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Beyond Borders: Why College Students Should Study Abroad

Studying abroad is your chance to experience new cultures and create unforgettable memories that will stay with you forever.

Barcelona, Prague, Berlin, and Seoul. Credit: Shutterstock/The Green Foto/NayaDadara/Mistervlad

Studying abroad is an exciting chance to experience new cultures and create unforgettable memories.

Many colleges offer the option of studying abroad, which allows students to continue their education in a foreign country. The number of students studying abroad has rebounded after a steady increase before COVID-19 and a drastic decrease after 2020.

Most colleges and universities have a study abroad office to help you find an option that fits your degree and schedule. The programs range from a week or two, a quarter a semester, to even a year or longer.

The Colosseum Amphitheater with the sunrise through the entranceway.
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Credit: Shutterstock/Sean Pavone.

You might not have another opportunity to travel to a different country for a while after graduating college. With study abroad, your college will set you up with what you need, offering a perfect chance to travel.

While many students choose university-led programs, there are other options for students to explore. The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) is one organization that offers college student programs.

CIEE offers programs for semester, summer, and January terms, as well as international internships. Explore the CIEE website to uncover the vast range of opportunities it offers!

Inside study abroad

Aerial view of Train passing through Swiss Alps snowy mountain in Filisur, Switzerland.
Train passing through Swiss Alps. Credit: Shutterstock/Guitar photographer

If you do a program through your college, you will study at a partner university in a foreign country. This often includes arranged housing in a dormitory and group excursions.

According to Open Doors data, the top 5 study abroad destinations from 2021/22 were Italy, the UK, Spain, France, and Germany. Almost half of the students in that academic year traveled during the summer term.

You may go on group activities like day trips to neighboring cities, visits to museums, or hikes. You may also choose to go on your own or with a group of friends to another city or even a different country.

Over half of U.S. study abroad students go to Europe, where traveling between countries is typically very easy. The affordable and fast European trains will become your friend if you choose Europe as your destination.

Classes you take during a study abroad should earn you credit in your home college. Sometimes, professors from the U.S. will assist in teaching classes in English. Many students also take it as an opportunity to strengthen their skills in a foreign language by enrolling in classes taught in that language.

Fostering personal growth

I believe that one of the most valuable outcomes you can get from studying abroad is becoming more independent. Many people might fear finding their way around a foreign country, but doing it is the only way you’ll learn.

Being in a new country without your parents or usual support system can help you gain skills like navigating, problem-solving, and adapting to unfamiliar situations.

You may often find yourself outside of your comfort zone, doing things you would never get the chance to do at home.

Hikers going uphill on a path next to a river and mountains.
Hiking in Zillertal, Austria. Credit: Shutterstock/Dave Z

Exposure to new places, cultures, and activities will help you grow and mature. Plus, any challenges you may face while traveling in a foreign country will help you build resilience.

Interacting with people from a different country will let you hear new perspectives and work with diverse people. Experiencing a different way of life by observing the world around you can help you become more well-rounded.

Many people meet new friends in their host country and stay in contact with them after they leave!

Studying abroad can even be an opportunity to explore your own cultural background. Student Gemma Colsanti wrote for IES Abroad about her decision to study abroad in Italy, explaining that as an Italian American, she never felt fully immersed in Italian culture.

After learning about her college’s Italian study abroad program, she wrote, “I knew I wanted to go back to Italy with the ability to speak to my family there.”

The professional benefits

Not only does studying abroad help you grow as a person, but it also makes you competitive in the workforce. Adaptability and readiness for challenges are fundamental skills for any line of work.

Cross-cultural communication is becoming increasingly important in the workforce. It comes from an understanding of people from different cultures. Studying abroad exposes you to cultures with different communication styles.

Meeting people abroad is a great way to network and could lead to bigger opportunities. Having firsthand international experience is very useful, and going to another country for your education shows employers that you took the initiative to get there.

Overall, studying abroad can help you strengthen your career skills and make you more employable.

Going abroad on a budget

A body of water surrounded by mountains and houses, under blue aurora borealis.
Aurora borealis over Hamnoy in Norway, one of the cheapest countries to study abroad. Credit: Shutterstock/lazydog20

Many people want to study abroad, but the costs associated with it stop them from exploring their options. However, there are many ways to stay on a budget.

First, applying for scholarships and grants is a great and easily accessible way of decreasing the cost of your study abroad. The US DOS lists some programs that help provide students with funding.

Choosing a destination country with an affordable cost of living could significantly reduce the cost of your time abroad.

Student Bailey Gregory has written a helpful guide about budgeting your study abroad trip. Having good spending habits can make a big difference when you are worried about finances as a student.

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Written By

Tenley Brown is a sophomore in college studying anthropology. She loves traveling and learning about different cultures.

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