By Gail Grand, The College Advisor, Inc.
Imagine hopping on the Paris Metro for the first time, after purchasing your ticket with Euros, and zooming off to discover the latest Picasso exhibition at the Louvre; or wandering the ancient streets of Rome, and ordering a gelato from a real gelateria in Italian.
Do these adventures sound exciting? Would you consider attending a college semester or a full year in a foreign country?
Studying abroad can be one of the most unforgettable experiences you will ever have, and it comes with a myriad of benefits. Since college is already a transitional phase from childhood to adulthood, time spent abroad during these years can have a particularly positive effect on your self-esteem and confidence.
Navigating foreign streets, learning and speaking a new language, and travelling on your own are all great ways to gain independence and self-reliance. By confronting the challenges of exploring the unknown, you will learn so much about yourself.
Another important aspect of studying abroad is that it gives you the chance to see a new side of your major. You will gain a more well-rounded view of your subject by studying and learning about it through different styles of teaching.
As society in the United States becomes more multicultural and multilingual, students can greatly benefit from gaining a global perspective. Not only will you be immersed in a foreign language, which is the quickest and the most effective way to become fluent, but you will also have the opportunity to explore a country’s customs, historical landmarks, people and food. This may lead to newfound interests, such as sports and entertainment that do not exist at home. Have you ever played bandy? What about kubb? These are both popular sports in Sweden.
Studying abroad is a great way to make friends and meet people (and potential contacts) who hail from completely different backgrounds. Many students report that they stay in contact with the people they meet overseas for years to come. In today’s increasingly globalized society, gaining an international perspective may be one of the most important things you can take away from studying abroad. If you plan on working within the global markets, this experience can set you up to be an ideal job candidate.
Learning how to interact with people from other countries is crucial, and building cultural competency will certainly be attractive to future employers. Immersing yourself in a new culture is a great way to learn how to embrace differences, and that’s a great asset in any professional environment.
Studying abroad will always look impressive on your CV or resume, not to mention on graduate school applications. Many universities direct their own study abroad programs, so for more information, contact your school’s study abroad office.
Another helpful organization is the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), a non-profit educational community comprised of over 300 universities in more than 50 countries. They can assist with financial and academic issues as well as placement at international universities. Gaining a fresh perspective, learning in a new environment, and making memories that will last a lifetime are just some of the benefits reaped by studying abroad.
And who knows? You may return home having made lifelong friendships with young people from your host country — and with students from other universities in the USA who were on your Study Abroad program!