Have you considered studying abroad, but are not sure whether it’s worth your time? If you ask anybody who has studied abroad, he or she will most certainly tell you that it is a life-changing experience and one of the most rewarding things he or she has ever done. Perhaps you’re not certain what benefits you can reap from an extended stay in a foreign country. Here are 10 very excellent reasons why you should take the plunge:
1. Study abroad is the optimal way to learn a language. There is no better and more effective way to learn a language than to be immersed in a culture that speaks the language you are learning. You’re surrounded by the language on a daily basis and are seeing and hearing it in the proper cultural context. Language learning happens most quickly under these circumstances. [Read why you should learn a language.]
2. Study abroad provides the opportunity to travel. Weekends and academic breaks allow you to venture out and explore your surroundings – both your immediate and more distant surroundings. Since studying abroad often puts you on a completely different continent, you are much closer to places you might otherwise not have had the opportunity to visit. Some more structured study abroad programs even have field trips planned in or around the curriculum.
3. Study abroad allows you get to know another culture first-hand. Cultural differences are more than just differences in language, food, appearances, and personal habits. A person’s culture reflects very deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that influence his or her way of life and the way that s/he views the world. Students who experience cultural differences personally can come to truly understand where other cultures are coming from.
4. Study abroad will help you develop skills and give you experiences a classroom setting will never provide. Being immersed in an entirely new cultural setting is scary at first, but it’s also exciting. It’s an opportunity to discover new strengths and abilities, conquer new challenges, and solve new problems. You will encounter situations that are wholly unfamiliar to you and will learn to adapt and respond in effective ways.
5. Study abroad affords you the opportunity to make friends around the world. While abroad, you will meet not only natives to the culture in which you are studying, but also other international students who are as far from home as yourself.
6. Study abroad helps you to learn about yourself. Students who study abroad return home with new ideas and perspectives about themselves and their own culture. The experience abroad often challenges them to reconsider their own beliefs and values. The experience may perhaps strengthen those values or it may cause students to alter or abandon them and embrace new concepts and perceptions. The encounter with other cultures enables students to see their own culture through new eyes.
7. Study abroad expands your worldview. In comparison with citizens of most other countries, Americans tend to be uninformed about the world beyond the nation’s boundaries. Students who study abroad return home with an informed and much less biased perspective toward other cultures and peoples.
8. Study abroad gives you the opportunity to break out of your academic routine. Study abroad is likely to be much unlike what you are used to doing as a student. You may become familiar with an entirely new academic system and you will have the chance to take courses not offered on your home campus. It’s also a great opportunity to break out the monotony of the routine you follow semester after semester.
9. Study abroad enhances employment opportunities. Did you know that only 4% of U.S. undergraduates ever study abroad? Yet, the world continues to become more globalized, American countries are increasingly investing dollars abroad, and companies from countries around the world continue to invest in the international market. Through an employer’s seyes, a student who has studied abroad is self-motivated, independent, willing to embrace challenges, and able to cope with diverse problems and situations. Your experience living and studying in a foreign country, negotiating another culture, and acquiring another language will all set you apart from the majority of other job applicants. [Read about careers in foreign languages.]
10. Study abroad can enhance the value of your degree. While abroad, you can take courses you would never have had the opportunity to take on your home campus. In addition, study abroad gives your language skills such a boost that it is normally quite easy to add a minor in a language or even a second major without having to take many more additional courses after the return to your home campus.
If you’re still wondering if study abroad is a good idea for you, then read the U.S. Senate Resolution citing 13 reasons why it is imperative for more Americans to study abroad.