PART I: Reasons to Study Abroad
Topics Covered In Part I
- Personal Growth
- New Perspective on World Affairs
- Career Enhancement
- What Are Your Reasons? What Are Your Goals?
Study abroad can be an enriching and eye-opening adventure, where learning extends to the world beyond the classroom walls. There is no substitute for living and studying in a foreign country if you want to gain in-depth knowledge of another culture’s customs, people, and language. In addition, you will find that living and studying or working in another country can develop important transnational competencies that can be of interest to future employers.
Students who return from a study abroad program often see it as an experience which matured them personally and intellectually. They praise being exposed to new ways of thinking and living, which encourages growth and independence. For many students, going abroad to study is the first time they have really been away from ‘home,’ from familiar surroundings of the USA, as well as from friends and family. This is seldom an easy experience, but it is universally praised as worthwhile, often even life-transforming. After immersing themselves in a new culture, mastering the challenges of learning in a new and different academic environment, and experiencing the many highs and lows of being a ‘foreigner,’ students typically return home with increased self-confidence and justifiable pride in what they have achieved.
New Perspective on World Affairs
Study abroad can broaden your intellectual horizons and deepen your knowledge and understanding of international, political, and economic issues. It is almost certain that you will return from your sojourn abroad with a more informed and accurate perspective on world affairs. You will also have first-hand knowledge of how another culture approaches the tasks and challenges of everyday life, a sense of how ‘global’ the international culture has become, and an appreciation of the importance of international cooperation.
You will probably also gain a broader understanding of, and appreciation for, the United States, its way of life, and its role in international affairs. Through your professors, the other students in your program, and people you meet, you’ll learn how others view the United States and its world role. If you live in a country where English is not the native language, or is spoken only by some, you will learn the practical importance of learning another language and using it.
But study abroad does more than promote academic enrichment and personal growth. It also can enhance your employment prospects, especially in the fields of business, international affairs, and government service. Employers increasingly seek graduates who have studied abroad. They know that students who have successfully completed a study abroad program are likely to possess international knowledge and often second-language skills. Such students are also likely to have other transnational competencies that graduate and professional schools and employers value just as highly: cross-cultural communication skills, analytical skills, an understanding of and familiarity with local customs and cultural contexts, flexibility, resilience, and the ability to adapt to new circumstances and deal constructively with differences. (See From Toward Transnational Competence, IIE 1997.)
What Are Your Reasons? What Are Your Goals?
After considering these potential benefits, you must still ask yourself why you, yourself, want to study abroad. Take some time to think about your reasons, for they will become your goals and your personal measures of success. Perhaps you want to learn a second language, or perfect one you already know. You might want to learn about another culture, diversify your studies, or prepare for graduate school. Maybe you want to travel and meet new people. Whatever your reasons are, write them down and share them with your professors, family, friends and, most importantly, with your study abroad advisor.
There are a host of valid reasons for wanting to experience foreign study. Whatever your reasons, they should be positive ones. Study abroad should not be seen as an escape route from problems at home or on campus. Adjusting to life and learning in a foreign environment will have its stressful moments, and the more you are able to focus on your goals, the more you’re likely to benefit from the experience.