The ability to study abroad is unrivaled among college opportunities. Think of how the wealth of experience you can gain while abroad will impact the remainder of your college career, your future job opportunities and your personal perspective of the world around you. Studying abroad is not just an opportunity to tromp through a foreign land and soak up the ambiance while earning a few credits. Rather, studying abroad is truly a jumping-off point for the rest of your life. Check out these five ways you probably never thought of that studying abroad can impact your life. In no time, you’ll be solidifying your study abroad plans, booking your travel and buying travel insurance to cover you just in case, and heading off on a great adventure.
O Brave New World
If you’ve spent your entire life — or most of your life — inside the country of your birth, how much can you really claim to know about the world around you? Sure, you’ve taken classes in world culture and current events, but those classes are all taught from the perspective of your home country, aren’t they? Even if you’re an avid reader or watcher of popular news, you’re still experiencing the world from the perspective of your homeland.
When you venture outside the boundaries of your country and into a culture you haven’t visited before, a brave new world will unfold in front of your eyes. While you’ll likely see many similarities to your motherland, especially in pop culture and clothing styles, you’ll also be opened to perspectives that may shock you to your core. Seeing world events from a whole new perspective is one of the best ways to broaden your insight and understanding of the world around you.
More and more companies — from large corporations to upstart tech organizations — are becoming multinational. The advance of technology and the ability to conduct so much of business over the Internet have done a terrific job of breaking down country barriers.
You’ll be ready to offer your multinational expertise to the companies hiring in your field because of the time you spent abroad while in college. Is the organization opening a new office in Nagasaki? Since you spent time there as an undergrad, you can help your colleagues understand local customs. Is a new warehouse in Mexico City on the horizon? Your command of Spanish built through a semester in-country can make that opening successful. Your study of other cultures can open doors no amount of other college work can.
How much did your network expand just by going away to college? You probably made more new friends than you can count, and that number increases exponentially when you add in the professors you’ve gotten to know, partners you’ve worked with in class and community leaders who’ve been involved in some way with your work.
Taking that same opportunity abroad opens you to an even broader network of people who may beneficially affect your career in the future. When you’ve already got contacts in a region a company is expanding into, you become that much more valuable as an employee. And from the social side, expanding your circle to include people from different cultures is not only fun, but stimulating as well.
Certain areas of the world are known for being at the forefront of certain trends. Think of the tech boom in Asia or medical advances that come from Western Europe. While you can read about those advances online or in your textbook, think about how much more profoundly they’ll be felt if you experience them first hand. Going further, by seeing the WHY that comes before the HOW, your research and experimentation skills will be honed that much further.
Back to your textbooks, how many anecdotal stories can you recall about the giants of math and science and engineering traveling to other locales to study under the masters? You’ll be following in some pretty big footsteps when you do the same by electing to spend a semester abroad. Learning in a hands-on environment in an ideal locale for your studies will set off a lifelong ripple in your career.
Hola, Bonjour, Hello
This isn’t so much a hidden benefit as a reminder that traveling abroad gives you the ability to enhance your language skills. In fact, depending on the locality you choose to study in, you might be able to immerse yourself in several different local languages all at once. While you’ve probably done very well in the language classes you took in high school and may have continued in college, it’s just not the same as being immersed in a culture where that is the language spoken around you each and every day.
Once you’ve spent some time in another country speaking and hearing another language constantly, your skills will explode exponentially. One particular barrier you may cross is thinking in another language. Having to think through translations to understand and be understood makes communication difficult. But as you immerse yourself in a language, your brain retrains itself to think and respond faster, leading to better fluency.
Bringing It Back Home
Now that you’ve been immersed in the benefits of studying abroad, it’s time to bring it all back home. When you combine the culture you’ve experienced day after day, the unique knowledge you’ve gained, and the networking and language skill advances you’ve made, you’ll be ready to rock the rest of your college career and make a splash in your career.