Not to sound like a broken record, but study abroad is awesome. We've said it before – in our list of 10 reasons every student should study abroad and by regularly highlighting the benefits of study abroad -- and we'll continue saying it: study abroad makes students more well-rounded, open-minded, and appreciative of the diversity in our world. Did you know that there are even more reasons to study abroad that we've never mentioned – and some of them are quite surprising?
To round up some of the many surprising benefits of study abroad, we chatted with the team at the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC). Alumni from various USAC programs can say it better than we can, so we also included quotes from alumni who have experienced these benefits directly. This will give you a better idea just how diverse and surprisingly beneficial your own study abroad experience will be.
Surprising Academic Benefits of Studying Abroad
Studying Abroad May End Up Changing Your Major
This isn't the case for everyone, but you might take a class or study a subject while abroad that opens up your mind to a whole new degree in mind. It's not uncommon for students to come home from study abroad and add or change their major to fit their new interests and knowledge. You could add Spanish as a second major, or switch from psychology to marketing after taking an immersive class. Those kinds of changes are totally normal but still surprising.
Your Worldview about Academics Will Change
Study abroad is an opportunity to experience not only a different culture but a different education system. As you study abroad, you’ll not only have the chance to learn new subjects – like Buddhism in Thailand, the Political Economy of Japan, or Bollywood Dance in India – but learn how education systems, grading, participation, and attendance vary around the world. These classes will not only teach you different skills, but many will transfer back home and all classes give you a greater appreciation of your host country and campus.
Two of my course hours were from my cooking and surfing class. Because those classes were taught in English and Spanish, I was able to earn credit for them at my home university. I strongly recommend taking the extra courses because they allow you to experience aspects of the Basque culture which are very important to the citizens of San Sebastian.
Studying Abroad Can Provide You With New and Unforeseen Educational Opportunities
In addition to changing your scenery, study abroad is a unique opportunity to connect with new classmates and professors you don't have access to on your home campus. This might mean you find a mentor in a field that your own school doesn't have an expert in, or a research project happening while you study abroad that you can contribute to.
Just as much of your education from study abroad will happen as you're outside the classroom experiencing your host country, you can find other educational opportunities with your host campus.
"My professor for Spanish Gender Studies was one of the best professors I've ever had. She cares so deeply about the subject, her students, and education in general. She helped me tailor my research paper to be relevant to the course, my interests, and my job, and she was an invaluable resource throughout the project."
Surprising Professional Benefits of Study Abroad
Study Abroad Can Help You Launch an International Career
You may not end up an international man (or woman) of mystery like Austin Powers after studying abroad, but you can find lots of international career opportunities. From joining an internationally- based startup to teaching abroad to sales or marketing in a specific country; studying abroad opens doors of professional opportunity you can't imagine yet.
"Studying abroad in Madrid was the best decision of my college career. I'm studying Spanish at Loyola University Chicago, and my Spanish experience rounded out my education in the best way." - Carolyn,
You'll Create a Global Network of Classmates and Colleagues
It might not seem like it now, but all of your study abroad classmates will someday be professionals, working hard all over the world – you will be too! Having connections with students from other schools and countries can create networking opportunities. You might hear of a job opportunity from one classmate, or join the team at a company started by another.
"When deciding to go to Torino I had no idea the effect it would have had on my life. The city of Torino is magical and completely gorgeous... Plus, the friends I made and were able to experience it all with will last a lifetime."
Surprising Personal Benefits of Studying Abroad
Study Abroad will Reward You With Lifelong, Global Friendships
As I said at the beginning of this article, I had expected to go abroad and improve my language skills, gain a bit more direction academically, and experience a new part of the world -- I did not expect to come away with a new set of close friends. But that's exactly what happened, and I'm still calling up that crazy band of Mandarin-studying misfits whenever I drop into their corner of the globe. Some of those friends have since introduced me to my absolute closest friends and I'm grateful for it every day.
You May Find Yourself Craving "Foreign" Foods After Studying Abroad
Most travelers agree: everywhere you go, you'll find foreign foods and flavors you end up craving the rest of your life. This is even truer when you study abroad, spending an extended amount of time (a term, semester, or even a year) deeply immersed in a 'foreign' culture.
Don't be surprised if you come home from France craving brie and baguettes, or are weirdly okay with the taste of Marmite after time studying abroad in Australia. Those feelings are totally normal, and a regular reminder of how you truly learned to live abroad even as you studied there.
"When speaking with people about to begin their study abroad with USAC Madrid, my advice is simple - travel light, live free, and, above all, savor every moment - you will find yourself at home in the end craving something as simple as plate of croquettes and beer as [though] it was the greatest moment of your life."
Studying Abroad Will Teach You that You Can Live With Less – But Less is More
Minimalism is more than just a fad – many people are finding that "less is more" when it comes to possessions. Studying abroad might be the first opportunity you have to "leave it all behind" and head out into the world with just a suitcase or two. By embracing the necessity of having bags you can actually lift, you may find that you don't need many of the possessions you once thought were necessary. Paired with the amazing experiences you can enjoy abroad, you might begin to see why so many people are opting for experiences over possessions even after they return home from studying abroad.
My advice: pack light, travel often, try everything, and never say no to an opportunity! Get immersed: speak the language, try the food (and the wine)...! You will be astounded by how much you change.
At the end of the day, your study abroad experience will be unique depending on where you study, the friends you make, and, of course, you! You will undoubtedly have your own surprising benefits from study abroad, but we're confident that you'll discover them, and come back from study abroad with amazing memories too.