1. See the world while earning college credit
There’s no mystery behind why the majority of Americans who study abroad do so as undergrads: College is the ideal time to take a risk and take off. As a young student, you have the flexibility to pack up and ship out to a foreign country for a summer, semester, or even a year. And since most U.S. colleges and universities will award academic credit for courses taken abroad, studying abroad is a great opportunity to continue your studies while simultaneously exploring your world.
2. Improve Your Language Skills
Spending time abroad in a non-English speaking country is the single best way to improve your language skills and achieve fluency. By doing so, you force yourself to communicate in a new language. You have no choice but to improve! But don’t let this scare you; studying abroad is not only for those who can already speak a foreign language. If you are not confident in another language, don’t let that dissuade you from studying in a non-English speaking nation. Most study abroad programs offer courses taught in English and provide you with outlets to speak English so that you are not overwhelmed as you try to comprehend a new language. Essentially, you can test the waters and ease your way into language immersion. Just because you’re tongue tied in Thai or speechless in Swahili doesn’t mean you can’t study abroad; on the contrary, it means you have more potential for improvement.
3. Break Your Routine
It’s easy to fall into the all-too-familiar college routine. On any given day, you eat the same food, see the same faces, listen to the same professors, and watch that same re-run of Real Housewives of New Jersey. It’s easy to get into a rhythm that discourages you from seeking out new challenges. Studying abroad is an excellent way to break this routine. Living in a foreign country is new, different, and exciting. Interacting with foreigners in an unfamiliar environment on a daily basis constantly keeps you on your toes. While abroad, it’s easy to seek out new experiences. When you return home after spending time abroad, your former life will seem fresh and you’ll be able to avoid falling into that same old routine.
4. Meet New People
We all know that studying abroad is the quickest way to boost your Facebook friend count into the high thousands. But did you know that going abroad is the perfect opportunity to make real-life connections as well? Yes, it’s true: Spending time abroad allows you to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds from across the globe. You’ll cross paths with students and travelers whom you would have otherwise never encountered. Whether it’s a friend from a foreign country, a host sibling from your host city, or even a classmate from a different state, meeting people abroad will not only expand your cyber network, but it will also expand your horizons.
5. Educate Yourself About Foreign Culture
Mark Twain, an avid traveler, once wrote that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Though he penned these words over a century ago, they still hold true today. Studying abroad, like travel, entails immersing yourself into a foreign culture. The mere act of spending time in a foreign environment is a sure way to dispel stereotypes and overcome preconceived notions. In a shrinking world that becomes increasingly globalized on a daily basis, we have a responsibility as global citizens to get to know our ever-closer neighbors. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all have certain preconceptions about those who are different from us. Spending time abroad compels us to change these ideas.
6. Educate Foreigners About Your Own Culture
Conversely, studying abroad allows you to educate others about your own culture and way of life. This idea of cross-cultural understanding is especially relevant today as the United States aims to revamp its image on a global scale. By going abroad, you act as a global ambassador for your country; you have the unique opportunity to represent your country and create inter-cultural alliances on a personal level. Think of studying abroad as being appointed President Obama’s Global Image Consultant: armed with an open mind, your mission is to give your country a global makeover starting from the ground up.
For more information on becoming a Global Image Consultant (GIC), please visit Abroad101.com
7. Add Value to Yourself and Increase Your Marketability
U.S. students who have studied abroad make up an elite group of Americans who have spent time in a foreign country. Studying abroad provides both tangible and intangible benefits that translate directly to the job market. Beyond just padding your resume, studying abroad increases your hire-ability. The skills you bring home from your experience abroad are key to your success, especially in today’s down economy. You’ll learn real-life strategies that you simply can’t pick up in a classroom. Getting lost in the Mexico City subway system, for instance, might help you develop problem-solving skills, while tactfully bargaining for a turquoise necklace in Marrakesh might improve your communication skills. But subways and jewelry aside, one thing is certain: students who go abroad boost their own value by broadening their minds and learning to adapt to unfamiliar situations.
8. Return Home With a New Perspective on Your Own Country and Culture
There is no better way to see your own country in a new light than to study abroad in a foreign nation. Existing and interacting in a foreign culture forces you to evaluate the differences between your host country and your home country, and therefore allows you a new perspective on what you once saw as standard. Two kisses on the cheek may at first seem like a strange greeting, but once you get accustomed to new cultural norms, you’ll realize that perhaps your own country’s cultural norms are neither standard nor right; instead they are simply different. Similarly, being exposed to a foreign education system may help to you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own country’s system. Upon returning home, you will be able to perceive your own country from a new, more objective standpoint.
9. Gain a New Perspective on Yourself
“Not all those who wander are lost,” wrote Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien. He was absolutely right; wandering is best way to truly find yourself. But not only a soft-spoken hobbit carrying a magical ring to Mordor can embark on an epic (yet introspective!) journey. You, too, can find yourself by wandering in foreign lands. Of the myriad benefits of study abroad, this is perhaps the most important: you will return home from abroad with a new perspective on yourself. Studying abroad allows you to learn more about yourself than, well, you ever wanted to know. You’ll discover how you react to new situations and adjust to strange and unfamiliar territory. By taking the plunge and immersing yourself in a foreign culture, you’ll force yourself to find effective ways to adapt and succeed. You’ll uncover a potential that you never even knew existed as you stimulate individual growth…you global citizen, you.