Studying abroad is one of the most impactful and beneficial experiences that a student can have in college. Every year hundreds of thousands of US students study abroad all over the world and have the opportunity to travel, experience new cultures, and meet new people. Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Many people will travel for leisure or work, but it cannot compare to spending a semester or even a few weeks studying and living in another country and another culture. If you talk to students who have participated in study abroad most of them will describe study abroad as being one of, if not the, most important and memorable experiences of their college career. Not only does studying abroad provide an amazing experience to students while they are in college, but it also provides a long term impact through benefits like personal growth, making intercultural connections, and even helping to get a job or get accepted to graduate schools.
Students who study abroad experience enormous personal growth and development as a part of the experience. Living in another country, where often times you don’t speak the language or at least don’t speak it with complete fluency, teaches you to adapt and helps you to develop confidence in yourself. Even more so than going to college, studying abroad helps to develop independence. While there are certainly resources and support available to you while studying abroad, they often don’t look the same as in the United States and so in many ways you are forced to become more reliant on yourself and more able to make decisions for yourself on the fly. The personal development that comes through study abroad also translates back to many other parts of life, which is one of the reasons it is so valued by employers and graduate schools.
Study abroad also provides an opportunity to make connections across cultures. In a world that is increasingly globalized and interconnected, it is important to understand other cultures and to have an appreciation for the differences between other cultures. Studying abroad allows you to live in and immerse yourself in another culture, which helps you to gain a true cultural understanding. By interacting with people of a different culture everyday, you are able to gain an appreciation for how cultures are different, but also how they are the same. It helps you to understand that while someone may live on the opposite side of the world and appear to have a very different lifestyle, in many ways they are like you. Upon return from study abroad you are then more empathetic to other cultures and more understanding of them, which impacts your understanding of domestic and international issues.
Finally, study abroad can be very beneficial in both the job search and the application process to graduate schools. Many of the skills that you develop during study abroad, like independence, the ability to adapt, and cultural understanding, are skills companies and graduate schools are looking for. As a result, many companies and graduate schools look more favorably upon people who have studied abroad. If it comes down to two candidates with the same qualifications except one has studied abroad, as a company you are more likely to choose that candidate because you know they skills developed through that experience. So, not only does study abroad have its personal benefits but it also has its professional benefits and makes you a more competitive candidate. Studying abroad is one of the best decisions you can make as a student and it is guaranteed to have a profound impact on the rest of your life.
Written by Noah Vetter, UNC Charlotte (B.S.B.A. International Business | B.A. International Studies)