If you’re thinking about pursuing college abroad, the prospect of being in a foreign country can be exciting and scary at the same time. It’s challenging to say goodbye to your family, friends and familiar environment. Yet when it comes to higher education, there are unique benefits that can only be experienced by studying abroad.
For students who want to take flight to foreign shores and set down a new path, studying abroad will offer wide-ranging opportunities. Choosing to study abroad could provide you with social and career opportunities that you couldn’t get if you studied locally.
Many kids dream about studying abroad, but for the most part, they see the opportunity in theory, rather than reality. Despite how appealing it sounds to be out of the country, there’s so much that comes into consideration when planning to study abroad. Whether the pursuit is to study abroad for a semester or to spend your entire college career in a foreign country, here are key thoughts to consider:
Studying abroad is the experience of a lifetime. You’ll go to different classes, visit museums you’ve never seen before, eat new foods and meet all kinds of people. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll never feel homesick. Homesickness is a huge change in lifestyle that you have to get used to, but it’s something everyone can deal with.
One of the biggest reasons to pursue international education is the opportunity it affords students to see the world. But for some, the idea of spending three or more years abroad can be a staggering concept. When you first start studying abroad, it’s common to have some feelings of homesickness. Everyone deals with homesickness in a different way.
Homesickness happens to every student that studies abroad. It could be a day here or there. Maybe it’s a special occasion or holiday missed. While you may be in a foreign country, it may feel like the rest of your life hasn’t caught up yet. There are time differences to consider aside from your distance from home.
Homesickness is inevitable. But in time, it’ll get better. With new friends, your new country can feel like home.
2. Language Barriers
Learning a new language isn’t easy. For students considering a semester abroad, the few months spent in another country may not be long enough to hone your new language skills.
To fully get immersed in a new language, consider spending your entire college experience abroad. The experience will provide ample time to develop your mastery of a second language. This will come in handy when pursuing a professional career after school.
3. Experiencing New Cultures
There’s a lot of diversity when studying abroad. Students will meet people from all walks of life they normally wouldn’t without the experience of international education.
For most students studying abroad, this will be the first time they leave home. Their new host country may have distinct cultural perspectives far different from what they’re used to. Studying abroad can widen your horizon on new culture elements including food, customs and social traditions.
With all the new experiences happening at once, it’s easy to forget the sole purpose of studying abroad: academic pursuits. While students may temporarily get punch-drunk, academics should still be the priority. There’s always going to be time to explore a new city and make new friends.
But just as important, don’t crash your GPA while having a good time. Schedule time to do your coursework and prepare for exams.
For students contemplating a master’s or a PhD program, international education is the perfect time for graduate school consulting. The right admissions consultants can provide you expert guidance on the right graduate program that best matches your experiences and future goals.
5. Student life
While going abroad opens the doors to high quality education, no matter where you study, student life is key to meeting like-minded individuals. Each university offers a diverse student life experience. Each will have a variety of student clubs and organizations designed to suit your preferences.
Being involved in your university’s student life will not only make you a better academic student but will assist you in making the transition to a foreign country easier. You get to try something new and meet people with similar interests.
Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of studying abroad is the financial terrain. Navigating through it requires more than just a budget for tuition and books. Accommodation must be considered as well as budget for travel and socio-academic experiences.
The cost to study abroad will vary according to your destination.
For international students, the academic costs could be significantly higher than that of a local school. Plus, you’ll be faced with limited access to national student loan schemes. There will also be the restriction of hours you could work while studying abroad.
It’s important to include a budget when considering an international education. Students must plan ahead and be sensible when factoring costs for the student life experience.
7. Career Opportunities
The opportunities afforded you while spending your college career abroad extends to your professional career. International college consultants agree that studying abroad can jump-start your career.
Some key benefits of studying abroad include increased hireability, higher starting salaries, and higher acceptance into graduate school.
The foreign language experience you develop abroad will translate into new career opportunities. Being with a diverse group of people during college can make your transition into the global workforce that much easier.
8. Making Lifelong Friends
Going abroad will supplement your life with a variety of benefits beyond academics and your career. The friendships you foster overseas will broaden your perspective. Traveling has a way of bonding people, and there’s a different dynamic in friendships abroad.
Navigating through the difficulties of being away from home connects people with shared passions. The bonds you share with people you meet will transcend geographical boundaries and worldviews.
9. Fostering Independence
The time you spend away from home while pursuing an international education is time that fosters your self-confidence and independence.
Through your sense of adventure, you get to learn more about yourself. You learn what you’re good at and what you need to work on. The cultural differences you experience will test your ability to be adaptable. You also get a chance to find your passion for exploration and adventure.
But, most importantly, you’ll return with the maturity and experience you wouldn’t have been able to acquire if you didn’t travel abroad.
10. Culture Shock
Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. But eventually, that experience will end. Before, during, and after you’ve travel abroad, you will most likely experience culture shock.
The degree of culture shock may vary according to the length of your stay abroad and the differences in the culture of your host country to that of yours. Everyone adjusts differently to culture shock. Some are less fazed by it than others. While there will be those that find it almost always difficult to adjust.
When going through culture shock, it’s important to keep an open mind. This will allow you to learn as much as you can about your experiences and create an important support structure with those around you.
11. Keeping Healthy Abroad
One of the most important preparations you need to do before disembarking on an experience unlike any other is to ensure your good health while studying overseas.
The last thing you want is for your experiences to be cut short due to an illness. Missing out on unique cultural experiences because of an injury or travel-related illness can potentially ruin your international experience.
Make sure to get your routine immunizations before departing. Each country will have certain health risks so familiarize yourself with the potential risks of your host country. Consult with your doctor if you require any immunization shots to keep yourself healthy.
12. Doing More with Less
Studying abroad doesn’t only mean that you leave behind everything you know and understand. It also means making do with less. That’s right, studying abroad will probably mean leaving behind familiar comforts and experiencing life with fewer possessions.
But this is a good thing.
You learn to not take things for granted, and you start to appreciate even the smallest things. This might include your mom’s home cooking during the holidays, or care packages from home. Even a simple letter from home or a friend will find newfound appreciation in your possession.
13. Course Availability
Depending on the career path you’ve chosen for yourself, studying abroad may be key to unlocking the right doors and building the right network. Some of the best culinary schools are located in France. Estonia ranks as one of the leaders in digital technology, and Australia has been known to excel in majors involving the humanities, sciences, and business.
Doing research beforehand ensures you pick the right school for the degree you hope to attain. This will enable you to find a well-established university with a history of quality programs and academic offerings. And who knows, with any luck, that may lead you to shores afield.
14. Student Body Demographics
While it’s important to travel abroad to experience different cultures, being to far out of your comfort zone may leave you feel isolated and excluded. Before leaving, research the demographic layout of your prospective school.
It’s important to find an academic establishment in which you feel comfortable being yourself and being around other students.
When doing your research, look through your prospective school’s website. They will often publish information regarding specific demographics about their student body.
Few things can ruin a study abroad experience like the feeling of being unsafe on campus or in the surrounding town or city. Safety is an important metric of studying abroad. Feeling protected while on campus or exploring local surroundings reinforces positive experiences from an extended overseas stay.
Examine the safety statistics of your prospective school and surrounding areas. How many crimes have been committed in relation to the student body or individuals within a similar age group? These are good indicators of how secure the environment is and how safe students generally feel about the school.
To endeavor to study abroad is to explore the world around you with like-minded people. The experience will be fascinating and enriching. The people you connect with along the way will not only share your sense of adventure, but crucially transform your global perspective.
As humans, we feel alive to possibility. The idea of renewal, the opportunity for reinvention is always appealing. But with every hill comes a valley; anxiousness and fear. The ever looming question of “what if it doesn’t work out?” It requires great courage to choose a new path. The first day of school. A new job. Perhaps even moving to a new country. It’s a definitive risk. But within that risk lies its own reward.