The following guest post comes from Lauren Davidson. The topic is dear to my heart as I always have believed that every young person should at least once leave his or her country and see some of the rest of the world.
Studying abroad has long been a popular option for college students, for good reason: it’s an exciting opportunity to not only see the world, but to immerse yourself in a new culture while getting an amazing education.
During my sophomore of college, I was lucky enough to spend a semester studying in Spain. It was an extraordinary experience and one that I would recommend to anyone that has the opportunity to do so.
Despite all of the benefits of studying abroad, many people view the experience as little more than an expensive vacation, especially when students are graduating college with around $28,000 in student debt on average.
While studying abroad can be pricey (anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000, typically) it is also a serious academic experience that provides students with an invaluable opportunity that they would not be able to obtain by staying in their classrooms in the United States. While both cost money, study abroad trips offer more than your standard classroom experience.
When a student chooses to study abroad, he or she does so knowing that he will be expected to take a full or partial academic course load in a different country — navigating the culture and customs and learning to get along in a foreign land. Doing so gives students a set of skills that simply cannot be learned elsewhere — and are incredible assets to students as employees in the future.
Study Abroad Is a Learning Experience
When you study abroad, you are not simply going on a vacation; you are taking classes at a college or university in another country. You are required to meet specific academic standards at your host school and comply with the requirements of your home school — all while navigating life in a foreign country.
Living abroad while taking classes requires you to develop problem-solving skills and become highly adaptable to new situations. Foreign universities may have entirely different teaching styles than those you are accustomed to in the U.S., and you will simply have to get used to this new way of learning. From grocery shopping to ordering in restaurants to riding public transportation, you will have to learn how to do everything differently — all of which is an incredible learning experience, on top of your courses.
Study Abroad Is a Diversification Immersion Experience
By its very nature, studying abroad requires you to interact with people who are very different than you are — they live in a different country, they likely speak a different language, and they have entirely different cultural norms and customs. Living in that country, as opposed to simply visiting it on a vacation, will give you unique insight into how other people live, and can make you a far more well-rounded person.
In today’s increasingly interconnected world, understanding how other people live and work is a skill — and one that not everyone has. Studying abroad will give you an advantage because you will have a firsthand look at the culture and customs of other people, and an ability to relate to people outside of your own world.
Study Abroad is a Research Experience
While traditional study abroad programs involved taking courses at a partner school in another country, many new study abroad programs are focused instead on research programs. These research-intensive study abroad programs prove that study abroad is far more than a vacation, as a research-centered program requires students to spend substantial time working on a project with experts in a chosen field in order to advance their own field of study. Research study abroad programs are available across a range of subjects, from the liberal arts to math and science to languages.
Study Abroad Hones Your Communication Skills
When you study abroad, you are often required to either learn or refine your foreign language skills in order to get by each day. Immersing yourself in foreign language is the best way to learn it, and can help ensure that you gain maximum fluency. Studying abroad can be far superior to classroom learning when it comes to picking up a foreign language and truly understanding it, which can be a huge advantage for anyone who wants to utilize a foreign language in their life.
Study Abroad Prepares You for a Diverse Workforce
Employers recognize the skills that studying abroad brings to prospective employees, which is why so many prefer to hire students who have previously studied abroad. More business than ever before is conducted on a global scale, and this contributes to a more and more diversified workplace. In this economy, it makes sense to hire someone who has lived in a foreign country, is comfortable with traveling around the world, and who can communicate readily with people who are different from them.
Studying abroad can be fun and exciting — but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t academically rigorous and a valuable experience. That is why studying abroad is more than just a vacation.
By Lauren Davidson, a recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. As she transitions into the “real world” she is looking to use freelance writing as a way to make extra money to pay down her student loan debt.