One of the most common misconceptions of studying abroad is that it will prevent you from graduating on time with all your other friends who chose not to study abroad. I was one of those non-believers, and had fully expected to take the four and half year route; so I was happily surprised when my advisor showed me the mapped out academic timeline that included both a semester abroad and the a four year graduation plan. This week, the University of Texas-Austin released a study in their student newspaper that supports the notion that studying abroad can actually help you graduate sooner than your non-study abroad classmates.
According to their study, 60% of UT students who study abroad graduate in four years, while only 45% of those who did not participate in a study abroad program were able to do the same. The results were quantitatively based, so the reasons for these differences were not uncovered in this study, but it was mentioned that planning is a major factor in being able to fit a study abroad program into a four year graduation track. The sooner you decide to study abroad, the more time you will have to be able to choose appropriate courses you need to enroll in at your home university and abroad that are relevant to your major, and will ultimately help you graduate on time.
This might mean you need to take more than the bare minimum 12 credits each semester, and maybe even throw in a J-term and online summer class. But if it means you can spend five months putting your ecological studies degree to use in the Amazon, or start networking internationally with business professors in China, wouldn’t it be worth it in the long run? Many students have found that studying abroad sparks their interest to continue traveling after graduation and apply what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world. For me, that was my motivation to carry a near full load my senior year so I could graduate in four years, and then continue my travels by teaching abroad!
Another way you can include studying abroad without throwing your graduation deadline off track is by doing a short term program over one of your winter, spring, or summer vacations. Not only are these programs generally less expensive than semester long programs, but they can open your eyes to an international education in all the same ways that a longer program can.
Studying abroad can also increase your chances of graduating in general. Heather Barclay Hamir, who is the study abroad director at UT, stated that “when students participate in these enriching educational activities, it deepens their educational experience, and that causes students to stay at that university”. As you can tell, studying abroad can benefit your education in numerous ways!
If you want to read more about personal experiences from past study abroad students, you can check out Abroad101.com to reach out to past study abroad students and ask them how they mapped out a plan that kept them on track to graduate in time. The best advice comes from those who have gone through the experience themselves!