I can still remember arriving at Heathrow Airport at the age of 20 to spend a semester studying at Ealing University in London. The next four months were exhilarating and terrifying — and they changed me in countless ways. That is why I strongly encourage my students to study abroad before they leave college. Studying abroad can offer you competitive advantages, make you a better person, and brings you incomparable life experiences.
Study abroad should be considered an investment in your future
Study Abroad Gives You a Competitive Edge
Study abroad should be considered an investment in your future. Educational travel broadens your educational experience, develops global skills and perspectives, and demonstrates traits that employers and graduate schools find attractive, such as valuing diversity, new challenges, and growth opportunities. Research on the long-term impact of study abroad has found students earn better grades, graduate at both a higher rate and on time, and experience both personal and professional benefits. For example, one long-term study, by the SAGE Research Project, looked at 6,000 alumni over 50 years and found that study abroad has a substantial long-term impact on individuals’ career paths and global engagement. Multiple studies of employers have found that study abroad experience is a definite plus when it comes to hiring (see more here). Think about the specific advantages a study abroad program can offer you. For example, I was an English major and I was able to take a Shakespeare class and visit several key locations important to his life. I was also able to take both theater and art classes with access to the amazing theaters and galleries of London.
Study Abroad Is Self-Improvement
Study abroad is one of the ultimate life tests and it fosters a great deal of personal growth and development (see more here). It forces you to be more independent and to think more creatively once you step outside your comfort zone. You must adapt to new locations and new customs which in turn makes you more open and accepting of others both when you travel and after you return home. Meeting and connecting with people from other countries and cultures helps you learn more about those who are different from yourself, but also helps you understand how many common bonds humans share even when our countries of origin and customs are different. Travel simultaneously makes you recognize the immensity and diversity of our world while making the world seem smaller because faraway lands and peoples are now more known and understood. It is true that study abroad makes you a better world citizen, it also makes you a better American as you learn more about your own country by stepping outside its borders and viewing it through the eyes of others. My own study abroad experience made me a master problem solver because so many simple tasks are complicated by different cultures and communities. Simply doing laundry was a learning experience for me in a foreign country. However, it was talking about America with both the British and Europeans I met that really opened my eyes. Sometimes a simple comment made by a clerk would make me think and other times more in-depth conversations where I was forced to describe or explain parts of American life that were unfamiliar to me made me appreciate the immense diversity of my own country as well as its amazing uniqueness.
Study Abroad Changes Your Life
Study abroad makes it possible to completely break with your usual routine and life experience — changing you and the way you think about yourself and the world. These facts make study abroad an amazing way to travel the world — to see and experience the world. Try foods, hear music, view sights, and enjoy activities you could never experience at home. Expose yourself to new languages and customs. Travel is an incomparable life experience that will bring you greater happiness and rewards than any thing you can buy (see more here). Embrace life and embrace the world by studying abroad.
There will never be a better time in your life to travel than when you are young. Once you begin your career and family it is much more difficult to break away. In addition, a study abroad experience means that you are not a solo traveler. As part of a larger organization, you have a built-in support system that can help you negotiate the logistics of travel, lodging, and food — often with discounts for group travel. Any study abroad experience comes at a price although not always as expensive as you might think. For example, my semester in London cost the same (in regard to tuition plus room and board) as a semester at the State University of New York College I attended. Of course, I spent a lot more money than I would during a typical semester but that money was mostly spent on travel and experiences. During the semester I managed weekend trips to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and Paris, as well as experiencing London theater, art galleries, and historic sites. After my semester ended I traveled to the Netherlands and Sweden to visit distant relatives and friends. All of this travel was much cheaper for me than it would be later in life because of hefty student discounts.
There are many wonderful study abroad programs available to support your experience, but I have chosen to work with the Cooperative Center for Study Abroad. I will be visiting Scotland in the Summer of 2018 with CCSA to teach a writing class: Scribes in Scotland. Come wander, wonder, and write with me in Scotland!