Studying abroad can be a defining moment in the life of a young person. Its effects reinforce the idea that learning doesn’t occur only in the classroom, but everywhere you go with everyone you meet. The impact — emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and socially — of international study can last an entire lifetime, serving as a cornerstone of a student’s personal development and societal outlook.
International study isn’t for the meek — at least not for long. It takes maturity and self-confidence to fly yourself to a foreign land, absorb the culture and find your place in it. When you study abroad, you will learn how to interact with people of different faiths and ethnicities for the simple fact that you will have to do it, and that will help you develop maturity and self-confidence.
Study abroad programs are also often a student’s first experience being away from home for extended periods. As an international student, you will be largely on your own, making your own decisions and dealing with their consequences. It will help you develop the self-reliance and independence you will need to succeed later in life.
Studying abroad is an expensive proposition. In addition to the normal cost of schoolbooks, office supplies and transportation, international study involves air travel, food and lodging, international student health insurance and more. Because there is more at stake, international students are more keenly aware of the value of and their commitment to education. But this commitment doesn’t end with the school year. What you learn about the value of education while studying abroad can stick with you for a lifetime.
Through exposure to another culture’s daily struggles and tribulations in areas of knowledge that you might not have previously considered viable or important, international study also broadens your intellectual horizons.
You can’t talk about studying abroad without bringing up the concept of culture shock. Culture shock stems from not only recognizing how the culture at an international location is different from your own but from seeing how your personal values and mores are connected to your own culture.
When you study abroad, you get to see your culture through new eyes. You see people living and thriving without some of the things you consider necessities. This disillusionment can help you understand your own culture more objectively and adjust your relationship with the world for the better.
Studying in a foreign country — with weekend outings and interactions with other international students — can show you just how wide, varied and downright large the world really is while simultaneously shrinking that world.
International study creates a connection between you and your host country. Later in life, international news from that area no longer affects strange, foreign people in some far-off land, but classmates in the city you once called home. It brings the goings-on in another part of the world into your personal environment.
Studying abroad is exciting, scary, fulfilling, disillusioning and enriching. It’s an experience that will shape who you are, what you become, and how you interact with the world. It takes commitment to do successfully, and it will open your mind even further. Deciding to study abroad is a big decision, but it may be one of the best decisions you ever make.