What Are the Benefits of Studying Abroad and How to Get the Most Out of It?
For many students across the country, studying abroad is an exciting part of their college, or even high school, experience. Whether it’s an entire semester stay in London or a two-month immersion program in China during the summer, students are eager to explore another country and culture while continuing their studies.
While studying abroad can be a one-of-a-kind learning experience, it is important for students to prioritize the academic component of their journey and avoid treating the trip like an extended vacation. Keep reading for some of our top tips to help you make the most of your study abroad experience.
How Studying Abroad Can Change Your Life
Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity to expand your horizons, immerse yourself in a foreign culture, and make new friends. While some students may be tempted to treat a study abroad program as a fun trip, it’s important to view the experience as a learning opportunity, instead of just a time to recharge.
Rather than picking a study abroad program based on where your friends are going, strive to research learning experiences that align with your academic and future professional goals. If you’re wondering how to pick the right international experience, start by looking into the courses that will be available at each location and the professors on campus. See if it’s possible to speak with a student who studied abroad at the location you’re thinking about, so you can gain a fuller picture of the opportunity and learn more from someone who has experienced it firsthand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and research thoroughly; the more you know, the easier it will be to select a study abroad program that fulfills your academic goals and priorities.
How Can Studying Abroad Shape You as a Personality?
In addition to learning new skills and participating in unfamiliar experiences, studying abroad can fuel personal growth. When you arrive at a foreign country, you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, practice language skills, and meet people from different walks of life.
These experiences will help you put your own beliefs and background into perspective and allow you to reflect on your personal goals. During study abroad programs, you can challenge assumptions you once took for granted and open your eyes to new ways of living, social constructs, and societal expectations.
7 Benefits of Studying Abroad
Much like gap years and summer programs, studying abroad can be an excellent opportunity for students to step outside of their comfort zone and expand their learning horizons.
Let’s deep dive into these 7 benefits of studying in a foreign country:
#1 You Will See the World
Students who embark on study abroad programs have the opportunity to see more of the world than they would by staying at the same campus. Whether you choose to stay for a semester or just a few weeks, you’ll be exposed to new cultures, landmarks, and arts institutions during your study abroad experience.
#2 Take in a New Culture
Studying abroad gives students the chance to experience another culture firsthand. Many study abroad programs give you the opportunity to live with a local family, immersing you in the food and culture that is dominant in the region.
#3 Hone Your Language Skills
In addition to learning about a new culture, studying abroad is an excellent opportunity to take your foreign language skills to the next level. If you’ve been practicing a language for several years, studying in a country in which you are surrounded by that language will be an excellent way to hone your conversation skills with native speakers.
#4 Find New Interests
While academics should take priority during your study abroad trip, you’ll also have the chance to participate in activities that are popular in the region that you’re studying in. If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at surfing or skiing, studying abroad can be an excellent way to incorporate new hobbies into your daily life.
#5 Impress Employers With an International Resume
Employers are always looking to hire candidates with a diverse range of experiences, particularly when it comes to cultural immersion. Consequently, studying abroad can be an excellent experience to highlight on a resume, as it shows that you’ve broadened your horizons by immersing yourself in a new culture.
#6 Enhance Your Network
Although your study abroad experience only lasts a finite amount of time, you can take advantage of the networking opportunities for years to come. When you’re in a study abroad program, you’ll likely be working with students and instructors who have similar areas of expertise, which can serve you well when you’re applying for jobs in the future.
#7 Personal Growth
Most students who return from a study abroad program come home having learned invaluable knowledge about who they are and what they’re looking for. Getting out of your comfort zone by exploring a new country gives you the chance to reflect the way you live your life, learn the values and beliefs that define another culture, and incorporate this ethos into your daily life.
How to Get the Most Out of Studying Abroad
Once you have decided on a study abroad opportunity, it is time to turn your attention to ensuring you get everything you want out of the experience. Between learning about a different culture and exploring a foreign land, there are many elements of study abroad and international experiences that make them both academically and personally fulfilling. Keep reading to learn our top tips for making your study abroad trip an experience that you will never forget.
Set Strategic Goals
Studying in a foreign country can give students the opportunity to work on their foreign language skills, learn about a new culture, and explore different hobbies and interests. In order to keep yourself accountable and focused throughout your trip, consider setting a few objectives and intentions for your journey. Reflect on what you would like to take away from this experience and any new tools or skills you would like to obtain during your time away. Write down these goals, review them, and add any new objectives that come to mind throughout your trip.
Prioritize Your Studies
Studying abroad is exactly that — the opportunity to continue learning while spending time in a foreign country. While the travel component may feel like a vacation, it is important to keep your academic goals in mind. Make sure you attend each class you are enrolled in, study for exams, and stay on top of assignments, just as you would during another semester on campus. Save the majority of your sightseeing and touring for the weekends so that you can focus on schoolwork during the week.
Expand Your Social Circle
Having a tight-knit circle of friends on campus is great, however, it is unlikely that you and your closest classmates will study abroad at the same place and time. Although it’s normal to miss your friends at home, take advantage of your travel experience by getting to know the other people in your study abroad program. Attend orientation events, group dinners, and post-class activities to begin to familiarize yourself with your new peers. Whether you bond with students from other universities or your own, use this time outside of your comfort zone to practice your networking skills and connect with people you haven’t had a chance to meet before.
See the City
While academics should be your priority, don’t forget to pencil in time to explore the region you are studying in. Before your trip, research the city or town you are traveling to and make a list of all of the noteworthy landmarks, museums, and restaurants. Try to visit at least a few of these must-see spots each week in order to explore the city outside of your classroom. If you have friends that previously studied abroad in the same location, don’t be afraid to reach out to them for recommendations.
Whether you miss your roommate or feel seriously homesick, set aside time to reach out to friends and family back home. Scheduling weekly calls or email exchanges can help you feel connected while also providing you with ample time to make new friends and explore the city you are visiting. It is important to make the most of your time abroad, but that doesn’t mean you need to forget about your campus and hometown. Strive to focus on your current learning opportunities, but reach out to friends and family from time to time to give them updates and curb homesickness.
Write a Bucket List
Studying abroad can feel overwhelming initially; there’s so much to do and so much to see that it can be difficult for students to pinpoint where to start. Avoid this stress by doing a little research about the location you are visiting beforehand. Read up on its history, where the locals like to hang out, and some of the top destinations within the region. Create a list of about 5-10 items and prioritize these locales and experiences throughout your study abroad experience to ensure you’re taking advantage of the opportunity.
While studying abroad is a prime time for exploration and adventure, it’s important for students to ensure that they are traveling safely. While doing your research before your trip, consider reaching out to peers who already studied in the same location and asking them about their experience. If you are warned about any dangerous areas or health risks, continue to look into these concerns and consider avoiding them.
Live Like a Local
To learn as much as possible about the culture you are visiting, strive to live like a local whenever possible. Instead of sticking with chain restaurants or foods that are familiar to you, research what kind of dining options are most popular with those that live in the area. While seeing famed destinations can be a part of your agenda, aim to explore a variety of neighborhoods and see what each has to offer.
If you are interested in studying in a foreign country, don’t be afraid to reach out to a school counselor, teacher, or independent college admissions counselor for guidance. Our team of college admissions counselors can help students identify new learning opportunities abroad, including summer experiences that can help them stand out in the college admissions process.
Now that you know the true value of studying abroad, consider these 5 colleges with unique study abroad programs.