Deciding wether 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, 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 different 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 you 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, 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.