Deciding to study in another country is a huge step. It takes courage to leave the security of familiar places behind, but it could be the start of an amazing adventure. There are lots of advantages to learning like this, and it can leave you in a stronger position when looking for a job as well as helping you to develop as a person. This article looks at some of the reasons why you should consider this way of studying.
You’ll see familiar subjects in a new way
Further education exists to expand your mind and reveal new dimensions to subjects you’ve already learned about. Nothing does that quite as effectively as studying in a different place where even the basics are taught in different ways. You might find that your new institution expects you to know more to begin with than you’ve learned in school and that you need to get up to speed. Or you might find that a different style of teaching means you can suddenly wrap your head around something that always eluded you before. Subjects like history and geography seem very different without a US focus, and this will give you a better understanding of how people in other countries see the US, and why.
You’ll feel truly independent
Many of us travel long distances to study within the US but being in a different country feels very different. It’s not as easy to run home to your family if something goes wrong – and while that can be tough, it can also be good for you. Even if you still have the option of getting your folks to wire you money in a real emergency, and you’ll have the US Embassy as another potential source of assistance, you’ll have to deal with day to day problems on your own. That will help you to shed any lingering shreds of childishness. At the same time, you won’t have to worry about your mom embarrassing you by popping over every weekend to give you food parcels and take away your dirty laundry.
You could save money
In many countries, the cost of a college education is much lower than it is in the US. In Germany, for instance, the government subsidizes it heavily even for foreign students because it knows that many choose to stay. The high proportion of graduates in its population, most working in highly-skilled jobs, boosts its economy, and means it more than makes the money back in taxes. Yes, traveling costs money, but there are lots of ways to keep costs down, and if you choose a country where the cost of living is lower, you can make savings when it comes to accommodation, food, and social activities. Also, you might be able to get a special scholarship to help.
You can learn a new language
Learning a new language isn’t a prerequisite of studying abroad – there are many English speaking countries you could choose from. If you want to expand your language skills, however, nothing is more effective than immersing yourself in one day today. There is simply no teacher like a necessity. In the friendly, intellectually positive environment of a college or university, it’s easy to keep asking questions so you can get to grips with the nuances of your new language. You’ll also get the chance to learn a language as it’s actually spoken, picking up the kind of slang words and indiscreet terms that formal language courses rarely include.
You’ll meet interesting new people
One of the best things about going to college is the opportunity it offers to meet new people, but when you study in the US, it’s all too easy to end up spending all your time with people who are a lot like you, to begin with. When you study abroad, you’ll meet individuals from lots of different backgrounds and find yourself exposed to lots of new ideas. You’ll make friends with people you never imagined yourself talking to, which will help you to grow and develop as a person. It will also give you an incredibly useful network of contacts, which may well prove useful after you graduate. Non-native students often flock together at universities, so your friendship circles won’t be limited to other traveling Americans and people from the country you’re based in.
You’ll expand your horizons
Meeting different people and immersing yourself in another culture will change your understanding of many aspects of life. As the academic Bree Picower has observed in her work, good intentions are not enough on their own to enable people to imagine life from others’ perspectives. It takes direct human contact to start to engage fully with others’ experiences – and doing so can help you to connect with the world much more fully, understanding problems like racism, poverty, and social exclusion. Moving outside the narratives you’ve grown up with will give you an advantage in all sorts of roles simply because you’ll have more insight into the needs of others and the distinctive contributions they can make.
You’ll expand your options
Did you know that many countries make it much easier to become a resident if you’ve studied there? Did you also know that there are employers who seek out people with that kind of experience? Fluency in an additional language is a great asset on your résumé and having international connections really helps if you want to pursue an academic career. In addition, the experience of studying abroad will give you confidence in your abilities, making you more aware of what you can (and can’t) do, and making it easier for you to face up to new challenges.
With around 400,000 US students now choosing to study abroad every year, it’s clear that the option has a lot of appeals. If you’d like to do it yourself, talk to your career adviser about the best route forward for you and how you should prepare.