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20 Big Reasons Study Abroad Should Be Required Today

by Staff Writers

Studying abroad is a great way to find growth, career inspiration, and great experiences, but so many students today don’t get to experience this type of learning. In fact, only 1% of all students enrolled in higher education institutions today choose to study abroad. The cost of travel, fear, and an unwillingness to miss out on precious time at school are major reasons why so many students never go overseas for education, but we’d like to see students overcome these obstacles and enjoy the benefits of learning in another country. Read on to learn why studying abroad is such an important experience, and why many believe that study abroad programs should be required for higher education students today.

  1. There’s no better way to learn a language:

    Students today need to be linguistically and culturally competent enough to meet the international demands of business, government, and other institutions. But colleges are struggling to graduate students that can keep up. With a study abroad experience, students are immersed in a new language, and forced to quickly adapt and learn how to communicate, a skill that is highly useful in a variety of situations back home.

  2. Students become more creative:

    Whether it’s through entrepreneurship, science, or art, creativity and ingenuity are valuable skills for students to develop, and a great way to do just that is to travel abroad. According to the American Psychological Association, living abroad increases a student’s ability to be more creative.

  3. It’s a great way to discover new strengths:

    Studying abroad presents students with new situations on a regular basis, offering opportunities for learning new skills, solving problems, and resolving challenges that may not have been experienced at home. This experience can help students become more adaptable to new situations when they came home.

  4. Study abroad students are simply more employable:

    Research from GO GLOBAL! indicates that nearly every time, students with study abroad experience will be hired over those who have not gone abroad. This is especially true for students pursuing careers in business. Employers can appreciate that students have taken the extra step to not just travel abroad, but to study in another country, learning a new language, culture, and way of life.

  5. They get promoted faster, too:

    Students who not only study abroad, but work abroad, have a major advantage over their peers. A Forbes article indicates that candidates with foreign experience in China and Brazil get a major boost when it comes to promotion, as much as a year or two faster on the promotion track.

  6. The State Department desperately needs candidates with study abroad experience:

    Study abroad programs offer Americans benefits in the form of experience and language skills, skills that can be put to use for national security in the State Department. Although the State Department has programs to help fill this need, an uptick in students who have studied abroad would offer a much better pool of applicants to choose from.

  7. Medical students can study new illnesses:

    Students with international clinical rotation are exposed to illnesses and clinical presentations that they just don’t get access to in their own schools. This is incredibly helpful for public health in the case of pandemics, rare diseases, and unusual presentations.

  8. Improved communication skills:

    Studying abroad isn’t just useful for developing language learning; it’s a great way to improve communication skills in general. As students navigate daily life in a foreign country, they learn how to bridge the gap between the communication they’re used to and the way native speakers communicate with one another. This experience is incredibly helpful for learning how to communicate across different cultures, at home and abroad.

  9. A break from academic routine:

    After a couple years in college, some students may feel like they’re stuck in a rut and would welcome a break from daily college life. Some leave to take this break and never come back. But taking a break in the form of studying abroad could prove to be a welcome change from the routine of regular college, keeping students engaged and interested in education instead of becoming burnt out.

  10. Operating outside of defined comfort zones:

    At home, students may not have the chance to take many classes outside of their area of study, but studying abroad can present this type of opportunity. Studying a new subject or developing a new skill can be scary, but it builds character and makes students more willing to take on new challenges, a skill that is incredibly valuable in the workplace and in life.

  11. Developing lifelong learning:

    Lifelong learning has a host of benefits, supporting a curious, hungry mind. Studying abroad is a great way to spark a love of full-time learning. When traveling outside of their home country, students learn that even mundane experiences like grocery shopping can become educational, and visits to museums and cultural sites are seen for their true value. As these students come home, they may find that their thirst for knowledge has grown and want to spend more time exploring educational activities in their own communities.

  12. Studying abroad fosters independence:

    So many students today are the product of helicopter parenting, households in which students are often too sheltered and taken care of to learn how to embrace independence. Studying abroad offers an opportunity for students to develop this independence and learn how to take care of themselves as they see just how much they can do on their own, in a foreign country no less.

  13. Study abroad is a training ground for future global leaders:

    Study abroad education fosters growth and attitudes that are respectful of all countries, not just a student’s home country. According to IES Abroad, one of the goals of study abroad is to create future global leaders who are "willing to take a stand for the world’s welfare, not just what benefits a specific country." This eye-opening experience can help create a world of mutual global respect.

  14. Study abroad offers a lesson in red tape:

    Every young adult can benefit from a lesson in dealing with the intricacies of red tape and administration, which they will almost certainly experience in their adult and working lives. Applying for study abroad scholarships, visas, foreign degree certifications, and more can offer an opportunity for learning to work through difficult administrative situations while still having access to helpful resources like parents and school administrators.

  15. An expanded worldview:

    You can read books, study photographs, listen to music, and even video-conference with people across the world, but there’s just no substitute for actually being there. Students who study abroad can become more open-minded to the world with an insider’s perspective on another country. TransitionsAbroad.com indicated that nearly every student they surveyed, 98%, said that studying abroad helped them to better understand cultural views and biases.

  16. International networking:

    Those who study abroad with students from other countries are bound to make friends along the way. Many students with study abroad experience report creating international friendships that have lasted for decades. As they create friendships with fellow international students, and even locals, study abroad participants are creating networking opportunities around the world.

  17. A refined view of the future:

    It is not at all uncommon for students to change their major or take a new career direction after studying abroad. The experience allows students to get a new perspective on how the world works, while also discovering new interests and skills that might be better utilized in studies and work that are a bit different than what they originally set out to do.

  18. Better social skills:

    Many students have spent their entire academic lives surrounded by other students and friends that they’ve known for years. But in a foreign country, you know almost no one, and are forced to make new friends. This skill is incredibly valuable when it comes time to join the workforce, learn how to network, and collaborate with new people in the workplace.

  19. A new perspective on domestic issues:

    The country you live in isn’t the only one with great ideas, but sometimes it can be difficult to get exposed to the insight of different countries. Studying abroad allows students to get an understanding of how other countries are dealing with issues like energy and economics, knowledge that can be put to work back home.

  20. Studying abroad improves educational outcomes:

    The Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative has discovered that studying abroad, thought by some to be a distraction, is quite good for educational outcomes. They’ve found that students who study abroad perform better academically upon their return, and tend to graduate at higher rates than their peers who have not studied in another country. Requiring study abroad experiences could be a great way to help retain and improve educational outcomes for at-risk students.