Studying abroad is increasingly popular among students, with tens of thousands of high school and college students going abroad for their education each year. In today’s globalized society, we’re no longer limited to a single institution for higher education, and new study-abroad opportunities are popping up all the time.
When I was in school, study abroad was just becoming very popular. From what I understand now, it has become sort of an expectation of many upon graduation that you study abroad. Unfortunately, I didnt quite have the money to do so, and still kind of regret not doing it. I did have a lot of friends that went abroad for a semester and they all really enjoyed themselves and got a lot out of it.
The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad
Deciding whether or not to study abroad is a very difficult decision, and there are many different things that you need to take into account when you are deciding if studying abroad is right for you. There are multiple personal things that you need to consider if you’re going to study abroad, and many people are unsure if they should go or stay. There is a lot to consider, and one of the best things that you can do if you’re unsure whether studying abroad is right for you is to go through the pros and cons of studying abroad before making your decision.
Studying Abroad: The Pros
1. You’re education will be more meaningful. It’s one thing to read about distant places in a textbook. It’s something else entirely to actually go there and learn about them in person. For instance, learning about the construction of the Great Wall of China from a history textbook simply can’t compare to walking along the wall with a knowledgeable tour guide. To fully understand why other cultures are different, study abroad programs allow you to go beyond the classroom and discover the context for yourself.
2. Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. College only lasts four years or so. After that, you’ll likely get a job, and traveling abroad for an extended period of time will become much more difficult (This has been true for me, the most we got to spend abroad was 2.5 weeks when we were on our honeymoon). One of the biggest incentives of study abroad programs is that you can travel for a summer, semester, or academic year without compromising your path to a degree.
3. You don’t need to know a foreign language. Although you may be studying in a country where English isn’t the native language, most foreign universities with ties to American study abroad programs offer an ample selection of courses taught in English. To get the full “living abroad” experience, however, you should still take a language class before or during your stay (if your course load allows for it).
4. You’ll go beyond your comfort zone. Even if you go out of state for college, you’re still immersed in many familiar aspects of American culture. Studying abroad offers you the chance to leave behind your usual way of life and experience a culture quite unlike your own. Every country has different social rules and customs—for instance, Europeans eat their largest meal in the afternoon, rather than in the evening—and temporarily taking on a new lifestyle will not only expand your horizons but also heighten your appreciation for other cultures.
5. You’ll make new friends from different backgrounds. There may be a few international students at your university, but students tend to stay within their established social circles for the majority of their college careers. Studying abroad takes you beyond your usual group of friends and gives you the opportunity to make friends from all over the world.
6. It looks good on a resume. In today’s hypercompetitive job market, people are doing whatever they can to convince employers to hire them. Adding “study abroad” to your educational experience sets you apart from the other applicants and shows potential employers that you’re worldly, well-rounded, and willing to go beyond your comfort zone.
7. You will grow as a person. When you are studying in another country, you have a very unique situation. You’re in an unfamiliar place that does things completely differently than you are used to. You will be able to experience a culture very different from your own, and you will be exposed to more different people and different ways of doing things in the 4 months that you are studying abroad than your other three and a half years at your university. You will test habits and preconceived notions that you have held all your life that you did not even know existed before you saw a whole group of people doing something totally different than what you were used to.
8. Opportunity for Internships. Many study abroad programs will allow you to do an internship while abroad, and this is typically a great way to get some job experience under your belt while abroad. Many students that did perform an internship as part of their study abroad program found that it ignited their career in ways that they had not anticipated when they signed up to study abroad.
Studying Abroad: The Cons
1. It’s usually more expensive than your regular tuition. Study abroad programs offer many amenities to students, such as travel assistance and cultural excursions to local landmarks and museums. Unfortunately, these added benefits come with a hefty price tag. While some universities offer scholarships and other forms of financial aid, many students have to take out loans in order to cover the added costs of studying abroad. This article from the wall street journal describes it perfectly: Pricey and priceless.
2. The cost of living may be higher. If you’re studying in a major city, in Western Europe, or in a country where the currency exchange rate is unfavorable to the dollar, the cost of living will be relatively high. Things such as food, rent, and internet will cost more than they do at home, which means you’ll be paying even more out of pocket just by living overseas. You can find coupons through sites like SumoCoupon and other deals at your home-away-from-home, but be sure to overestimate your study abroad budget to make sure you’ll have enough money to get by.
3. You might get homesick. Being away from friends and family, coping with culture shock, missing your favorite foods, and experiencing weather conditions you aren’t used to…all of these factors contribute to homesickness. Yes, you can adapt to new places and make new friends, but longing for your favorite people and familiar lifestyle is an unfortunate part of the study abroad experience.
4. Language barriers might limit socializing opportunities. Many countries require that students in their educational systems learn English as a second language, but even if your non-American classmates know English, they may not always be inclined to speak it. This makes going out to restaurants/bars/clubs/etc. with friends difficult, because they may revert to their native language in a social setting.
How to Pay for a Study Abroad Semester
On our list of cons for study abroad programs, half of them deal with one thing – the cost of studying abroad. Not only do you need to pay for flights/lodging, etc on your way to the country of your chosen program, but you are also still responsible for paying tuition at your university, as well as food costs while you are abroad. You will also want to have extra cash for tourist activities in your new country (Who wants to spend 4 months in France and not see the Eiffel Tower or the Champs-Elysees). It would be a shame and probably a waste of a trip if you went all that way and were unable to see some of your adopted country’s most treasured places.
Even though the costs are high, there are plenty of ways that you can make your dream of studying abroad a reality if you really are interested. We mentioned in our pros of studying abroad list that one great thing about studying abroad was that you could get an internship abroad that will provide you with a bit of spending money when you’re abroad and could really jump-start your career. You’ll be able to make valuable connections, as well as look at work from a different perspective that you will be able to take with you when you go back to your home town and finish your study at university.
If you’re interested in getting an internship as a part of your study abroad semester to help defray some of the costs of studying abroad, there are a ton of things that you need to consider. You’ll be leaving the country and you are trying to get a company to hire you to sight unseen, so you need to make sure that you know how to put your best foot forward. Unfortunately, most of this will have to be your best “online” foot forward. There are multiple pitfalls that could stop you from getting the internship of your dreams while you’re studying abroad, such as:
- A Poor or Non-Existent Online Presence. Companies are going to search for you online before they want to interview you. Will they be able to find anything at all? If they do find anything, will it be reflective of the person you are, or will it be a bunch of photos of you partying with friends? You want to make sure to put your best foot forward
- Navigate a Skype Interview. Have you ever had a job interview over skype? If you answered no, you’re not alone – many people have not. Unfortunately for those of us used to in-person interviews, if a company abroad is going to give you an internship, you’re going to have to skype with them for your interview, and you need to make sure you don’t fall into any of the common video interview traps.
- Prepare your finances. Studying abroad can be painful financially, and even though you’ll (hopefully) be getting an awesome job while you’re there to help offset those costs, you still need to learn how to prepare your finances for an upcoming move across the world.
We don’t want you to have to say no to your dream of studying abroad because of the high costs. We want you to go out and live your dream and enjoy the culture of the study abroad program that you picked. If you’re interested in getting help finding an internship while you study abroad that will help you offset your costs, don’t hesitate. Your dreams of living in another country await.
So, have you thought about studying abroad? I thought about it but didn’t end up doing it because it was pretty expensive (compared to tuition) when I was in school. I had a lot of friends that really enjoyed it though.