Benefits of Study Abroad
As a professional who works in student travel, I get asked a lot about the benefits of study abroad. It’s very common to want to understand the benefits studying abroad can have for you before going, after all it is a large investment.
With that said, studying abroad is so life changing I don’t think it can fully be expressed or articulated what all the benefits are in a blog post (but I’ll try, that’s why you are here after all, right?).
So let me just come right out and say it- studying abroad will benefit/help/change you, no matter what. There is no escaping the transformative power of study abroad.
Now, you might not necessarily leave a completely new person (although you probably will, more on that below!), but you will grow personally and so will your career options because of it.
Studying abroad will give you intangible benefits, such as amazing personal growth and insight into who you are, a better understanding of the world you live in, and probably a feeling of pride you haven’t felt before.
But that’s not all, study abroad will also give you tangible benefits, new friendships, potentially a new language, and new skills to name a few.
Benefits of Studying Abroad
Be forewarned – the list of benefits below will cause extreme desire to be abroad now!
For some, this may be benefit enough to justify going abroad. And I wouldn’t argue with that. I can’t state the impact of study abroad on friendships strongly enough. The friendships you make while abroad will be nothing like any friendships you have made before. They are strong, they are based on amazing memories, they are full of laughter, new experiences, and are a testament to this special time in your life. As a bonus, you may even find that your existing friendships deepen as you come back with new things about yourself to share.
New Lover(s) (maybe!)
It’s just a fact that many people find someone new to date while abroad. Whether it’s a local or another international student, this is a really common bonus for many. Not to mention, it’s actually pretty astounding how many married couples met abroad – ask around, I bet you will learn of a few yourself!
- Note – I just have to add here that I believe very, very strongly in the need to grow and learn independently while abroad. That this is an experience for you, that you only get once, to experience life to the fullest the way you want, whatever that means to you. A relationship, even just casually dating or hooking up, can bring a mess into all of this, so I would caution against going abroad for this reason. With that being said, everyone one likes to be liked, so if you do find someone, more power to you! Just remember that this is your time to be selfish.
This one is huge and multifaceted- some areas you will see changes are:
- New Perspectives – Studying abroad literally changes the way you see the world. Ideas you may have had about your host country will change; perceptions you had of yourself and your own country will change. You will gain hundreds of new perspectives in a short time frame. Embrace them.
- New Personality – You will probably notice differences in your personality while abroad. You might blossom and become more outgoing and a “yes” person, wanting to experience it all. Or you might be slightly anxious about all the changes and hide a bit more in your shell than at home. Both of these are normal. So is something in between or moving between the two. Regardless of which you experience, it will bring a growth to your personality you are meant to go through.
- Independence and Self-Reliance – You are moving to a new place in the world on your own. One where you may not fully understand the language, norms, culture, and more. That forces a level of independence and self- reliance you haven’t faced before. And that’s what’s so awesome. There is nothing better than knowing you can rely on yourself.
- Self Awareness – At some point you are going to feel like you stick out. In fact, you might be so self aware you just wish it would go away. Guess what that feeling is? It’s the feeling of growth. Of gaining confidence. Of learning who you are. Of realizing that being self aware doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
- New Ambitions – Guess what happens when you push yourself to your limits as happens when abroad? You get ambitious. You see how much you can achieve and that opens the door to more and more.
- New Interests, Favorites, and Passions – You are going to be exposed to so many new things while abroad. New foods, sports, languages, and hobbies, just to name a few. I bet one of these sticks with you in life as something you enjoy that you didn’t know about before (just ask any of my friends who are still addicted to empanadas). This could lead to a new career path, a new hobby, or just something cool you now know you like. And what could be better than adding to the list of good things you enjoy in life?
- Coping Skills – I know I’m painting a pretty big picture of study abroad, and I sincerely stick behind it, but I’ll be honest that some days just suck. They are hard. You want to be home. You hate where you are. You hate everything. This is called culture shock and homesickness, and it’s normal. The beauty of experiencing those feelings is that you learn how to cope with them. Because guess what, there are going to be other times in life that you want to be home. And hate where you are. And hate everything. Only next time it won’t be so hard because you’ve been there, done that. What could be better than knowing you can conquer your own feelings?
This may be an obvious one, but for those lucky enough to have the funds and time to travel while abroad, the opportunities you have to see a new part of the world, even if just down the street, is something you haven’t had before. I would also argue that this easier access to new places alone is enough to make studying abroad worth it.
This is pretty far down on the list for something called study abroad, but while I totally think the studying part of study abroad is important, I think what you learn outside the classroom is just as, if not more, important. So, please, go to class and do well, this will still count as part of your overall GPA and academic program after all, but remember that you are learning at all times when abroad and there is almost nothing more valuable than that.
Similar to personal growth and self-reliance, you will learn other personal skills that you can carry with you the rest of your life, such as:
- Adaptability– This is what you are doing the entire time abroad after all, isn’t it?
- Problem Solving– When everything is new, it takes creative thinking and problem solving to figure it all out. You will definitely improve this skill when your wifi is gone and you can’t find your Uber…
- Coping– We touched on this one above, but it is a skill worth mentioning twice. Learning how to just deal is a skill more people could benefit from, be one of them!
- Resourcefulness/Innovation– Similar to problem solving, sometimes while abroad you are going to have to just figure stuff out. You have no choice but to be innovative. Flexing this skill while forced to will help it grow so you can call on it whenever you want in the future.
- Organization– It takes quite a bit of planning to get abroad – applying to programs, booking flights, getting visas, etc. Not to mention once you are there you have to organize a completely new life. You’ve done this before going to university in the first place, these skills just continue to grow while abroad.
- Tolerance and Open Mindedness– I hope this is a skill you learn while abroad. Everyone could learn to be a little more tolerant, myself included. When you are exposed to new realities, as you are when you are abroad, most people experience a sense of empathy, understanding, and perspective they didn’t have before, leading to a more tolerant person overall.
- Perseverance– Like I said above, some days abroad are hard. You may feel homesick, overwhelmed, sick, lonely, and just overcome with emotion- all at once. But part of this experience is learning to push through the hard days , gaining an inner perseverance that will help you in the long run.
Another potentially obvious point, but if you travel somewhere that speaks a language different than your own, you are bound to pick up some words and phrases even without trying. Put a little effort in and you’d be amazed how much you will learn so quickly!
While you won’t become a Spaniard by living in Spain, for example, you will gain a deeper understanding of what the Spanish culture is all about, more than just a stereotype that they love wine and tapas (even if that is based on some fact 😉 )
If you are lucky enough to study abroad, the life you are living is a fortunate one, even if you don’t see that yet. Being placed into an entirely new life, however, will help you gain an appreciation for what you have, what you know and understand, and what your “normal” is. Use your time abroad to be more appreciative of what you have at home.
I mean, I couldn’t be a more obvious example. I work in study abroad, which is only possible because I experienced it. You might not have that same path, but there are plenty of other career perks that come from study abroad.
Let’s get sappy for a second. The memories that you will gain from studying abroad will later bring you to tears. Either because they are so funny, you remember them so fondly, or your nostalgia takes over. Either way, you will never forget your time abroad and how it affected you. You deserve these types of life changing memories.
Your own unique benefits!
These are just the benefits I’ve experienced and heard first hand through my friends and the hundreds of students I have helped study abroad, but you will find your own version of benefits! I can’t wait to hear what they are!
Did you study abroad? What other benefits did you experience? Or are you still deciding if studying abroad is for you? If so, leave me a message or comment, I can help you figure out what’s right for you!