There are many benefits associated with study abroad programs at the university level. In the most practical terms, education should not be something that remains isolated in a specific place or context, but is anchored to multiple points within the real world. This increases its utility, for both the student and for potential future employers. In the article below, we’ve compiled five of the top benefits that participating in foreign study programs can offer you, and why they’re a valued component of success in any field.
1. Study Beyond the Comfort Zone
Study abroad programs remove students from much of what they find familiar, while maintaining enough comfortable similarity to keep them focused. This plunges young minds into what is known as defamiliarization. Our brains work based on patterns and pattern variation. When a routine becomes established, the brain ceases to notice small variations within it. However, in situations that are unusual, the human brain enters a state of hyperawareness, because our species is deeply sensitive to changes in our environment. This functions as a positive study tool, rendering subject matter intensely memorable.
2. Studying Globally
The Dali Lama and many other great minds advocate regular travel to enhance lived experience. Study abroad opportunities offer students a chance to see how other people live and understand different approaches to subject materials. It also allows students to experience an elevated level of intercultural awareness that will continue to impact how they live once they return to their home country. Public news material and scholarly data will be absorbed through a different lens, the bases of assessment will be informed by an understanding of these other cultural perspectives, and the individual’s choice of action may vary substantially simply because they spent a term or an academic year among those with other perspectives.
Related Resource: 30 Affordable Colleges with the Best Study Abroad Programs 2017 – 2018
3. The International Connections
While an excellent scholarly education is important to future success, so are the social and academic relationships you form while in school. The common wisdom that so few institutions overtly state is that much of a student’s career success depends on networking. While abroad, individuals build relationships with networks in other countries. These may take the form of friendship, bolstered by the shared experience of a foreign context, but in time they become powerful conduits through which resources and opportunities will flow.
4. A Crash Course in the Self
One vital facet of these programs is that they allow you to learn about yourself in ways you would otherwise never be allowed at home. In familiar situations, where you are surrounded by what is known, safe, and comfortable, you have little cause to expose yourself to uncertainty. Support networks are, for many, a built-in feature of the domestic college experience. However, when you go abroad to study, you are plunged into a world where even the most commonplace experience is unusual. This requires you to adapt, to assess how you respond to unique stressors, and to learn life skills on your own.
5. Leadership Skills Apply
All the cross-cultural understanding that these programs offer comes with an opportunity to develop leadership skills. Once you’ve immersed yourself in other world views, you’ll better understand the many ways of culturally dependent problem solving. Paired with a strong sense of self that often accompanies studying abroad, you’ll have an asset that your domestically educated peers often lack. Companies and universities prize individuals who can effectively communicate and guide the efforts of highly diverse teams with multi-cultural sensibilities and conceptual outlooks.
While there are a number of unique social opportunities awaiting you, these programs are about more than simply sampling a foreign college experience. At the same time, they are also more than their programs of study. When you participate in a study abroad program, you learn about the world, yourself, and how the seemingly disconnected aspects of that world dovetail—an invaluable suite of skills for any field of endeavor.