Study Abroad

10 Reasons Why Every Student Should Study Abroad

Megan Heise

After two years of helping volunteers and interns prepare to go abroad with Cross-Cultural Solutions, Megan now works by day at Fluent City, a...

10 Reasons Why Every Student Should Study Abroad
Photo by Joanna Fronk, Forum Nexus

Colleges and universities around the world have been rapidly expanding their study abroad programs, which means it’s only a matter of time before you’re inundated with study abroad posters and information sessions on your campus. While studying abroad has become a virtual rite of passage in the university system, it’s natural to feel some hesitation.

However, the sooner you start thinking about studying abroad, the more prepared you’ll be when application deadlines come around. If you’re not quite sure whether study abroad is right for you -- or you need to convince your family -- check out these top 10 reasons why you should study abroad.

1. To Add Some Spice to Your Life

If you’re getting sick of the same old same old, study abroad is the perfect way to get out of the doldrums. When you start to get bored with typical college life, this is a great way to inject some energy and excitement into your life. See new things, meet new people, and settle into a new routine. Studying abroad could be just the change you need!

Study abroad organizations such as The School for Field Studies and SIT Study Abroad specialize in study abroad programs off the beaten path. If you're looking for an experience beyond the traditional summer in Europe, these types of programs are worth looking into!

2. Because It Will Never Be Easier to Travel than Now

Study abroad will probably be the only time in your life that you’ll get to travel, take courses in another country, and meet other international students your age. Plus, if you study abroad with a provider, most of your itinerary will be planned for!

Study abroad is the perfect way to inject some energy and excitement into your life. See new things, meet new people, and settle into a new routine. Studying abroad could be just the change you need!

In most other travels, you’ll have a lot more logistics to figure out and pay for: accommodations, meals, the language barrier, navigation, and sight-seeing. While solo travel is its own kind of awesome, you’ll always have the future to do that (like a post-graduation gap year?).

Study abroad is also one of the few to only times you’ll be able to an extended period abroad -- at least three months, and maybe even a year! Once you’re out in the real world and have a job, it can be tough to cobble together more than one or two weeks of vacation time, so take advantage of a study abroad program to catch the travel bug now, while you still can.

3. To Meet New People and Make New Friends

Many students hesitate to study abroad because they’re worried about missing their friends or family at home. Between Skype, Instagram, Facebook, and FaceTime, there are more than enough ways to stay in touch overseas. Your friends will still be there when you return home, but you only have this one chance to make new friends abroad.

Study abroad is an incredible opportunity to meet other like-minded students in your program, as well as local people -- from host families, to fellow students, to new friends you meet in the streets. If you’re worried about missing friends or overcoming homesickness, just think of all the incredible stories you’ll be able to tell them when you get home.

One of the best benefits of studying abroad with an organization instead of independently is the group of friends you will meet off the bat. Having that initial community in an unfamiliar location will help you combat feelings of frustration or culture shock. Popular study abroad programs like API Study Abroad and AIFS welcome large numbers of Americans on their programs. Who knows, you may find your new best friend!

4. To Travel Someplace New

10 Reasons Why Every Student Should Study Abroad: Travel Someplace New
Photo by Kimberly Trask, Massey University

If you’ve always dreamed of traveling somewhere, be it Paris or a rural area in Ghana, why not study abroad there? Sure, you’ll be focused on your studies, but most programs give you the weekend off and even schedule longer trips for the group.

Study abroad allows you to see a lot of new places and also spend a lot of time immersing yourself in one place. It will be hard to come by an opportunity like this again, so take advantage of it and travel the world as a student!

5. To Gain a New Perspective

Studying abroad provides you with the opportunity to gain a different perspective, not only on academic subjects but also the way of life. Whether you adjust to afternoon siestas in Spain or learn about holistic medicine in India, study abroad lets you look at yourself, your world, and your studies from a different perspective.

Take advantage of this opportunity while you can and travel the world as a student.

Challenging your boundaries and your worldview are a natural extension of longterm traveling and living abroad. Be sure to make time to visit as many neighboring cities and countries as possible while studying abroad; this will help you round out your perspectives and dive deeper into regional cultures.

Programs like IES Abroad and ISA Study Abroad even include excursions in their programs to ensure you are seeing as much of the country and its neighbors as possible.

6. To Further Your Studies

It is called study abroad, after all. One of the best reasons to study abroad is to further your academic studies in an incredible, immersive way. If you’re an African Studies major, go to Kenya and put the theories you learned in the classroom into practice. Or if you’re writing your art history thesis on the Renaissance, get some hands-on research experience studying in Italy.

Of course, study abroad is an incredible time to pursue academic interests completely outside of your major. Whether you want to focus on your major, or try something new, study abroad is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Did you know you can even search for a program specifically based upon the course offerings or academic focus? Popular majors like psychology, business, art, or journalism will find opportunities a-plenty for study abroad. Those interested in economics, politics, and development will feel particularly drawn to SIT Study Abroad programs, and those interested in architecture will find John Cabot has an awesome program.

7. To Give You a Competitive Edge

This should never, ever be the only reason you study abroad, but if you (or your family) are on the fence, it is an important consideration. Studying abroad sets you ahead of your peers in the eyes of graduate schools and employers. It highlights your sense of adventure, independence, cultural sensitivity, and worldliness. When you return, make sure to update your resume to highlight your study abroad experience.

Studying abroad provides you with the opportunity to gain a different perspective, not only on academic subjects, but also in real-world experience.

Plus, did you know study abroad students are more likely to get a job? Statistics show that "97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation when only 49% of college graduates found employment in the same period." And, 90% of them got the job in 6 months! This isn't just US-centric, either; a study done in the UK supports these same findings.

They're not just getting jobs faster, though; students that have studied abroad have also been found to earn 25% higher starting salaries compared to their peers. That's around an extra $7,000 earned annually for students in the US! Salary aside, students who have studied abroad report that they're better at adapting to a variety of work environments and that they're happier with their jobs.

8. To Learn Another Language

10 Reasons Why Every Student Should Study Abroad: Learn Another Language
Photo by Lina Zhang, CIEE

Whether you’ve been studying a foreign language for years or are starting from scratch, studying abroad provides a convenient, immersive environment for language learning. As awesome as your Spanish class may be, it’s nothing like negotiating in Peruvian markets, hailing a cab in Argentina, or flirting in a Spanish café.

You just can’t beat the immersion of a study abroad program for learning a new language. If you’re studying abroad primarily to learn a foreign language, you can always attend a language school to get the most out of studying a language abroad.

Other popular languages for studying abroad include Italian, German, French, and Chinese. Try your luck at one (or all of the above!). Organizations like LSF Montpellier are great to look into for serious language students.

9. Because Everyone Should Experience Another Culture at Least Once

In an increasingly globalized society, it’s important to understand and experience other cultures. Learn new recipes, new ways of learning, new ways of getting around, new customs, traditions, and ways of relating to people. There’s no better way to learn about how people around the world are similar and different than to immerse yourself in another culture, and study abroad is a great place to start.

10. To Challenge Yourself and Grow as a Person

One of the best things about studying abroad -- even if it’s also one of the most daunting components -- is pushing your boundaries and challenging yourself. It’s ultimately a good thing to push your comfort zone, because as you adapt, you’ll gain invaluable life skills and change and grow as a person in ways you couldn’t if you stayed at home.

This is really what studying abroad is all about: doing something exciting but a little bit scary, experiencing the downs with the ups, and coming through a stronger, more confident, and more culturally-aware person.

There’s no better way to learn about how people around the world are similar and different than to immerse yourself in another culture, and study abroad is a great place to start.

When it comes down to it, study abroad isn’t right for everyone; however, it's invaluable for students who do go, as well as one of the number one regrets of college graduates who forgo the experience. Even if you still feel nervous, if even a few of these reasons speak to you then chances are you’ll do great studying abroad. With so many reasons to study abroad, the easier question might be, “why not?”

There are many ways to work it out so you can study and intern abroad at the same time. (Or alternatively, take part in a volunteer initiative!) The important thing to remember is that it can be done: sometimes all you need to do is ask for what you want.

Be flexible, and don’t be afraid to ask for a little flexibility in return, whether that means changes to your class schedule, looking for a country with more flexible student working visas, or accepting slightly-odd internship hours. As long as you do your best at both efforts, you're guaranteed to have a rewarding and productive time abroad.