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5 Surprising Benefits of Studying Abroad (Including Affordability!)

5 Surprising Benefits of Studying Abroad (Including Affordability!)

Most young people dream of seeing the world and experiencing cultures vastly different than their own. While traveling is a great opportunity to do this, it pales in comparison with actually living abroad, which is a tad bit more complicated than organizing a journey as tourist. What most students in the US don’t realize is that studying abroad is a very real and very affordable solution.

Studying abroad, especially when seeking higher education, is a solution with a lot of benefits.

So what are the positive aspects of studying in a foreign country?

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1. You can actually save money by studying abroad

It may seem like sending a son or daughter abroad to get an education is a tremendous strain on the family budget, but when you do some number crunching, things stop looking so grim. First of all, tuition costs in the USA are very high for higher education institutions, especially for those that are considered to be the best. Parents dish out around $60,000 per year to provide their children with a proper degree. After all, statistics show that almost 50% of people in the UK  are struggling with debt. The situation isn’t all that peachy in the US either, being that the average credit card debt is $15,706 and the average student loan debt is $32,953. These, and other financial struggles, are things most households experience first hand. Hence, it’s easy to understand why alternative solutions need to be available.

In Germany and many other European countries, the government covers most of the costs, and their schools provide great programs in English for graduates and undergraduates, including testing. There are 900 programs to pick from just in Germany. This is just the peak of the iceberg, and if you do your research you are going to realize that the cost of studying abroad is actually quite affordable for a lot of American families.

2. You get foreign language exposure

We all learn a second language at school, but due to the lack of a proper language-learning environment most of us end up with only a rudimentary understanding of another language. Only those talented enough, or motivated to do extra work on their own, manage to hold on to a more tangible skill-set. This is why moving to a foreign country and being exposed to a foreign language on a daily basis will give any individual an opportunity to bring their language skills close to native. Learning a new language can seem frightening to a lot of people but if you do your research and prepare for the process it will go quite smoothly.

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People who speak two or more languages are highly valued at most companies, and this kind of skill can provide young students with an edge when scouting for a job.

3. You become independent and self-sufficient

There are few things that can prepare you for living alone and looking after yourself, like actually living alone and looking after yourself. I mean yes, there is a transitional period which can be stressful and annoying, but you’ll get used to it soon enough. Not having anyone else to blame for your dirty room, laundry, smelly sheets or whatever chore you choose to disregard on a regular basis really helps strengthen your character. And you need these things in order to gain the confidence to make important life decisions. In some cases parents may be concerned about their children’s safety while studying abroad but truth be told a lot of European cities that have a “reputation” are actually quite safe, Amsterdam being the prime example.

Being abroad means no friends, no parents, no neighbors and a completely new culture that demands you adapt. It is a big change, and it will move you to the core, but once you manage to surpass these differences you’ll come out a different person, ready for any new challenge thrown your way. Getting organized and focusing on your studies is something you need to get under control as soon as possible, so you can adapt quicker. There are more than a few things that can help you out. Once you get things under control and adapt to the educational system of your school of choice, then you can use your spare time to explore the interesting culture you are exposed to.

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4. You gain connections across the sea

You will develop connections all over the world. Chances are, if there are students from the US attending that school, there are students from other countries as well. It is an invaluable business asset for any professional to have business connections in their own niche, spread out across the globe. It gives these young souls the chance to play off each other’s environments and broaden their understanding of the work they pursue. It can also open up some pretty great business opportunities in the global job market.

5. You discover yourself as well as the world

Immersing yourself in a foreign culture, and spending a couple of years in an environment you are not used to, gives individuals an opportunity to grow. You think about things you never would have thought about before, and you realize how different, yet similar people everywhere are. Once you’ve spent some time abroad, you begin to understand how cultural differences can cause breakdowns in communication between cultures. This can then create an impression of another country being foreign and alien, when, in truth, all that we need to do is devote more time to understanding each other. Becoming a true cosmopolitan (citizen of the world) is rarely something that you can do without getting in touch with a culture that is foreign to you. Experiencing a culture that is new to you comes creates insights and even regular travelers learn something about themselves and the world within limited time frames; imagine what will happen when you decide to take your time.

Choosing to study abroad is a big move, and an ambitious one at that, but it isn’t something that is impossible to achieve. If you are not sure that you can pull it off, do your research before actually giving up on the whole idea. After all, there are thousands of great schools out there, and you might run into something you like and can afford.

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Furthermore, I see no reason why the country a school you like is located in should be a factor. Don’t let your fear and anxiety, or even worse, other people’s doomsayer attitudes impact your decision. This is a step few decide to take, but very few regret it as well- so, that’s something to think about.

Featured photo credit: summer idyll / Charles Clegg via flickr.com

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Aleksandar Ilic

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Published on January 30, 2019

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

How to Support a Working Mother as a Working Father

In roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under the age of 18, both parents work full time. But who takes time off work when the kids are sick in your house? And if you are a manager, how do you react when a man says he needs time to take his baby to the pediatrician?

The sad truth is, the default in many companies and families is to value the man’s work over the woman’s—even when there is no significant difference in their professional obligations or compensation. This translates into stereotypes in the workplace that women are the primary caregivers, which can negatively impact women’s success on the job and their upward mobility.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of long-term time-use data (1965–2011), fathers in dual-income couples devote significantly less time than mothers do to child care.[1] Dads are doing more than twice as much housework as they used to (from an average of about four hours per week to about 10 hours), but there is still a significant imbalance.

This is not just an issue between spouses; it’s a workplace culture issue. In many offices, it is still taboo for dads to openly express that they have family obligations that need their attention. In contrast, the assumption that moms will be on the front lines of any family crisis is one that runs deep.

Consider an example from my company. A few years back, one of our team members joined us for an off-site meeting soon after returning from maternity leave. Not even two hours into her trip, her husband called to say that the baby had been crying nonstop. While there was little our colleague could practically do to help with the situation, this call was clearly unsettling, and the result was that her attention was divided for the rest of an important business dinner.

This was her first night away since the baby’s birth, and I know that her spouse had already been on several business trips before this event. Yet, I doubt she called him during his conferences to ask child-care questions. Like so many moms everywhere, she was expected to figure things out on her own.

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The numbers show that this story is far from the exception. In another Pew survey, 47 percent of dual-income parents agreed that the moms take on more of the work when a child gets sick.[2] In addition, 39 percent of working mothers said they had taken a significant amount of time off from work to care for their child compared to just 24 percent of working fathers. Mothers are also more likely than fathers (27 percent to 10 percent) to say they had quit their job at some point for family reasons.

Before any amazing stay-at-home-dads post an angry rebuttal comment, I want to be very clear that I am not judging how families choose to divide and conquer their personal and professional responsibilities; that’s 100 percent their prerogative. Rather, I am taking aim at the culture of inequity that persists even when spouses have similar or identical professional responsibilities. This is an important issue for all of us because we are leaving untapped business and human potential on the table.

What’s more, I think my fellow men can do a lot about this. For those out there who still privately think that being a good dad just means helping out mom, it’s time to man up. Stop expecting working partners—who have similar professional responsibilities—to bear the majority of the child-care responsibilities as well.

Consider these ways to support your working spouse:

1. Have higher expectations for yourself as a father; you are a parent, not a babysitter.

Know who your pediatrician is and how to reach him or her. Have a back-up plan for transportation and emergency coverage.

Don’t simply expect your partner to manage all these invisible tasks on her own. Parenting takes effort and preparation for the unexpected.

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As in other areas of life, the way to build confidence is to learn by doing. Moms aren’t born knowing how to do this stuff any more than dads are.

2. Treat your partner the way you’d want to be treated.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a man on a business trip say to his wife on a call something to the effect of, “I am in the middle of a meeting. What do you want me to do about it?”

However, when the tables are turned, men often make that same call at the first sign of trouble.

Distractions like this make it difficult to focus and engage with work, which perpetuates the stereotype that working moms aren’t sufficiently committed.

When you’re in charge of the kids, do what she would do: Figure it out.

3. When you need to take care of your kids, don’t make an excuse that revolves around your partner’s availability.

This implies that the children are her first priority and your second.

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I admit I have been guilty in the past of telling clients, “I have the kids today because my wife had something she could not move.” What I should have said was, “I’m taking care of my kids today.”

Why is it so hard for men to admit they have personal responsibilities? Remember that you are setting an example for your sons and daughters, and do the right thing.

4. As a manager, be supportive of both your male and female colleagues when unexpected situations arise at home.

No one likes or wants disruptions, but life happens, and everyone will face a day when the troubling phone call comes from his sitter, her school nurse, or even elderly parents.

Accommodating personal needs is not a sign of weakness as a leader. Employees will be more likely to do great work if they know that you care about their personal obligations and family—and show them that you care about your own.

5. Don’t keep score or track time.

At home, it’s juvenile to get into debates about who last changed a diaper or did the dishes; everyone needs to contribute, but the big picture is what matters. Is everyone healthy and getting enough sleep? Are you enjoying each other’s company?

In business, too, avoid the trap of punching a clock. The focus should be on outcomes and performance rather than effort and inputs. That’s the way to maintain momentum toward overall goals.

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The Bottom Line

To be clear, I recognize that a great many working dads are doing a terrific job both on the home front and in their professional lives. My concern is that these standouts often aren’t visible to their colleagues; they intentionally or inadvertently let their work as parents fly under the radar. Dads need to be open and honest about family responsibilities to change perceptions in the workplace.

The question “How do you balance it all?” should not be something that’s just asked of women. Frankly, no one can answer that question. Juggling a career and parental responsibilities is tough. At times, really tough.

But it’s something that more parents should be doing together, as a team. This can be a real bonus for the couple relationship as well, because nothing gets in the way of good partnership faster than feelings of inequity.

On the plus side, I can tell you that parenting skills really do get better with practice—and that’s great for people of both sexes. I think our cultural expectations that women are the “nurturers” and men are the “providers” needs to evolve. Expanding these definitions will open the doors to richer contributions from everyone, because women can and should be both—and so should men.

Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

Reference

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