Posted on September 03 2015
Sipping coffee in Paris, walking along the Thames in England, or exploring the vibrant culture of India, all before you even get your first real job? Sounds like a dream—and it can be- for students who choose to study abroad. It can also be a nightmare for students who aren’t prepared or don’t adjust well to life in a foreign country. Below are a few pros and cons to consider about studying abroad.
Dreamy-eyed, travel-yearning students might be able to list several potential pros to traveling abroad, and they are likely right. The experience often leads to cherished memories and a broadened sense of cultural variety in the world. Because it often stretches a student’s comfort zone and forces more independent thinking, studying abroad fosters increased confidence and leadership skills. Here are a few of the pros:
You can experience a new culture
One of the most compelling reasons for studying abroad is to experience a new culture. Many students intentionally seek out exotic locales to give them a broader perspective of the world. It’s also one of the best times in life to discover this cultural experience. Think about it- you don’t have to take time out of your career, you can choose to stay for as little as a few weeks or as long as a year, and you can experience the world and actually get school credit in return.
Language immersion is a great way to learn a new language
Do you remember trying to learn a second language in high school? How easy was it for that language to sink in? Now imagine learning words and phrases and then getting a chance to use them everywhere you go. Now how much do you think you’d retain? Many students report that this type of language immersion made it easy for them to get the hang of actually applying the language skill they’ve learned.
It looks good on a resume
Not only do you get to experience a new culture and possible fluency in a second language, study abroad experience looks great on a resume. As business continues to expand its relations in a global economy, a candidate that has experience living in another country becomes an asset. It also tells employers that the candidate is an independent thinker who isn’t afraid to experience new things.
Sounds pretty good so far, right? You may be wondering if there is any downside. Well there are a few possible issues that can make your study experience abroad one you want to forget.
Language barriers can make everyday life hard
Piecing together some crude Spanish or French sentences may not be difficult when you are on vacation and want to order a pastry, but that process can get mighty frustrating when you have to do that to take care of your daily needs. It can be especially maddening when you are already in a situation that’s taxing your patience—say, you took a wrong turn and are lost in the city.
Unfamiliar customs can make you feel uncomfortable
While one of the benefits of studying abroad is to experience other customs, in some countries the customs may be so different from your own that it serves as a constant reminder that you are an outsider. For instance, when you are ordering in a restaurant in your chosen country, should you leave a tip? If you are visiting a home in a certain country, do you remove your shoes when you enter? Then there are some customs you may understand but just not feel comfortable performing. This culture shock, even if it’s minor, can be a major deterrent to your assimilation.
Language barriers, unfamiliar customs and loneliness can all lead to homesickness. Sure, it seems that the excitement of living in a new country would be enough to stave off homesickness, but that’s not always the case. This is especially true if you’ve never spent significant time away from friends and family. Even if you are enjoying the experience you may find that you miss the familiar routines and activities you enjoyed at home.
As with any decision, it’s good to keep an open mind and weigh the pros and cons. Studying abroad is an experience that can shape your thinking, expand your horizons, and leave you with a scrapbook full of wonderful memories.