Early adulthood is a time of growth and coming into your own. Spending some of this time overseas can be a potentially great, eye-opening experience. And now more and more colleges and universities are offering an array of study-abroad programs that allow students to take classes in a foreign country while earning credit toward their graduation requirements. So if you or your child is thinking about taking advantage, it’s a good idea to evaluate the opportunity from all sides. Check out the benefits and challenges of studying abroad below before making your decision.
Education costs can be high to begin with. Throw in student visa fees, possibly higher housing costs, and everything that comes with traveling and getting the most out of a place or culture, and the cost of studying abroad can really add up. It’s a good idea to try to save up ahead of time so you don’t pay heavy fees for the experience by charging everything to credit cards. (With careful planning, though, you may be able to use travel rewards cards strategically to help stretch your money while staying within your budget. Here are Best Credit Cards in America picks for airline miles and hotel rewards. You may also want to look for cards that have no foreign transaction fees.)
Studying abroad can give you the chance to develop new skills and help you define your career goals, effectively making you more employable. It can also make you stand out in the increasingly competitive job market. In fact, a survey for IES Abroad, a not-for-profit provider of study abroad programs for U.S. college and university students, found that students who spent time learning in other countries had a higher rate of employment and higher starting salary within six months of graduation, compared to students who did not.
Going to a new and foreign place can be a real challenge for students who have not had much experience outside their culture. No matter how much research you do about your destination, you will probably experience some surprises when you actually live there. Culture shock is basically inevitable if you are coming to a country or part of the world for the first time.
Immersing yourself in a new culture and taking the experience as an opportunity to travel can allow study abroad students to broaden their worldview. By learning how to interact with people from a wide range of backgrounds, you can put your own experience into better context and gain valuable interpersonal skills. A global perspective and first-hand cultural exploration? Those are some serious pros.
A new place could mean that you will encounter a new language, new people outside your college clique, new activities, and a rush of independence. Adapting to all these new things can be challenging, rewarding or both, depending on your perspective. There will likely be plenty of new demands when you move to a foreign place, but it can be a good idea to let these motivate you and teach you not just about the world around you, but yourself.
If you are at all interested in international travel, gaining new cultural experience, and making the most of your education, studying abroad in college can be a great opportunity. But it isn’t for everyone, so it’s important to consider all the pros and cons to make the decision that is right for you.
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