There are a myriad of reasons to study abroad in college. Below are just a few considerations as you ponder the possibility of world travel.
Fulfilling Degree Requirements and Financial Cost
While for some study abroad is simply an exciting option in their college career, there are programs and even entire schools that require students to spend a portion of their time abroad. For those who worry this may make them fall behind, fear not. Most universities are set up to allow you to apply the credits you earn abroad to your degree, just be strategic about where you go and what classes you take; make sure those classes fulfill requirements towards your degree. If you go through an exchange program with your schools, the cost is generally comparable. While there are certainly extra costs to studying abroad, financial aid will generally go with you and other loans, grants, and scholarships are available. If you decide to independently enroll, depending on which country you’ll find that tuition may be similar, lower, or even free compared to what you pay at home.
You can, of course, study in a country where English is widely spoken. In many ways this may make your experience easier, since there is not the added language barrier on top of all the other changes and differences you will experience. However, if you choose to study in a country with a different primary language, you will have the added benefit of linguistic immersion, which is the quickest and most effective way to improve language skills. Aside from the excitement, joy, and cognitive benefits of knowing more than one language, knowledge of or fluency in a second (or third!) language is a sought after ability in the workplace. Especially if you are looking to work for a company or organization that does work globally, or with non-English-speaking populations, your linguistic skills will help put you above the rest of applicants in the hiring process and be a valuable asset in your career.
Dispel Stereotypes and Broaden Cultural Understanding
You time abroad, regardless of where you go, will challenge what you think you know about the that country and its people. You will also see your own culture through a different lens and the exposure to other cultures and ways of living and thinking will give you a new opportunity to think critically about your own beliefs, actions, and views that you might consider to be “normal.” New experiences to help shape and form your beliefs. The more you see, listen, and experience, the deeper your understanding will become. You’ll learn more about how other countries approach various issues, both those specific to their own country and issues that apply to many countries. Your worldview will expand to include new ways to do (or not do) things, and you can bring that knowledge back to work on those problems at home.
Spending time in another country, even for a few weeks, will build your self-reliance. Being in a whole new environment is a great test of both what you are good at and also what maybe isn’t in your wheelhouse. Your time abroad will challenge your ability to adapt to other environments, cultural norms, types of currency and transportation, learning styles, and more. It offers opportunities for learning new skills, solving problems, and resolving challenges that you may not have been experienced at home. It will force you to prove your ability to work in different cultural situations, and your willingness to communicate across linguistic and cultural barriers will serve you well both abroad but also at home, as it is a wonderful tool to leverage in any job.
Bonus: Other Travel
If time, finances, and interest permit, studying abroad in another part of the makes it much easier to travel to other places that are hard to reach from home. The world remains large and fascinating, even with its increased interconnectedness, and the opportunity to see and experience more of it is a privilege not to be overlooked.