You've decided to study abroad -- congratulations! Making the decision to pursue part of your education in a foreign country is extremely exciting, and is the first in a long line of decisions you'll make which define your entire study abroad experience.
At this point, most study abroad students usually ask themselves "which country do I want to study abroad in?" The world is now your oyster, and you can endlessly browse brochures, catalogs, and websites looking for the perfect destination for your term/semester/year abroad. Don't limit yourself by thinking of a single country as your destination for studying abroad. It turns out there are an increasing number of program providers that allow you to study abroad in multiple countries while completing your courses and experiencing the world.
One such provider is CIEE, who was one of the first providers to create a flexible multi-country study abroad program with their Open Campus program. Varying in length, students in the Open Campus program choose to study in up to three of the following countries: England, France, Germany, or Italy, for six weeks in each location. Imagine coming home from studying abroad having visited as many as three countries, instead of just one!
Having received my Masters’ degree by studying abroad through a multi-country program, I am excited to see more of these programs available to students at every level of education. Inspired by CIEE's Open Campus program, I wanted to share the biggest benefits I received from my multi-country study abroad experience. Hopefully, these will inspire you to consider a similar program as you decide which country (or countries) you want to study abroad in.
You’ll Make Even More Friends Around the World
Whether you choose to study abroad in a single country or multiple countries, you’re going to make new friends from around the world. Most study abroad students agree that’s one of the greatest benefits of study abroad in the first place!
Choosing a multi-country study abroad program increases this number of new friends tremendously. From my own experience, I made amazing friends from my campus in London, but it wasn’t until “campus rotations” began that I saw a real increase in my friend circles. Once students from other cities and countries began rotating around the globe along with me, I suddenly made friends from South Africa, Lebanon, Colombia, and Australia. In a single campus program, none of us would have had the chance to even cross paths or become friends.
You’ll Gain a Greater Diversity of Experience
As you’d expect from studying abroad in multiple countries, you’ll also have a diversity of experience based on each new country you visit. For example, CIEE’s Open Campus program allows you to study at their Global Institute campuses in London, Paris, Berlin, or Rome. While all of these cities are in Western Europe and most offer similar basic amenities, the cultural experiences in each country are profoundly different from one another. Studying abroad only in Rome for a semester won’t give you those same experiences, even if you take advantage of travel opportunities in nearby cities and countries on your free days and weekends.
You’ll Collect Extra Passport Stamps
This might seem obvious, but if you enroll in a multi-country study abroad program, you’ll obviously come home with a few more passport stamps than your classmates and friends who study abroad in a single country. Rather than getting fixated on the number of stamps you have (or how cool they are to look at), consider that each passport stamp represents a new country you had a chance to explore and experience first hand.
If traveling more is one of your goals in life, study abroad can help with that. If you have a really ambitious travel goal for your life, a multi-country study abroad program gives you even more opportunity to see the world without sacrificing the quality of your education in the process.
You’ll Challenge Yourself to Continuously Adapt
The adjustment to studying abroad can be challenging in its own right: you arrive in a foreign country, learn the who-what-where-when-how of surviving on a daily basis, and must jam-pack your schedule with both classes and cultural experiences in a short amount of time (trust us, a semester will fly by!).
If you enroll in a multi-country study abroad program, you can take the stress, uncertainty, and challenges of adapting to one country, and multiply it exponentially to each new country on the itinerary for your program. It’s a challenge, yes, but it’s also an exciting one. Instead of facing each transition between countries with fear or anxiety, you’ll learn how to look forward to them eagerly for the new opportunities they bring.
Don’t speak the local language? No problem! After your second or third new country, you learn how to prep a few handy phrases and pick more up along the way. Unsure how to find the nearest grocery store –- or even what to buy to prepare meals? It’ll get easier each time, as you recognize ingredients from past countries that are sold in different packages. Figuring out your new neighborhood and campus will become an exciting “scavenger hunt” in your mind, over the course of your study abroad program -- and you’ll adapt more quickly to unexpected situations because you’ll learn you can handle them.
You’ll Become More Mentally Flexible
Successfully completing a multi-country study abroad program won’t make you more physically flexible (unless you practice daily yoga along the way!). As a corollary to learning to adapt to each new country, you’ll become more flexible in terms of your comfort zones and willingness to try new experiences and activities after a multi-country program.
We regularly point out that travel expands our mindset and opinions about the world, and a multi-country study abroad program allows you to combine travel while completing your academic requirements. You’ll learn to not only navigate different public transit systems, but how to navigate education systems – both in and outside the classroom – around the world. Your neurons are going to be super-connected after studying abroad in more than one country!
You might wonder if these benefits are great enough to justify some of the additional challenges and stresses that can come along with a multi-country study abroad program. Speaking from experience, I can confidently say they are. In addition to having friends and passport stamps from around the globe, I have a unique study abroad experience that helped me meet my degree requirements while simultaneously fueling my desire to travel and see even more of the world.