If you’re thinking about taking a summer, semester, or even an entire school year to study abroad but feel on the fence about taking such a big leap, read on. The opportunity to study abroad may seem par for the course these days, as most universities and private programs offer study abroad options; however, the benefits of studying abroad have not diminished in the slightest.
Studying abroad in high school or college is the best time to seize the chance to travel and gain academic credits at the same time, all while accruing major benefits that will stay with you through the rest of your life. If you have the chance to study outside of your home country, here are the reasons why you definitely should! These are five major benefits, but within these benefits are endless small ways you will change as a human being and student as a result of a study abroad experience.
1. Expand Your Awareness
Perhaps the most important and long-lasting benefit of studying abroad is the way the experience will expand your awareness, both of the world around you and of yourself. A 2001 study by Anastasia Kitsantas and Judith Meyers demonstrated that students who studied abroad had increased cross-cultural awareness and independence when compared to students who did not. The world is a wonderfully big, diverse place, but studying abroad makes it feel much smaller and more connected. Students who study abroad have the chance to gain a better sense of global connectedness and also of how to operate independently and adapt to new environments.
Though college can be stressful, and you might feel like adding a new country to the mix will overwhelm you, you might be surprised how different you feel living and studying in a completely new country. By taking yourself out of your comfort zone, you will likely learn you are capable of much more than you thought.
2. Learn a New Language and New Habits
If you decide to study in a nation where people speak a language other than your own, you have the opportunity to become at least conversationally fluent, if not completely fluent, in a new language. According to Dana Dovey in Medical Daily, learning a new language not only allows you to communicate with more people and add a special skill to your resume, but it can also change your perception of the world by changing neural pathways in your brain. Since the languages of the world contain different vocabularies for explaining thoughts, feelings, and even phenomena found in life, learning a new language also creates a new way of seeing the world that you could never get by just talking to someone who speaks another language about their experiences.
Beyond learning a new language, studying in a different country will also help you learn new habits. The different cultural norms found in diverse countries around the world create various ways of behaving and operating in the world as well. By studying abroad, you will see how another culture lives and even learn how to live within that mode of operation.
For example, if you are an American student, you might realize you absolutely love taking siesta (a break/nap in the middle of the day) in Spain or fika (coffee break) in Sweden. Or, after traveling solely by motor vehicle, you might discover a new love of public transportation or traveling mostly by bicycle in a smaller nation with fewer cars on the road. The possibilities for new discoveries are endless when you step outside your normal way of behaving.
3. Increase Your Marketability
Having experience living and studying in a new country also increases your marketability to future academic institutions, programs, and employers. Of course, if you add a new language to your resume, you will greatly expand your ability to work abroad or in a diverse environment.
However, academic programs and employers also love to see that you have successfully experienced a new and different way of life in another country and gained diverse perspectives. Since businesses and companies are becoming more and more global, studying abroad might just be the extra push to get you hired to a new internship or job, or accepted to the academic program of your dreams.
4. Meet Lifelong Collaborators
Another, perhaps less thought about, benefit to studying abroad is the opportunity to meet people who could become lifelong friends and collaborators. If you thought you would meet new types of people in college, imagine how much that benefit expands when you study abroad. Whenever you leave your hometown and enter a new environment, you get to meet people you might have never known otherwise–often people with perspectives quite different from yours or even that magically complement yours.
All over the Internet are travel stories of people who have met a significant other or life-changing friend while studying, traveling, or working abroad. By expanding your horizons, you could meet your future spouse or even business partner. At the very least, you will likely meet people who live all over the world and thus have places to stay when you travel in the years to come.
5. Take Advantage of Facilitated Travel
Finally, a very practical benefit of studying abroad is that you get to travel while enjoying the structure and support your university, college, or other program provides. Your program will likely have information to help you have the smoothest experience abroad possible and even supervised opportunities to enjoy whatever new country you are visiting. If you’re studying abroad in a country with easy transit to nearby nations, like any nation in Europe for example, you can also take advantage of the chance to travel to multiple countries during your study abroad experience.
Sometimes studying abroad can even help you save money. Studying abroad with some schools can even be less expensive than your regular tuition! If you want other ways to save, you can also look for private scholarships for study abroad opportunities like through NSHSS, the National Society of High School Scholars, to help pay for your experience. Since studying abroad is such a beneficial experience for students, there are plenty of scholarships out there to help you gain access to life-changing travel opportunities as a student.
As you ponder the decision to study abroad, imagine the ways you will expand your awareness, learn a new language and new habits, increase your marketability to employers and other programs, meet lifelong friends and collaborators, and have the chance to take advantage of facilitated travel opportunities. These benefits will follow you the rest of your life and only enhance your future experiences!