As a young adult that’s just been given the keys to your life, making a major like studying abroad can be nerve-wracking. Questions like “Will I have enough money to support myself?”, “How will I find housing?” and “Will I be able to improve my language skills fast enough?” are probably circling around in your head.
First, take a deep breath as what we’re about to discuss will hopefully help you clear your head to make the right decision. Second, pat yourself on the back for taking the time to research whether or not this is a viable decision (I definitely agree, it’s not an easy one to make). Third, and most importantly, remind yourself that you’re only young once.
Before we begin, it’s important to acknowledge that while studying abroad can be a costly investment, most universities and colleges have loans available to help you finance your international travels. However, if you still feel that this is placing too much of a burden on the finances of you and your family, then it is not wrong of you to reconsider. In fact, you should feel proud of yourself for making this mature decision.
But if your study abroad experience is being held back by anxiety, apprehension or fear, here are a few reasons why studying abroad will be one of the most memorable experiences in your life and will help prepare you for future success.
1. Expand Your Linguistic Abilities
Whether you’ve signed up for one quarter or a whole year, chances are you’re going to have to learn the local language of the country you’re studying abroad in. Scientists and developmental experts have long stressed the many mental health benefits of practicing and acquiring new languages.
The results of a study conducted by V. Marian and A. Shook indicate that being bilingual has substantial benefits for cognitive function, all the way into old age. As the brain naturally ages, practicing new languages can help stave off this decline as the brain acquires and stores new information.
2. Improve Your Social Skills
This is probably one of the more intimidating barriers to overcome, especially for those with introverted personalities. As you are forced to interact with new people regularly, you will likely see improvements in your social skills, which can help you navigate social interactions later in life. Throw in the fact that you’ll be conversing with people that come from different cultures and you’ve got a rewarding challenge that will benefit your social skills for the rest of your life.
At the same time, everyone should feel free to experience studying abroad as they feel most comfortable. For some, this may mean occasionally taking your homework or sketchpad to a local cafe and working in peaceful solitude instead of meeting up with the study group. While not everyone is a social butterfly, finding the right balance between alone time and interacting with others is key to enjoying your study abroad experience.
3. Open Doors for Career Opportunities
As you engage with new individuals during your travels, you’re likely to be presented with more than a few avenues for a potential career. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why colleges and universities implement these programs into their schools.
While it is unlikely (but possible) that you’ll score a job/internship in the chosen country during your time there, the language and social skills you’ll gain from this experience will undoubtedly benefit you as you apply for jobs back home. A survey conducted by IES Abroad indicates that students that 90% of study abroad alumni secured a career-oriented job within 6 months of graduation, compared to the 49% of those that did not study abroad.
4. Create a Global Network
While this goes hand in hand with opening up new career opportunities, it can also be a huge benefit to your emotional health as well. Throughout your study abroad program, you will likely meet lifelong friends from around the world. As you grow older, being able to connect with these individuals that have shared unique experiences with you will help prevent loneliness and depression. In addition, having friends in different parts of the world will give you more of a reason to continue to travel and explore!
5. Increase Cultural Awareness
If you’re planning on becoming a leader in any capacity, whether it’s on the corporate sphere or in a classroom of high school students, you’re going to need to learn how to interact with people from different cultures. Studying abroad will give you a major head start in this regard, as this is something that you will have to learn to navigate on a regular basis.
Hopefully this has helped you make an informed and confident decision on whether or not you will study abroad during your college years. While it may not be an experience for everyone, those that do take the leap and make that visit to their campus’ study abroad office will thank themselves for years to come.