The four years most students spend at college fly by unbelievably fast. And with only eight semesters at school, many students don’t want to sacrifice a term on campus in order to study in a foreign country. This is a mistake.
If your major requirements are too demanding for you to spend a semester abroad, or if you have some other personal reason as to why you need to stay on campus for all eight semesters, that is one thing. But, if your primary hesitation is a burning fear of missing out on happenings at your university, or if some other fear or concern is holding you back, then these five reasons to study abroad are for you.
1. Explore The World
Let me ask you this: How often in your life will you have a period of about four months where you can just travel the world and learn? Once you finish college, you’ll probably enter the workforce, and so begins an adult life of employment and responsibilities. Then, later on in life, you may be tied down to your country of residence by family commitments. You plan on traveling the world when you retire? While that’s a nice idea, but it’s certainly not going to be the same experience as when you’re young.
Not only is college the perfect time to travel, but many schools also make studying abroad easy and affordable. Most universities have established abroad programs, and your tuition usually stays the same, with financial aid covering abroad costs for many students. It’s also an easy way to experience the education system in a different country; after all, the way students learn in Europe isn’t necessarily the same as we do here in the United States. Earth is a big and beautiful place, explore it while you can.
2. Gain Cultural Exposure
The world is made up of so many different people–go out there and meet them. Studying abroad allows students to be exposed to people of varying cultures and backgrounds. If you study abroad in Europe, you can easily travel to nearby countries and see different sites, museums and terrains. Imagine studying Spanish in the classroom and then getting the opportunity to live in a Spanish-speaking country, where you can finally perfect your language skills. Or, what if you learn about Italian artists and then see their original work in museums? Can you see yourself reading British plays and then watching a performance of one in an old theater in London? Or, what about studying education and then teaching school children in South Africa?
By exposing yourself to people with different lifestyles and histories, you are learning in a whole new way. Sure, you are absorbing information from your lectures and seminars, but you can learn so much more about the place you are studying by spending time immersed in the culture there. It’s an irreplaceable educational experience. And not only does exposing yourself to people who lead different lives from you allow you to reflect on your own lifestyle, it also causes you to appreciate other cultures and to be tolerant of differing ideologies.
3. Boost Personal Growth
Staying on the same campus all four years isn’t scary and doesn’t push your limits. After freshman year, you’ve probably been most everywhere on campus and you know lots of people. But going abroad for a semester is a whole new ballgame. You may not know culturally how things work in the country you choose to study in or maybe you don’t speak the language. Perhaps you are one of a few people studying in this place from your university, and you don’t know anyone who will be living there with you. This means that studying abroad is the perfect way to become more independent and to challenge yourself.
When living in a foreign country, you are forced to learn the ways of your new-found home. You need to figure out how to use the city’s transportation system, be able to grasp an understanding of the currency used and learn enough of the language spoken (if that language isn’t your native tongue) so that you can get from point A to point B. These needs will teach you to figure things out on your own. Whether you have to conduct research, ask pedestrians for directions or simply learn from your mistakes, you need to be competent and act independently. This type of personal growth and development is unlike anything you could experience on campus.
4. Form International Ties
Remember how many people you met your first semester at college? Imagine getting to meet a whole new student body all over again, only this time, the students won’t be American. This provides a chance to form relationships internationally with people, which is a rare opportunity. Having friends from different cultural backgrounds gives you an inside look at what life is like for those people. And of course, it allows you to spend time with other students and people who grew up in a separate country–and most likely a separate continent–from you.
Some students who go abroad for a semester stay with a host family in the region. Many students form strong ties with their host families, maintaining contact long after their program ends with their host siblings and parents. And yes, keeping in touch with host families or international friends gives you an excuse to go back to the country you studied in for a visit.
5. Accumulate Career Benefits
Studying abroad doesn’t just help with personal growth, it also helps with professional growth. Not only is it a chance to network with a whole new country of people, but studying abroad also can make students more appealing to potential employers. Employers logically tend to see students who study abroad as more worldly, experienced, independent and competent. They see them as risk-takers and potential leaders. It also makes you more interesting on paper and can give you some good points to bring up during future job interviews.
Graduate schools, for similar reasons, see students who studied abroad as more appealing. Those who go abroad for a semester come off as more willing to learn and more well-rounded, due to the disparate and top-tier education they most likely received.