Leaving on a Jet Plane: The Benefits of Study Abroad
College is a very unique time in your life, a period where you can really test yourself and explore a number of new social and academic opportunities. While you might come to view your time on campus as invaluable, you’d be remiss if you ignored the possibilities that undergraduate life holds off-campus as well. And perhaps, above all, the most thrilling is the chance to study abroad.
Here are just a handful of reasons why you should consider spending a semester (or a year) abroad:
Become Proficient in Another Language
Hands down, there is no better way to learn a language then through living abroad. By immersing yourself in a country and culture that speaks a foreign tongue, you’ll find that you’re constantly exposed to said language. From buying lunch to taking public transportation, you will be forced to converse and to interact. Moreover, you’ll have the opportunity (and the luxury) of hearing the language spoken within its natural, cultural context. And, as an added bonus, you’ll also come to find that you understand and appreciate the nuances of your native language more.
Truly Experience Another Culture…
When you live and study abroad, you’ll find that you experience your host country in a deep and rich way. Beyond sampling the food and seeing some famous landmarks, you will participate in their traditions, holidays and celebrations. You will witness the day-to-day lives of the locals, gleaning more about their customs through shopping at a grocery store than a museum visit or textbook could provide. You’ll drink up their history, their philosophy, their sense of humor. And, perhaps most importantly, you’ll begin to really understand how they see the world.
…And Question Your Own
Leaving your own familiar surroundings inevitably leads to self-reflection and insight. When you live in another country, you’re likely to begin examining and questioning your own value system and your own cultural identity. You’ll come to recognize how other people view (and perhaps stereotype) your homeland. And you might discover which personal traditions and beliefs are important to you and which you might want to discard.
Shake Up Your Academic Routine
There’s no doubt that you will find studying abroad a refreshing (if at times challenging) change of pace. You might study at a foreign university that offers a different classroom experience and education system altogether. Perhaps you’ll have the opportunity to enroll in unique courses that your home institution doesn’t offer. You’re also likely to study with undergrads from a variety of American universities as well students from all over the world. And you will definitely be exposed to new ideas and fresh perspectives. Moreover, access to the landmarks, artifacts and historic sites of your host country will enhance your classroom studies and perhaps make your coursework more tangible.
Strengthen Your Resume
The skill-sets you acquire (and sharpen) while studying abroad are likely attributes that future/potential employers will value. As the world becomes more and more connected, companies look for candidates who understand how to communicate across different cultures. They also look for employees who aren’t afraid to challenge themselves, maintain an independent streak, demonstrate resilience and flexibility and are able to cope when new situations arise. And you’re likely to have these characteristics in spades after you complete your study abroad program.
Opportunities for Travel
Study abroad and travel often go hand in hand. Many students are quick to take full advantage of living in a country (and on a continent) that’s so new to them. Living abroad often means a multitude of countries are more accessible, not just your host country. The world can truly open up to you and you can quickly be exposed to a variety of adventures, viewpoints, friends and more!