As a college student, there are always so many new things to experience in a given week: new classes, new friends, new nightly events... Oftentimes, it is easy to get carried away and get caught up in everything going on. With so many activities all the time, it can be difficult to think of studying abroad as a viable option.
Even though the idea of leaving college and friends for a semester to go experience something completely unknown can seem unnerving, studying abroad may be one of the most beneficial things for a college student. The experience is a lot more than a fun time; it prepares students for future careers in unexpected ways.
1. Cultural Perspectives
It is one thing to see pictures of famous sites or to hear stories about small communities developing cooperatives, but it is a completely different insight to live it. Experiencing a new culture is perhaps the greatest aspect of living in a different country. By doing so, you receive firsthand exposure of day to day activities, develop a deep understanding of the hot topics of a country, and learn to appreciate a different way of life.
Furthermore, gaining cultural perspectives and becoming worldlier in general dispels fears of the ‘other’ that is outside of your home country. These fears stem from a lack of knowledge, like how if you travel anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll return with a scary disease like Ebola, or how foreign cities are always a hundred times more dangerous. Neither of these things is true, so long as you travel safely. Understanding these stereotypes and becoming comfortable with people of different backgrounds is a highly sought-after skill in today’s job market.
2. Lifelong Relationships
One of the single most rewarding aspects of studying abroad is the amazing relationships that develop. New experiences are breeding grounds for lifelong friendships. Aside from the group of people from your home country that are going through the same experience as you, there is also the opportunity to meet new people from your host country. Staying with a host family is a great way to begin building relationships.
Although the social world has made it easier to network with people online, no one can really deny the impact of knowing people. Having a vast network of individuals you connected with abroad or otherwise can give you a leg up in interviews and land you a job. The people you meet while abroad will be spread across the country or even the world, which gives you more opportunities outside of your college network.
3. A New Education
Differing education styles abound all over the world and one of the great things about studying abroad is the opportunity to experience a new one. Perhaps the class is taught primarily as an immersion course or projects involve the whole community. Either way, you’re going to learn something very out of the ordinary.
Additionally, probably one of the more alluring aspects of studying abroad is the opportunity to learn a foreign language. Being surrounded constantly by native speakers provides the best possible setting for this to take place. Most people are very willing to help you get your sentences right, and enjoy having someone to practice their English on as well. The advantages of being bi- or trilingual in the workplace cannot be underestimated.
4. Current Events
While living in another country, you often cannot help but become interested in its political inclinations and the state of social conditions there. Is the majority of the population living in poverty? Why? How are the citizens protesting poor conditions? Is the government doing anything about it?
No matter what the governmental and social situation in the country you are visiting is, it is guaranteed to have a far different history than that of your home country. They might even have vastly different insights about your home country’s own politics. Becoming aware of the current events and political stances throughout the world is a valuable career skill. Employers are eager to hire someone who understands policies and how they affect every aspect of your company.
5. Personal Changes
Studying abroad offers the opportunity for deep personal growth and change. It really gives you the ability to assess how you respond to uncomfortable situations, what you like and don’t like, and how you interact with people. These programs allow you to be adventurous in a generally safe location with a support system. By studying abroad, you will return with numerous new hobbies, countless stories, and most importantly a new outlook on life that can change everything for the better.
Have you ever studied abroad? How did it help your own career? Share your experiences and advice with us in the comments section below!