A topic that comes up often in advising meetings is whether a student should study abroad. Doing so is something that many students think about, and every year between 120 and 150 University of Maine students actually go through with it. Typically, if a student asks for my input, I tell them that if they want to go abroad and can afford it, they should do so. That, of course, is a rather simplistic response. But here’s some legitimate reasons why studying abroad is a great idea.
1) Probably the best reason to study abroad is that the experience will broaden your horizons and your perspective of the world. It’ll open you up to different ways of thinking and acting, helping you to examine differing values and beliefs. Few students come back from their study abroad experience the same person they were then they left. Most come back with greater maturity, greater self-confidence, and greater ability to tolerate and deal with ambiguity.
2) Another important reason to study abroad is that it provides you with the opportunity to travel. First, you’ll be going to another country, another culture. You’ll be experiencing that daily. But then during weekends and breaks, you’ll be able to travel and explore the region, seeing even more of the differing culture. For most students, studying abroad is the best and easiest way to travel overseas. It’s an opportunity that many students may never have again.
3) Studying abroad is also a great way to learn a new language. Immersion into a language and culture is the most effective method of learning possible. Being in a foreign land, surrounded by other students and faculty and everyday people who are speaking the language of the country you are in will force you to learn to speak that language. And being multilingual is great for both personal and career growth.
4) Studying abroad will give you skills that translate into those skills future employers are looking for. Being alone in another country, you will be forced to take responsibility for yourself. So, in addition to gaining practical knowledge about a specific culture and language, you’ll be more apt to be able to creatively problem solve and to adapt to diverse cultural experiences. You’ll have learned leadership skills. And most likely, you’ll have demonstrated strong listening and communication skills.
5) Studying abroad will also make you more employable. Why? Well, only about 4% of U.S. students study abroad. Yet with the world becoming more globalized, American corporations are looking for students that have global experience. Studying abroad puts you in a position to stand out from the crowd.
There are, of course, many other reasons to study abroad. You may have others of your own to add to these five. Whatever your reasons are, I will say it again, I highly recommend that you study abroad if you’re interested in doing so. So, contact the Office of International Programs. Talk to a peer advisor about locations and the experience. Check out how study abroad relates to your major. Find out about finances and financial aid. And most of all, have fun.