a foreign country without picking up the language.
Students who choose full-year programs and live with locals have a very good probability of becoming functionally fluent in the language of their host country before they return home.
The vast majority of study abroad students reported that they felt more mature, confident, and had developed a broader worldview as a result of their time abroad. Students also reported that they developed lifelong friendships, and their study abroad experience still influences their life many years later.
Another interesting benefit of study abroad is an increased ability to reflect on other cultures, lifestyles and new vibes. Most students return to their home country with both, a more open view of other cultures, but also a greater understanding of their own culture and how it’s influencing their decision-making and beliefs.
Career and Education:
Many students who study abroad find that it allows them to narrow down their search for a career and makes them more focused on their education. In fact, study abroad participants have a higher rate of degree completion and often a higher level of educational attainment. Experiencing another culture allows them to see options they might not have otherwise considered while seeking the benefits of a quality education.
Why to Study Abroad?
1. You’ll become more independent.
Whether you’re traveling outside of the country for the first time, or even living alone for the first time, studying abroad pushes you to become independent and self-sufficient. There are of course challenges that come with this, but it’s incredibly rewarding. Students often say studying abroad was a period of huge personal growth for them.
2. You’ll learn about another culture
It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling across ten time zones or just the next country over, studying abroad exposes you to new people, a new way of life, and a new culture. Our society is more global than ever, and these experiences will expose you to different types of people that will make you a much better student, employee and a more developed person overall
3. You’ll stand out to future employers
You’ll gain valuable skills studying abroad, and employers will take notice. You’ll be a stronger communicator, have better interpersonal skills, and gain street smarts that will help you think critically, no matter your profession.
4. You’ll broaden your education.
Say you’re an archeology student - studying in a country where you can actually go on-site to ancient ruins will be so incredibly valuable. No matter the field you’re in, studying abroad will simply expose you to new paths to pursue your passions, or even investigate new ones. The world has so many outstanding universities - so look beyond your current school and explore the possibilities.
5. You’ll learn more about yourself.
When you leave from an environment you feel comfortable in, you should expect a lot of personal growth to happen. It’s not always easy to leave your home city and move to a completely new environment - even if it’s just a few months! But stepping outside of your comfort zone can be truly invigorating. Even in the most stressful moments of homesickness, language barriers, and dealing with foreign currency, you’ll learn to rise to the occasion and find out what you’re truly made of.
6. You’ll gain valuable travel skills.
Traveling is indeed a skill, and it’s one that all global citizens should have. Not only will you learn the social norms of a new place, but even figuring out things like public transportation, buying groceries by yourself or checking places will provide you with valuable life skills.
7. You’ll expand your network.
If studying abroad for personal growth and opportunity to expand your education isn’t enough, do it for the friendships. It can be scary to make new friends, but it’s so rewarding. You may realize you have so much in common with someone who lives in a different country. Whether or not you’re bonding with someone else from your country who is on the trip with you, or making friends with a local citizen, expanding your network is great for your social life, your career, and your own growth. And with friends abroad, you’ll always have an excuse to go back!
8. You’ll immerse yourself in a new language.
Learning a new language can be an exciting experience, especially if it’s been years since you've learned one in school. Even if you’re just learning the basics, you’re still exercising a part of your brain. And going to a country where they speak the same language as you is still a fascinating experience - you’ll learn new slang and speech patterns, and see your own language through totally different eyes
9. You’ll go on new adventures.
You don’t even need to hike a mountain to go on a study abroad adventure - trying a new food might be adventurous enough. But you’re still exposing yourself to new things you wouldn’t be able to expose yourself to at home and you’ll probably be so wrapped up in these new experiences that you’ll forget everything and just enjoy.
10. You’ll bring all of these new skills home with you.
Coming home after a semester (or years) abroad can bring forward all sorts of emotions. Reverse culture shock is real! But those emotions mean you’ve changed, and have likely brought a lot of skills back with you. You might even realize how much you’ve missed your home country, and gain a new appreciation for it.
When can I study abroad?
Many people when they think of studying abroad think of taking a semester abroad during their bachelor’s degree. While this is common, it is not the only way you can study abroad. In fact, you can study abroad at almost every level of your education - even if you’ve been out of school for years!
You don’t even need to be at the university level to study abroad. You can do anything from a summer abroad program for a few weeks to a year-long exchange. Studying abroad in high school could be an excellent way to differentiate yourself when you’re applying to universities, and is good life practice for living alone.
Foundation programs / Pathway programs/ Preparatory year programs
Foundation programs and Pathway programs are post-secondary programs that you can take after high school to further prepare you for university. If you want to study abroad, you might be eligible to participate in a foundation or pathway program that will assist you with language proficiency and teach you about the education system in that particular country, which will then allow you to thrive at your degree program abroad!
Associate’s degrees are degrees from undergraduate colleges that might be a stepping stone before the bachelor’s degree, or for other students, is a qualification by itself. While most common in the United States, you can find these programs in other countries too. They’re often two years long - and could be a great opportunity to study abroad before a bachelor’s degree.
Studying abroad for a semester or a year during your bachelor’s degree might be a great way to complement the education you’re getting in your home country - but it’s not the only way you can study abroad during your bachelor’s! You could also do your entire bachelor’s degree (3-6 years) abroad. Consider this option if a school abroad has a program that particularly interests you.
Completed your bachelor’s degree at home? It’s never too late to study abroad. Explore master’s degrees around the world! Depending on your field of study, going abroad for your master’s could be what you need to set you apart on the job market and could help give you a good internship or work experience in another country. Whether you want to get an MBA or a master’s in anthropology, there’s sure to be an excellent program abroad for you.
Ph.Ds and Doctorates
Pursue the highest level of education abroad. Doctorate programs are often quite small and competitive, and sometimes only have a spot or two open each year. If you can’t find positions in your home country, looking abroad could be a great way to pursue your studies and expose yourself to new schools of thought and experts within your field.
Looking to master a new language? It could be time to pursue this education abroad. There’s just no replacement for interacting with locals, as opposed to self-teaching yourself from home. If you’re serious about becoming fluent, consider a language school abroad.
Certificates and diplomas
If you’re looking to study a very specific skill or just want to pursue a unique passion, a certificate or diploma program abroad could be just what you’re looking for. Take a pastry class in France or get a diploma in digital marketing. Studying abroad for these short-term courses could be a great thing to put on your CV to get ahead in the job market and learn a new skill.
Convinced yet? Studying abroad is truly life-changing, and you should do it. But first things first - a lot of planning needs to go into a study abroad application.