Many students have toyed with the idea of jumping on an airplane and spending a semester in Japan, or a year enjoying the finest French food while attending century-old universities at least once in their lives. Yet on second thought, studying abroad may seem like an unnecessary, money-draining, intimidating endeavor; many never get past daydreaming about it. However, it is indisputably the case that all students stand to reap a multitude of benefits which include increased career opportunities, personal development and a chance to submerge themselves in a foreign culture, which ultimately outweigh the negative consequences of this educational path.
Self development is the most important positive impact that studying abroad can have on young people. It tests their independence and nurtures their confidence as they grow into a more mature, well rounded person. It not only makes people more aware and considerate of cross cultural differences, but also inevitably makes them question long held values and beliefs. Being thrown head first into an unknown environment with different living conditions and social circles forces people to expand their navigational and social awareness skills (Lindsey, 4).
Moreover, friendships created during this period last a lifetime. It has also been shown to have a positive effect on academic performance. “Multiple large-scale studies have found that students who study abroad, especially underrepresented or “at-risk” students, are more likely to complete their degrees or certificate programs than students who did not study abroad….Several studies have shown that students who study abroad have a higher GPA than similar students who stayed on campus, even when controlling for external factors.” (Sutton, Rubin, 10). Another academic benefit is the exposure to new facets of their major and non-traditional teaching styles which could have a stimulating effect.
As the world and the economy become increasingly globalized, studying abroad provides an important edge in the competitive job market or graduate school admissions. Global education may signal to employees critical job skills like problem-solving, ambition, willingness to embrace challenges and self-motivation. Students that studied abroad developed an increased interest in building careers outside of their home country, and connections and language skills gained during study abroad programs can make it easier for students to find employment in other countries. Only 25% of Americans speak a second language, and studying abroad makes it easy for language enthusiasts to become fluent (Thompson, Lee,1).
It’s difficult for most working Americans to find the time and resources for international travel. According to Forbes magazine, “A recent report has found that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to provide paid vacation time. Almost 1-in-4 Americans do not receive any paid vacation or paid holidays, trailing far behind most of the rest of the world’s rich nations.” The American Travel Association states that 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018.
The result is a miserable, isolated and ignorant society. Younger generations have a hard time grasping the basics of geography, math, science and history. There seems to be a widespread lack of general knowledge even among college students (Tauber, Dunlosky, Rawson,Rhodes, Sitzman, 4) which international travel and exposure to more cultural sites may help remedy. Moreover, study breaks and weekends are the perfect time for students to venture out of their chosen location and explore entire regions. Someone staying in Germany is just a train ride away from Switzerland, Italy, Spain and other countries satiated with history.
The negative sides of studying abroad shouldn’t be ignored. It’s not a vacation, but a challenge one must own up to. It is also true that Americans are facing more financial troubles and student loan debts than ever before, and longer trips especially could become a big dent in people’s budgets. Nevertheless, considering that these programs make students more attractive for future employers, and could also assist someone in potentially landing a better paid position, studying abroad is an investment which will eventually pay itself off. They’re great ways to see the world, they offer you an edge in your career, and most importantly they are a great opportunity for self reflection and development. Studying abroad can uproot and change lives for those that commit to it fully.