The idea of studying abroad can seem like a semester- or year-long vacation. The draw is clear: You can travel the world and make some of the best memories of your life.
The great news is that’s all true. However, the true benefit of study abroad adventures is far deeper. The lessons you learn spending time in other cultures while getting an international education will give you both a global perspective and a renewed sense of self-confidence. This international experience will boost both your personal life and career long after your study abroad program is over.
The world is only getting smaller, and that means you’ll be faced with increasingly nuanced social and cultural situations no matter where you live.
Translation: A new perspective might be just what you need as you complete your education.
Study abroad programs present a great way to get a head start on navigating these situations, as students are confronted with diverse perspectives, customs and traditions they wouldn’t be exposed to at home.
Student travelers who put the social and community aspect of their study abroad experience first will likely develop meaningful relationships that will enrich their personal lives for years to come. And who doesn’t want a group of new friends (or potentially lifelong friends)? It’s one of the greatest study abroad benefits you can receive.
Don’t just learn that language – master it
There are dozens of apps that will teach you language skills in record time. But studying abroad provides a foreign language immersion experience that can’t be matched in any classroom or app.
Students who surround themselves with native speakers and have moment-to-moment interactions in a foreign language will see their pronunciation, vocabulary and fluency skyrocket. This will not only help your professional life over the long term, but it will also have the benefit of boost your self-confidence.
Bonus content: Here are 25 easy phrases to memorize before you kick off your study abroad program in the following languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish and Turkish.
A path to personal growth and independence
There’s a self-discovery aspect to every big trip you take in life.
And one of the most significant benefits of studying abroad is that this trip may open the door to the most exciting period of self-exploration you’ll ever experience.
Every day of your study abroad program – whether you’re learning how to order from the local bakery in a foreign language, managing your personal finances for the first time without your support system or taking your midterms – presents multiple chances to have new, character-shaping moments. This instills a sense of resilience and adaptability that many students who don’t study abroad won’t have upon graduation.
When it comes to travel, you’re at the world’s front door
Everyone loved field trips growing up, right?
One of the huge benefits of studying abroad is that many weekends will be full of trips and cultural lessons. Your breaks can be filled with visits to the best museums, landmarks and natural wonders in your host country, immersing you deeper into the cultures you came to study. It can be a truly life-changing experience if you open yourself up to the possibilities.
It won’t take you many job interviews to learn that experience counts more than what’s on your school transcripts.
Studying abroad rounds out your skill set by not only adding intangibles like a sense of resilience and independence, but also by providing you unique experiences that you can turn into great stories to demonstrate that you’re both intelligent and relatable.
And there’s an added benefit: In an increasingly global job market, your experience studying abroad at your host university, tackling an international internship or working in a foreign country can enhance your resume, getting you in the door for that first interview. Who knows – you may even feel comfortable giving business presentations in a foreign language by the time you get home.
Create your own global professional network
While it’s natural to prioritize having fun during your short stint in a foreign country, the professional relationships you make can turn out to be one of the huge benefits of studying abroad.
Don’t hesitate to make connections with the local professionals in your field of study. Who knows – they could turn out to be your future employers.
In the short term, these conversations will help study abroad students understand how business is done differently there, along with how trends are different from where their home country.
In the long term, this international exposure could turn out to create valuable – maybe even lucrative – openings for business opportunities (which could also mean opportunities for more travel).
Academic excellence in a new realm
If you keep going to the same teachers, you’re going to get the same lessons.
But studying abroad will challenge your skills in a different education system. Most students will benefit from exposure to different methods, research opportunities and specialized courses, helping round out their education.
This can be a transformative experience that manifests itself in a few different ways, including different takes on critical thinking and new bolstered problem solving skills.
Return home ready to create and innovate
Experiencing a new culture can light up your mind in the best possible way. When you’re exposed to new concepts and experiences, a foreign language and alternative ways of thinking, your mind starts to make new connections that drive you to come up with new ideas.
Whether you’re pursuing a future in the arts or the most intricate business or tech endeavor, getting far outside your comfort zone by studying abroad can be a huge benefit to your professional life.
Become a true global citizen
We talked about establishing social and cultural connections earlier, but there’s something about studying abroad that fosters a greater awareness of other cultures long after your international experience ends.
Getting an up-close look at the difficulties and opportunities facing another society can give you a greater sense of empathy and respect for others, while also prompting you to learn more about situations that don’t directly affect you in the future.
This change often motivates study abroad students to advocate for positive changes that benefit their communities back home.
Learning to read the room: Develop intercultural communication skills
Body language, jokes and other non-verbal cues vary widely between cultures. Study abroad programs are a great way to expose students to the different ways we as humans communicate beyond foreign language skills.
Navigating these cross-cultural interactions on a daily basis will help study abroad students observe more closely, listen more attentively and adapt their own communication style to better engage with people from different backgrounds.
This will be hugely beneficial in the long run, as artful communication – especially across teams and cultures – is among the most highly valued skills they can possess. It’s a true competitive edge.
Reflect on who you are, and imagine who you’ll become
The perspectives and experiences students get while studying abroad often prompt them to think about who they are as a person – and who they want to be going forward.
Sure, they’ll see plenty of amazing sights and learn both inside and outside the classroom. But those lessons will force them to deal with contradictions to their previous beliefs and assumptions.
In the end, this kind of personal exploration can lead to a new, more enlightened approach as students prepare for your post-academic life.
Learn to appreciate home even more
There’s nothing like coming back to your own bed.
And while no one ever says “I can’t wait to get back to my shared values and cultural norms,” – because, you know, that’d be a little odd – study abroad students do gain international experience and return with a better understanding of the benefits of home.
In fact, they often come back determined to make their home a better place, armed with the knowledge they gained while immersed in new cultures.