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?
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.
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.
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.
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