5 Reasons to Study Abroad
If you have always wanted to get away and see the world, college is a prime opportunity to start exploring. Many institutions offer study abroad opportunities as early as the summer after your freshman year and financial aid may also be available to help cover your expenses. In many cases, the time you spend overseas can also be used to earn credits toward your degree. Some colleges, such as Columbia University and Florida State University, encourage travel abroad by offering several choices, including study exchanges, volunteer work and even opportunities to teach or work overseas. At the University of Virginia, you can even spend a semester at sea on a cruise ship, visiting between 8 and 12 different countries. Still not sure if studying abroad is right for you? Consider these five reasons why you should venture outside your home country while in college.
1. Personal Growth
It’s true that heading off to college is a big step toward independence and adulthood, but nothing accelerates that process like studying in a foreign country. Without friends or family close by to help, you will need to learn how to take care of yourself. This may include everything from getting groceries to navigating through a new transportation system. Once you realize that you can handle new experiences alone, you’ll become more confident and independent.
2. Challenge Your World Views
It's always interesting to see how other people view the world. Spending time immersed in another culture will not only challenge your own values and beliefs, but it will also open up your eyes to some of the biases you may have created about other countries and people. You'll have the opportunity to experience other religions, traditions and even education systems that may differ from those in your home country. The diverse relationships you will create during your time abroad will help you grow as a person and widen your view of the world.
3. Accelerate Your Language Skills
One of the best ways to become fluent in a language is to immerse yourself in the culture. Spending a semester reading, writing and speaking a foreign language will accelerate your grasp of the language and may even help you pass a foreign language class with flying colors once you return home. You may also improve your opportunities for future employment if you become multi-lingual.
4. Boost Your Résumé
Employers are generally excited to see study abroad experience on your résumé, as it may suggest you are self-motivated, open-minded and have the ability to work with diverse populations. Studying abroad may also give you the opportunity for internships and can help you network with professionals in your designated field of study. If you are considering a career in business or government, you should definitely consider spending some time abroad.
5. Have Fun!
Besides the learning experiences and new friendships you may build, one of the best reasons to study abroad is the opportunity to just have some fun. You’ll have plenty of free time between classes to explore your host country, so take the time to do things you might not get to experience at home. Visit historical landmarks, try new cuisine and immerse yourself in the culture. Be sure to bring your camera and a journal to capture every moment, as the time will go by quickly.
If you think you might be interested in a semester abroad, check with your college’s financial aid department to see what funding may be available. Some colleges offer scholarships and grants to help cover some of the expenses, but be prepared to cover other out-of-pocket expenses, such as food and travel. You will also want to check to see if the credits earned abroad will count toward your degree at home. With a little research and planning, you could be saying ‘Bonjour’ to new places and new faces!