Do you find yourself daydreaming in class about taking a long vacation? Do you want to explore the world but cannot afford to pause your educational progress? Many colleges have created programs for their students to combine these two desires, allowing you to have your cake and eat it too! Study abroad is a unique opportunity offered to hundreds of thousands of university students annually, allowing them to travel to another country while still earning credits towards their degree.
Alumni of study abroad programs speak highly of their experiences and the unique skills learned during their trips. Through study abroad programs, students can enroll in classes at other universities for a few weeks, summer term, a semester or even a full academic year. Committing to an extended period of time away from your home country can be a daunting prospect, but there are many benefits to participating in study abroad. Here are some additional reasons why you should consider study abroad while in college.
Gain a deeper understanding of local culture
Studying abroad will expose you to incredible new foods, customs, traditions and social atmospheres. Rather than hear an explanation of a location’s culture from a tour guide, you will learn to adapt to the local habits and appreciate their quirks by living through them daily. You will develop close friendships with local classmates and other international students, potentially learning about cultures beyond your host country. Staying for a longer amount of time will also allow you to explore your host nation beyond common tourist destinations. You will get the chance to explore local favorites and hidden gems that most visitors skip over.
Improve your language skills
If you are learning another language, then studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to fully immerse yourself. Challenge yourself and choose to study in a nation that speaks languages besides English. The prolonged exposure to the secondary language will allow you to become more comfortable in speaking the language naturally. Navigating daily life and common tasks in another language provides great moments to practice your colloquial conversation skills. Entering the classroom and working alongside students while conversing in their primary language will teach you to speak in highly technical terms. Overall, being fully immersed in a secondary language 24/7 will be more impactful than a two-hour lecture a few times a week back home.
Living away from home as a college student will teach you independence, but studying abroad will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone to navigate a new setting. Challenging yourself in this manner will allow you to learn what you are truly capable of while having a support structure of classmates and advisors from your host school to guide you when necessary. You will also gain a greater appreciation for all the guidance and support your family has provided you back home.
Take advantage of surprisingly affordable options
A common misconception about study abroad programs is that they are extremely cost-prohibitive. Universities work hard to ensure that study abroad opportunities are accessible for their students. Students who look to study abroad have two main options for programs: exchange and direct enrollment.
Exchange partnerships are agreements set up between two academic institutions allowing for students to enroll in courses at either school while paying tuition only to their home school. This is ideal for in-state students at public universities who can avoid international tuition rates.
Alternatively, out-of-state public university and private university students may be surprised to find that in some cases international education costs are lower than at home. They can therefore pay a lower tuition rate by directly enrolling in classes at their host university and transferring the credits back after completion. Of course, in addition to tuition and housing costs, you must factor in student visa application fees, international airfare and insurance while abroad. And don’t forget to budget money for excursions and souvenirs! Either way, studying abroad is more affordable than you might initially assume.
Prepare for a global workforce
With the increasingly globalized economies of the twenty-first century, employers are seeking leaders comfortable and familiar with international cultures. Employers value the adaptability, independence and cultural understanding that you will develop overseas. A study abroad experience can also allow you to meet others from around the globe and grow your network. These connections could lead to future international opportunities in your field.
So, if not now, when? Studying abroad may seem difficult to plan your degree around, especially if you only consider it in your third or fourth year, but the hassle is definitely worth the experience. Failing to study abroad is a common regret among college graduates, who instead look to travel once they get a job. Yet after college, many adults find themselves caught up with too many responsibilities at work and home to even consider traveling abroad, let alone going abroad for a few weeks or months.
As a student, you will have a lot more free time to soak in the local sights and even stray off the beaten path. Students also receive assistance in visas, housing and acculturation from their host university. If you pass on studying abroad while in college then you may not get the chance to live in or explore another country in depth until you retire.
If you are on the fence about enrolling in a study abroad program, give it a second look and speak with a university advisor. If you are a high school student, take a look at the study abroad exchange partnerships offered by the universities you are considering. While focusing on your education is important, taking a step back and enjoying life should also be a priority. Trade-in your memories of stressful nights studying in a dorm for the unforgettable experience of learning to live in another country. The world is your oyster, so go out and see it!
Bon voyage mes amis!