At Take Your Success, I like to address the common ideas of college success and dive deeper to explain their true worth (or lack of value).
As a freshman four years ago, it seemed I always received the pitch about how studying abroad will help my future. But in the back of my mind, I didn’t know the actual reasons why this could possibly help me. I even thought the main purpose of study abroad was to increase the university’s revenue.
Now that I’ve been to Fiji on a college mission trip (so not exactly study abroad, yet it shares many characteristics) and researched the topic deeper, I believe in the personal development that takes place while abroad. Also, going overseas is usually a blast that you won’t forget.
Benefits Of Study Abroad
1. Discover a new culture
A new culture means new people, places, food, drinks, clothing, art, literature, customs, dances, movies, and experiences. The best part is that you can take what you like back with you (mentally) and be more open to trying new things.
2. Learn a second language
Becoming bilingual is probably the most common benefit that supporters of study abroad use in their argument, and for good reason. There is no better place to learn a second language than in the country where it is spoken by the majority of people.
If your goal isn’t to pick up a second language, then don’t think the process of partially learning another language is a waste. Studies show that this activity is healthy for your brain. (And you can use this native language translator to help you before you can manage on your own.) Also, learning a second language can improve the communication in your native tongue as you understand the importance of grammar and sentence structure.
3. Develop independence like never before
College gives you the environment and time away from home to develop independence. However, your independence can 100 percent breakthrough while in a foreign country. Self-reflection, self-coping, and looking out for yourself are necessary on the trip.
4. Expand your worldview
In a different culture, odds are that you are going to meet people who think differently than you. It’s insightful and humbling to learn that the world doesn’t all think the same way and what you think is normal might be viewed as strange in their culture. The power in connecting with different people is understanding them and their views—which you are given ample opportunity to do while abroad. I’ve also talked about this before in my post on meeting new people.
5. Travel to other nearby locations
Weekend trips to different countries is one of the norms overseas that you won’t get back home on campus. It’s unlikely you will have this access and time to travel to other locations in the near future. These trips can be extremely entertaining, beyond the personal development taking place.
6. Grow outside your comfort zone
A crucial part of gaining success is to put in the work when it’s hard and uncomfortable. So, what better way to build the muscle of growing outside your comfort than in a foreign country? The fact that you will be required to ask directions from locals, order at restaurants, and find places without a true sense of direction will build momentum in stepping outside of your comfort zone in other areas of your life.
7. Potentially increase employment or grad school opportunities
While I haven’t found any statistics that show a cause and effect of going abroad and improving your employment or grad school opportunities, I think it’s safe to say that hiring managers and grad school admissions committees value people who seek learning and diverse experiences. Also, a study abroad experience can help you market yourself to a deeper degree in an interview with said company or committee.
8. Build your professional network
Groups of students from your university or different universities commonly make up a study abroad trip. So, spending multiple weeks with people can lead to relationships that pay dividends long after the time abroad. And, don’t forget about the possibility of networking with the local people—you never know what might come of it.
9. Acquire good travel habits
This may be obvious, yet it’s important. Another benefit of studying abroad is the forced practice of packing for an extended amount of time, becoming a pro at flight reservation for visa purposes, navigating different subways/trains/boats and housing to your destination, and managing time effectively to stay on schedule. While it may seem small compared to other benefits on this list, acquiring solid travel habits is useful for the rest of your life.
10. Grasp money-management skills
Another underrated aspect is grasping better money-management skills. Depending on the program, the money on the trip can come in the form of a stipend that you initially paid or out of your pocket. Either way, making your money last for the duration of the trip is applicable to building better spending habits as an adult.
If you’re an underclassmen in college, I definitely encourage you to study abroad. If you’re a senior, then I might still consider making it work. Because whether you go during the summer, winter, or school year, the benefits gained outweigh the potential costs in most cases, in my opinion.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that studying abroad is not only for development and success. It’s also an incredibly fun time that can be a main staple of your college experience.