When asked the question, “why study abroad?” a resounding number of students have labeled their experience as special and impactful. Not only is the experience life changing, most students reported that studying abroad shaped them into a more confident, broad-minded, and successful individual.
Why is this experience so important? As Sarah Han from the Department of International Cooperation at the Korean Council for University Education profoundly states, “Studying abroad at the postgraduate level provides an opportunity to expand one’s field of view and helps one to understand an analyze problems and phenomena from a longer-term, worldwide perspective.” To add to Sarah’s statement, look at the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES) survey to better understand the benefits of becoming an international student. According to the survey, 85-90% alumni unanimously agreed that their experience of studying abroad increased self-confidence and other personal development goals, improved their academic commitment, resulted in intercultural development, and promoted career growth. Each of these benefits is discussed in more detail below.
1. Personal Development: Growing as an Individual
The greatest thing about studying abroad is that in addition to meeting students from different cultures and backgrounds you get to learn so much about yourself in the process. This is because you are pushed to act maturely, be sensitive to other cultures, and to be tolerant of other’s views and opinions. In the process, you are also challenged to adapt to a new educational system, lifestyle, and philosophy. It’s nice to look back, think, “I spent two years in New York and I now know people from all over the world” and be able to relate to each of their views, opinions, and cultures. Not only will you meet local students at a foreign university, you get to interact with other international students who just like you, decided to study abroad. In the process, you have a chance to question your own beliefs and values, think independently, create unique ideas, and gain in-depth knowledge in your chosen field.
2. Intercultural Development: Becoming an International Citizen
Successful leaders are often found in students who were once international students. Appreciating different cultures, personality types, and values of employees is what makes a global leader effective. The reason for this is that when you study abroad, you begin to understand and appreciate a variety of other political, economic, social, and cultural systems. In the process, you can shed your biases and inhibitions by willingly embracing other cultures and systems. When time comes to work in a company that has a global presence, your ability to easily interact with individuals with different cultural backgrounds puts you at a considerable advantage.
3. Academic Advancement
Once you are an international student, you hold on to the “international” tag for life. And there is nothing wrong with that! Studies show that after studying abroad, a majority of students go on to pursue volunteer or job opportunities abroad, decide to go to graduate school in another country, or simply work for a company that has international offices. Added to this list is the recognition that students who study abroad have a renewed passion for their education, motivating them to explore different academic avenues including research projects or global partnerships.
4. The Longer The Better
It would be naive to think that a simple two-month program is going to give you all the benefits we have listed so far. Yet, you could have the best summer abroad and be a completely new person because of it. There is no strict formula but in our opinion, to appreciate your experience abroad, you need to fully immerse yourself in a program that runs anywhere between one to four years. The idea that “more is better” rings true in this case because you are able to continuously improve your inter-personal skills, cultural development, and academic experience over time. In addition, you can grow your friend circle and professional network to include individuals from all over the world.
5. Internship Experience Like No Other
A Panamanian student working at a Chinese company in Los Angeles is quite the anomaly. But not for an international student who is pursuing a business degree at UCLA. This is because studying abroad opens doors for an international student that is unparalleled to any experience at home. The invaluable knowledge and growth one can attain by simply getting an internship outside of their home country is important for developing a good work ethic, interacting with professionals from all over the world, and for seeing whether you can handle work challenges that you would not otherwise experience.
6. Benefits That Last Forever
The greatest thing about one’s experience of studying abroad is that the benefits listed above last forever. Consider the story of Elon Musk, a South-African born Canadian-American businessman. After spending two years in Canada, he transferred to the Wharton School of Business to study economics. He then pursued a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University. Today, he is not only successful, but holds on to his South African past while promoting his California ideals. We are confident his diverse academic background helped him with his business conquests.
So start planning now–research potential colleges, their application process, and financial aid availability. Get your parents or guardian on board and start your journey as an international student today!