For many students, the opportunity to study abroad is an exciting prospect. When done well, studying abroad can also offer certain concrete advantages for future education and employment opportunities. By studying abroad, students can gain foreign language skills, engage in international research, dispel stereotypes, and become more well-rounded global citizens. These benefits have countless positive implications for future academic and employment prospects.
Foreign Language Acquisition
One of the most popular reasons to study in another country is foreign language acquisition. By studying in non-English-speaking countries, students have the opportunity to develop and hone foreign language skills in an immersive setting. Through immersion in a foreign language environment, students are able to develop more natural language skills in a real-world environment. Many students find that even a short amount of time in an immersive setting produces faster language acquisition than with traditional classroom instruction. For writer Katheryn Rivas, language immersion was a way to let go of inhibitions: “And when you lose this fear, you open yourself up to authentic conversation practice, one in which you learn as you go.”
For students interested in specific research topics, studying abroad offers the opportunity to access archives and institutions first-hand. In addition to accessing institutions and documents, students can interview local people and study local practices. International research can be especially beneficial for historians, economists, anthropologists, and social scientists who study particular regions. Studying abroad can facilitate the gathering of data for publications or academic research projects.
Breaking Down Stereotypes
The diminishing of stereotypes is perhaps a less obvious benefit of studying abroad. However, spending time in a foreign country can improve perceptions in two ways. First, through personal experience, the student can learn to recognize and critique previously held stereotypes about the host country. Second, students abroad act as cultural ambassadors of their home countries; a positive impression in a foreign country can help dispel negative stereotypes about the U.S.
In this era of globalization, it is more important than ever for students to understand their status as global citizens. By studying abroad, they can learn how to interact with foreign cultures, establishing cross-cultural networks with far-reaching benefits. This cultural awareness can position a student for future educational or business opportunities in the host country or region. As Allan Goodman and Stacie Nevadomski Berdan have noted in the New York Times, “Globalization is here to stay, and students who want to work in our interconnected global world should study abroad.”
Studying abroad supplies a range of benefits academically and professionally. After leaving school, few people have the opportunity to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time. Studying abroad can be an effective way to finance this experience while gaining access to local educational institutions and resources. Moreover, foreign language speakers are increasingly in demand in a range of professions, and international networks are more important than ever in the globalized context. By choosing to study abroad, students can take advantage of these opportunities, qualifying themselves for various academic and professional positions.