Photo Credit: Yingchou Han
5 Benefits Of Seeking Out Study Abroad Opportunities
Study abroad: the ability to combine your studies with exploring the world. It’s an amazing opportunity, and you’ll reap the benefits for years to come.
Travel provides an education that can’t be replicated, whether you’re a college student doing a semester abroad, or a non-traditional student looking to expand your horizons in your older years. And if you’re able to hop around between countries easily, as you can in Europe, this will further enhance your study abroad experience.
Here are five reasons to consider a study abroad program.
1. Improve Language Fluency
Learning a language is a challenge that requires discipline and commitment. Not everybody cares s for a classroom setting; the tests, essays, and homework can be a bore. That said, learning a language in a classroom is invaluable, because in order to speak fluently, you must understand grammar and structure.
But the classroom won’t teach you how to apply your language skills in the real world, and this is where studying abroad is so invaluable. The fastest track to proficiency is immersion. When you hear the same language all day, you can’t help but pick up something.
Remember, the more languages you know, the broader your communication abilities will be, and that can only be an asset.
2. Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Some people prefer to stay in their comfortable bubbles and have no desire to venture beyond them. But if you do take the plunge, you won’t regret it.
Generally, study abroad programs are structured to include academics and cultural events, with gaps in the itinerary that allow you to do your own thing.
Take advantage of the free time as often as you can. Get out there and interact with the locals, using whatever language skills you have. When you go to a restaurant in Italy, instead of pointing at what you want on a menu, say it to the waiter. It may not be perfect, but you’re trying, and that won’t go unnoticed.
Going to Spain for the first time? Get ready to witness the siesta, a few hours taken in the afternoon for workers to nap or have lunch at home. If you’re from New York, the city of 24/7 hustle culture, this will surely be a culture shock for you. But if nothing else, you’ll realize that the Spaniards may be on to something as it relates to work and life balance.
Are you used to having access to 24 hour shops? You might find a few in Cardiff, the capital of Wales. But sleepy little Aberystwyth? Nope. Do your shopping during normal business hours, and be prepared to hear more Welsh than English, as the people are very passionate about their language. Welsh is difficult, so if you can manage even a few words, kudos!
3. Expand Your Palate
Barring serious dietary restrictions, you should try some delicacies native to where you’re staying.
You’ll find McDonald’s in plenty of countries, and sure, the fries are delicious. But do you really have to go there in Jamaica? Why not patronize a cute little mom-and-pop shack on the side of the road, serving fresh, chemical-free food? Or check out The Pork Pit in Montego Bay, which offers Jerk chicken straight off the grill?
McDonald’s isn’t going anywhere. It’ll be waiting for you when you get home, additives and all.
Language schools such as International House in Madrid, or Cuauhnáhuac in Cuernavaca, Mexico, are designed to bring students from around the world together.
You’ll have to converse with your peers as part of your assignments, but if you are able to strike up conversation outside of class, you never know where that might lead. A business venture? Friendship? Maybe a hot new romance? Dip your toe in new waters and see.
When your study abroad program is over, you won’t have to send a Western Union telegram that may or may not reach the other person. Social media makes it easier than ever before to keep in touch.
5. It Looks Good On A Resume
If you’re applying for a position where speaking another language, or understanding a foreign culture is required, you’ll be grateful for having studied abroad.
Some study abroad programs require you to do an internship. If you’re an art major, for example, you might be placed in a school where you’ll have to teach art to students in Spanish, French, or whatever the dominant language is. You’ll likely be aided by a native speaker who can jump in when you can’t quite get out what you want to say.
It’s not easy to thrust yourself into a new culture, let alone teach in a new language, and that’s bound to make your resume stand out.