9 Compelling Reasons Why Students Should Study Abroad

Study Abroad Tips

Important Reasons to Study Abroad

Travel Tips

The benefits of studying abroad for students in college are numerous, and traveling overseas for school doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think.

I’m a big supporter of travel as an educational experience. I can tell you first-hand that I’ve probably learned more in 4 years of international travel than I have from 4 years of higher education.

Every student should try to incorporate some world travel into their lives. It opens up new possibilities and shows you a world impossible to understand from books alone.

Not only will you grow as a person, your new knowledge of how the world works is attractive to employers who prefer to hire employees with international experience over those without.

Unfortunately I never took a semester to study abroad in college. Like many people, I assumed it was expensive, I’d fall behind in credits, would have difficulty with the language, and was nervous of the whole idea.

The closest I came was an exchange program in Hawaii, and 3 weeks of Spanish language school in Guatemala — also great experiences.

Study Abroad Information

At the White House to Promote Study Abroad

White House Summit

Well last December I was invited to Washington DC by The White House in partnership with Hostelling International USA for the White House Summit on Study Abroad & Global Citizenship. The summit was an opportunity for senior administration officials, travel bloggers, and media professionals to discuss U.S. government initiatives and strategies for encouraging American students to study, volunteer, and work abroad.

Why is the US Government interested in getting kids to study abroad?

“Studying abroad is a critical component to deepening and broadening relationships with citizens overseas.” ~ The White House

Sadly only 10% of current American college students will ever study abroad. American students aren’t as global-minded as their peers from other countries. It’s time to change this!

During the White House summit the State Department announced the creation of a new U.S. Study Abroad Office that will manage study abroad scholarships for American students and institutions, as well as promoting benefits of study abroad to students, parents, faculty, and education administrators.

They want to make it affordable & accessible to students of all backgrounds.

Study Abroad Tips

Learning Spanish in Guatemala

Best Reasons To Study Abroad

If you’re thinking about studying abroad, but aren’t sure how to convince your parents (or yourself!), here are some of the best reasons why spending a semester or year overseas is the smart (and fun!) thing to do.

#1 Improve Employment Opportunities

Want to impress potential employers? Companies around the world continue to invest in the global market, and prefer to hire employees who have international experience. Not to mention knowledge of a 2nd language. Your resume will stand out from everyone else applying for the same position.

#2 It Can Be Cheap

Living in a foreign country often costs the same (or less) than living in the United States. Especially if you go somewhere other than Europe. Depending on your school, tuition fees may remain the same. Additionally, there’s funding available (grants & scholarships). In fact some countries allow you to study abroad for much less than school in the United States.

#3 Personal Development

Break out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with uncommon experiences that make you reconsider (or strengthen) your values. Get a better sense of who you are and what’s important. Discover what you want out of life. Become a more independent person. International travel shows you what you’re really made of.

#4 Learn Foreign Languages

Language teachers say being totally immersed in a culture that speaks the language you want to learn is the quickest and most effective way to learn it. Mastering a foreign language opens up all kinds of new opportunities. As globalization brings the world together, it’s important to be competent in more than one language.

#5 Aquire New Skills

When you study overseas, you can take courses you don’t have the opportunity to take at home. In addition to university classes, you can explore new hobbies or sports that aren’t as popular (or even possible) to practice. Traveling outside your home country is an education in itself, learning to interact with & navigate through a culture different from your own.

#6 Forge Lasting Memories

Most students who’ve studied abroad claim their time overseas was the best year of college. You’ll meet new friends who will want to share their culture, ideas, and learn about yours. Create lasting memories and develop life-long friendships. You may even find your future wife or husband!

#7 Experience Different Cultures

Immersing yourself in a totally different culture is powerful. You’ll experience things like trying different foods, celebrating traditional customs, and learning the history of another country. A person’s culture reflects deep perceptions, beliefs, and values that influence their way of life. You’ll gain an understanding of this that can’t be taught with books.

#8 Expand Your Worldview

Previously held beliefs about foreign countries will change once you’ve been abroad. However you’ll gain a completely new perspective on your own country too. It can be surprising just how much you know is slightly biased, based on where you’re from. It’s also a unique opportunity to educate others on your country, dispelling their stereotypes about you!

#9 Earn Money!

You can actually earn income while you study abroad overseas. We are pretty damn lucky that English is the international language of business. It’s an important language that many foreigners want to learn. You can get paid for teaching, interpreting, or translating English while you’re studying abroad.

Quotes From Others

Still not convinced? Here are some quotes from friends and readers about their own study abroad experiences around the world.

“Studied abroad on a ship via Semester At Sea. Best 4 months of my life, to visit 11 different countries around the world was just awe inspiring – I still reap the benefits to this day.” ~ Chérie
“I applied directly to Wollongong (Australia), got credit transfers pre-approved, then deferred from MSU (United States). It made studying abroad much cheaper than going through the American system.” ~ Micah
“Studied for a year in Germany in college and a semester in Japan in high school. Became fluent in German and learned from a young age that I was capable of surviving and thriving on my own in the world. Those are invaluable lessons.” ~ Reannon
“I’m actually studying abroad now. I’m from France, and I study in Scotland. I’ve been given the opportunity to work for the university as the international officer, and with a ski station 15 minutes away, skiing before class is just amazing!” ~ Edith
“If you are apprehensive about traveling on your own, study abroad is a great first step because you’re surrounded by like minded people. Just like at your home university, you are part of a community. You’ll live, study, and work on projects with other students.” ~ Amanda
“Studied abroad in Luxembourg for 5 months! Absolutely loved it. Completely eye-opening experience. Had a chance to travel throughout Europe and learn about languages, cultures, and people. Amazing to see what the world has to offer.” ~ Tim

What About High School?

Not in college yet? No problem! You still may be able to travel overseas for classes or volunteer projects as a high school student. Not everyone goes to college either, so this might be your best chance to explore some of the world before getting a job. Many high schools have summer study abroad or volunteering opportunities, you just have to ask about them. Check out some of the resources below too.

Study Abroad Resources

One of the big issues with encouraging more students to study abroad is access to useful and relevant information about the topic. While there are many different programs available, you need to know where to look. I’ve put together this list of study abroad resources to help you make it happen.

Bureau Of Education & Cultural Affairs – The ECA mission is to increase mutual understanding between people of the United States and people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchange that assist in the development of peaceful relations.

Institute of International Education – IIE’s mission is to advance international education worldwide by managing thousands of scholarships, exchange and leadership programs for students around the world. Search for programs on their study abroad search engine.

Fulbright Scholarship Programs – The Fulbright Program provides grants for international student exchange. It’s the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international study in 140 countries worldwide.

Gilman International Scholarship – The Gilman Scholarship aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions where they go by offering awards to U.S. undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints.

National Security Language Initiative – The National Security Language Initiative for Youth program provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students and recent graduates to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs.

Centers For Interamerican Studies – The CEDEI was created to promote mutual understanding between the peoples and countries of the Americas by promoting academic and cultural exchange. They offer college credit programs, language immersion, and volunteer opportunities in Ecuador.

Broadreach – Broadreach offers summer adventure, community service, and study abroad programs for middle school, high school and college students in 40 different countries around the world.

Chris Stevens Initiative – The Stevens Initiative is a multilateral public-private endeavor designed to achieve the largest-ever increase in people-to-people educational exchanges between the U.S. and the broader Middle East.

SPI Study Abroad – The SPI program helps high school students build cultural awareness, self-confidence and independence through an authentic and meaningful experience abroad with language immersion and local homestays.

Greenheart Cultural Exchange – CCI Greenheart offers cultural exchange programs in the U.S. that connect Americans with international students. A nonprofit cultural exchange sponsor that blends service learning and volunteerism to create compassionate and conscious global citizens.

The Peace Corps – The Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps Volunteers work at the grassroots level for sustainable change that lives on after their service.

Spread The Word

Convincing my fellow citizens to travel overseas is a big passion of mine. If you’re passionate about travel, please help me spread the word about the many different opportunities available for students to study abroad!

Together we can show students & parents that study abroad programs don’t have to be expensive, are not as scary as they sound, and will improve future employment opportunities. Not to mention all the wonderful memories. ★

READ NEXT: Iceland Photography: Land Of Fire & Ice

Did you study abroad? What was your experience?

Any Questions Or Comments?

Thanks for leaving a comment, I appreciate your feedback. However please use your real name only and treat everyone with respect. Lets have a meaningful conversation!

28 Comments

  1. Thank you for the insight. I studied abroad in Korea the summer of last year and I have to say that it was a life changing experience because I was exposed to a completely foreign culture for 6 weeks. I highly recommend studying abroad to anyone who wants to understand a different culture.

  2. Interesting. Have had several conversations with employers of the millennial generation and most have agreed that the “studying abroad ” for a semester translates as spoiled, entitled kid and few are interested in interviewing or employing. Might be something to consider since so many of these “kids” feel this experience is necessary and owed to them. Really expensive for most families and usually unnecessary. Let’s get back to reality here, where new graduates expect some struggles as opposed to having all they want handed to them immediately or within a year or so of graduating. Hey millennials: there are no shortcuts to success. Work hard, expect to have hardships and stop whining about your perceived difficulties. Each generational has had difficulties and you are not new to these circumstances. It takes time. Patience is necessary.

    1. Studying abroad doesn’t have to be expensive. The United States is one of the most expensive countries in the world. There are scholarships out there to help, some countries even give free education to exchange students, and often you can go on exchange with no change in tuition costs. In my experience, this “myth” that travel is expensive is perpetuated by people who don’t actually travel. Sure, you have to save up for a plane ticket. Other than that, living in a foreign country is no different to living in your own country.

      Many employers prefer some international experience, including the White House. Will your local plumber care? Probably not.

  3. I m quite agree wid ur view.Bt I m also studying abroad in scholarship from indian embassy and I didnt find the quality in education over here.I m thinking to drop out the college.Bt m in a great confusion.what should I do now?Suggest plzz..

  4. Yes that is right and If you study abroad you have lots of opportunities and great ideas for bright future.

  5. Your posts are great as usual. I am on my way to study abroad with a student exchange program through YFU. I am so excited for the upcoming adventure and trip. Thanks for your post as it made me feel proud of my decision to go abroad to study.

  6. This is great, I only wish I would have read it 10 years ago! I never got to study abroad, but my cousin recently wrote about her experience on my blog, and I’ve now gotten nostalgic. Maybe in another life. Great post, thanks for sharing!

  7. I couldn’t agree more. My semester abroad, while initially a little scary was easily the best thing that I ever did in my entire life. In fact, the only regret that I have is that I didn’t go earlier as I wasn’t able to spend a second semester overseas.

    Check out my blog post about my experiences overseas & how it shaped me.

  8. I love your blog and totally agree with all of your points in this post!
    I’m from Germany and I’ve spend the last months in high school in the USA. It took me almost a year to convince my parents to let me go, it wasn’t just a question of money, but my parents thought I was too young. Even though I think studying abroad helps a lot to improve language skills, meet new people and catch sight of what the country your visiting really is like. Going abroad is so important for the development, even if it’s just for a week.I have realised that at my high school in the US most students dont speak any other languages and they don’t do many trips to other countries with their classes.In Germany you need to learn at least two more languages and you take at least twice a semester trips to the country where they speak the language which makes it easier to travel and communicate in other countries. I think every country should offer this type of studying abroad for At least a few days. For example a French class could go to Canada or France for a week. Everybody should have the opportunity to study abroad!

  9. I really wish I would have studied abroad in college, one of my many college regrets. Where in Guatemala did you study Spanish, we studied in Antigua and also in Tulum Mexico.

  10. Great post! I studied abroad back in 2009 and was based in Oxford. During my 10 weeks there, I was able to visit 9 countries. One of the best experiences of my life so far and definitely made me realize how much I love to travel. Learned a lot about myself on that trip!

  11. Loved this post! I was in the middle of my university career and decided to spend a year in France to learn the language. I loved it so much that I decided to stay here and I’m getting my degree in Paris where I’m able to have a schedule flexible enough to go to the university and study, while also I pay every single thing, including a lot of travel. Back home, my mom had to pay everything for me.
    I’ve been living in France for a year and a half (time goes fast!) and I love it!!

  12. Studying abroad is definitely an important step to understand other cultures and being able to improve ourselves at an educational level. I was lucky to participate in the Erasmus Student Network that took me half year to study in Finland. This completely changed my student life at Art University. Great article with a very important subject people often forget.

  13. I studied abroad both undergrad and graduate school. For undergrad, I returned to Puerto Rico which was an amazing way to reconnect with my roots and hone my writing skills in Spanish. I earned my MBA in Brussels via Boston University International Graduate program. I cannot stress it enough to students! I am also fortunate to have worked abroad as well for an international organization, the US Government, and academia in Europe, Asia, and Africa. All the experiences were amazing. As a Latina from the inner city of upstate NY, I never thought I would be working at NATO in Brussels or at the US Embassy in Senegal or upgrading telecommunication services for DoD in Seoul. I think my 13 year old self would be proud!

  14. I didn’t study abroad – it wasn’t readily available way back then – but my two daughters have ( the oldest in Edinburgh and the youngest in Seoul) and the personal development reason is huge. Travel makes you realize that what happens in your small, little world isn’t always the only thing going on. Living in another country just magnifies that tenfold. I can’t recommend studying abroad enough!

  15. Good stuff. I published a post about studying abroad last week. I feel the posts complement each other, as yours is informative with useful links, and mine is more of a personal experience.

  16. I agree with all of your points here. I would go as far as to say I think it should be a compulsory part of the education. Though I would never want to force anyone to do anything, there’s a big difference between those who are raised isolated in one region and those who are exposed to various cultures and way of life early on. I studied abroad in Germany in High School, but regret not doing in again during university.

  17. Some great reasons here! I wish I’d taken an opportunity to study abroad when I was going through education. My obsession with travel developed later, but at least I’m now experiencing working abroad instead – which has a lot of the same benefits!

  18. I couldn’t agree more with you there! Yes, studying abroad opens a lot of opportunities. Travel is one of them. I hope to pursue a photography course abroad. Thanks for this inspiring post!