The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad (+ Popular Programs to Consider)
“I regret studying abroad,” said no one ever.
Year after year, the number of students studying abroad continues to increase. Personal and professional development aside, study abroad gives students the opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime.
As someone who has studied abroad, I’ll warn you: I am biased. But, after you read our list of pros and cons, you’ll see why.
Get to travel and see the world
For traditional college students, studying full-time means you have less family responsibilities, and, most significantly, no full-time job to tie you to one place. For many, studying abroad in college is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the world and travel to new places. If you decide to live in a country in Europe, for example, going from country to country is relatively easy. If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the world and weren’t sure how to do it, studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to do so.
Use your financial aid for a life-changing experience
Depending on your program, you could be able to use your financial aid package towards the tuition to study abroad. Rather than spending three and a half months or so at your home institution, why not use your financial aid to get out of your comfort zone, learn more about another culture, and see more of the world?
Learn to be flexible and adaptable
With all of the unknowns that come with studying abroad, you’ll sharpen your ability to navigate uncertainty and roll with the punches. Whether it’s learning to be flexible with a strict professor or accepting that travel doesn't always go as planned, you’ll be placed in situations that push you to accept the present and solve problems without panic.
Since 2008, anxiety in college students has nearly doubled. When you’re personally dealing with anxiety, leaving your comfort zone to study abroad sounds counterintuitive. But, you have to remember that you won’t be going abroad alone. You’ll either be going with other students from your university or as a part of a program that takes students nationwide. The support system around you will guide you through the ups and downs of living in another country, and ultimately will help you manage your anxiety.
89% of study abroad alumni reported that study abroad facilitated a greater tolerance for ambiguity.
Develop Confidence in Yourself
It’s one thing to live on campus. It’s a whole other to live abroad. When you’re abroad, you can’t call home as frequently as you might have on campus. In addition to being an ocean away from your friends and family, you have to learn how to navigate a new culture, with new customs, and sometimes even a new language.
Back home, when you’re living on campus, you’ll develop a level of confidence. Your parents aren’t cooking dinner or telling you when it’s time to eat. You come and go as you please. You have the independence and the responsibility of determining your own schedule and deciding how you spend your time. Abroad, you have even more independence. Even with your classmates around you, you’re going to be in a completely new situation and you’ll have to learn to adapt. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’ll find a new level of confidence in yourself that you’ll carry with you from here on out.
96% of study abroad alumni claimed an increase in self-confidence attributed to study abroad.
Make Lifelong Friends
Throughout college, you’ll build relationships with your roommates, classmates, and everyone in between. You’ll create memories that last a lifetime. But even with the other strong relationships you build in college, there’s nothing quite like a study abroad friend.
Instead of football games and late night study sessions, you carry the memories of that weekend in Paris or that week you toured Italy together. Those who’ve studied abroad together have experienced the most transformative and life-changing journey together, and have stronger ties because of it.
Stand out in the job search
Employers know that students who study abroad have competitive skills that will make them successful in their careers. From communication to adaptability and problem-solving, employers like to see study abroad on job applications and resumes.
For me, seven years later, employers still ask about my study abroad experience. By now, it’s just one line on my resume, but it’s a conversation starter. And sometimes, a good conversation with your prospective employer could make the difference between getting the job or not.
97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, when only 49% of college graduates found employment in the same period
Cost of the program
If you’re looking at a program offered through a college other than your home institution, or another study abroad program, the cost difference might be significant. For a more budget-friendly option, try to apply to a study abroad program at your school.
Along with the cost of the actual program, keep in mind that your budget for recreation will go up. You’ll want to travel, visit new places, try new experiences while you’re abroad.
Not getting to work while you’re abroad
The sooner you decide that you want to study abroad, the better -- that way you can start saving up and picking up some extra shifts for your travel money. While you’re abroad, your only focus will be school and travel. Not being able to work for a whole semester might put a strain on your wallet, but the payoff is well worth it.
Missing out on time with family and friends
When you’re studying abroad, “Even communication, like calling and texting, is more complicated.”
If you’re worried about missing out on time with your friends, remember that the transformative three to four months of your life abroad will last longer than the half a dozen social events you’ll miss on your home campus. If you’re really worried about it, try to find a friend who will go with you so you can enjoy the experience together.
POPULAR STUDY ABROAD PROGRAMS
GoAbroad provides a list of the top study abroad programs, here are a few:
American Institute for Foreign Study: Study Abroad in Barcelona
College Year in Athens: Study Abroad in Greece
Study Abroad & Spanish Immersion in Heredia, Costa Rica
IES Abroad Siena Summer - Tradition & Cuisine in Tuscany
The Princeton Review lists the colleges with the most popular study abroad programs based on student opinion. See full list here.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY
Goucher College, Baltimore, MD
Elon University, Elon, NC
University of Dallas, Irving, TX
Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
Even with the whirlwind of homesickness--from missing your best friend to missing your favorite buffalo chicken sandwich--you’re going to miss study abroad once you return. It isn’t just a cliche: Study abroad truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity that will pave the way for success in your career and transform you in a way you never thought possible.