At a time when businesses will let you work with them regardless of your inexperience, students are passing up chances to take internships, volunteer locally and the most amazing of all, travel abroad. While it's not pivotal that you spend a year (or semester) in another country, no one ever comes back regretting the time they spent abroad.
As a two time study abroad participant as well as former employee at my university's study abroad office, I witnessed daily how the months spent oversees benefit students both personally and professionally upon their return.
1. Broaden your knowledge.Although I recommend all students, regardless of major, take the opportunity to study abroad, I am especially passionate about people studying in a location that will benefit them academically. Whether you study art, history or the environment, there's a university somewhere that can provide knowledge and experiences that your campus cannot.
2. The perfect icebreaker.I cant count the number of times my time abroad has been a topic of discussion during a job interview, whether brought up due to it being on my resume or naturally throughout the course of the conversation. Your time spent learning and traveling is not only relatable to many, but much more interesting than the everyday facts people swap when they first meet.
3. Learn a new language.The easiest way to learn something quickly is to be thrown into a situation where you'll need the skill. Many of my friends chose to travel to Costa Rica or France, where learning a new language was less about hours spent over a textbook and more about interacting with locals who were happy to introduce them to their native language.
4. Independence is learned.While every college student likes to believe that they are 100% independent, especially if they no longer live at home, the truth is many of us are not. Flying thousands of miles away from home will make it harder to drive home to do your laundry or call your mom when you need some help. The distance will teach you how to rely on yourself, which will be more useful than you can imagine once you graduate college and enter the real world.
5. True friendships will emerge.This one may or may not be a perk, and I know two years ago I wouldn't agree with what I'm about to say, but studying abroad will teach you who your real friends are. During my time abroad I went out of my way countless times to try to keep in touch with all my friends back home. What I learned after so many unanswered Skype calls and a lonely first few weeks back in the states was that many friends were content with me not being around. Don't be too bummed out though, because between the new friends you make and the ones that stick by your side, you won't be lonely for long.
6. Universities can fund your trip.Working alongside the study abroad office taught me that many universities have a budget to fund student's trips abroad. Apart from offering grants, scholarships are often available and are much less competitive than ordinary academic scholarships.
7. Opportunity to travel.Studying abroad automatically implies you'll be traveling somewhere, but few people know how easy it is to travel from country to country when outside the United States. During my time in the United Kingdom, I spent five weeks backpacking through Europe with nothing more than a train pass. While I don't know too much about travel in South America, Europe makes it very easy and affordable to travel on a budget.
8. Gain work experience.Studying abroad doesn't have to be all about taking classes and traveling when you have the chance. There are programs specifically dedicated to give you the opportunity to intern or work while abroad. While many study abroad programs that focus on the environment and science offer volunteer opportunities, there is a rise in popularity for colleges of business and technology to offer exchange programs that include the chance to intern/work abroad in a related field.
9. Expand your social network.Studying abroad will introduce you to multiple new communities. You'll form friendships with students at your new university, bonds with peers who are also going abroad, as well as having the opportunity to network with past alumni from the same university you once attended. A few months abroad will leave you with a lifetime of friends and peers to count on later in life.
10. Once in a lifetime experience.I know, I know, all of your friends who have studied abroad say the experience changed their life and won't shut up about how it changed their perspective on life. The thing is, they're not lying. I cant possibly write out how studying abroad makes you thankful for everything you have while simultaneously leaving you always wanting for more. If you have the opportunity, take it, I promise you wont regret it.
If you've studied abroad, what was the most valuable thing you got out of it? And if you haven't, where is your dream destination and why?