What You Can Learn by Studying Abroad

by Grace Dickins

Studying overseas can be a life-changing experience. If you take some time to prepare, your study abroad program could end up being the high point of your college career. You have the potential both to gain academically and to see the world from a new perspective. In the words of Wendell Berry, "Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone."

How to Be a Global Citizen

By studying abroad, you can become a "global citizen" in a world that is becoming more interconnected each day. While "global citizenship" may sound like an odd term, it is actually a philosophical concept with origins in ancient Greece. You do not choose where you are born, but you can choose to live in an internationally sound way. The problems that face our world-climate change, epidemics, and inequality-require more cooperation between nations.

If you come from a school that included global studies or multi-cultural issues in its curriculum, you already have a good foundation. Overseas studies can heighten your awareness even more of how local and global issues are connected. Adopting the standard of global citizenship can lead to increased empathy and participation in your community, as well.

How to Speak a Foreign Language

When you study abroad, you can learn another language. Immersion is the key to fluency. If you have some knowledge of a language but want to become fully proficient, study abroad is a must. If you don't know a second language at all, opt for a study abroad program with intensive language courses. You will become more appealing to potential employers and will improve your communication skills. Becoming bilingual does not only offer financial and cultural benefits; neurological research indicates that speaking two languages actually improves brain functions.

How to Thrive in the Job World

Finally, study abroad can improve your job outlook. Awareness of different cultures and proficiency in a second language show potential employers you have the skills to excel in their companies. U.S. exports have climbed to over two trillion per year, so increasing numbers of companies require globally-minded workers. Critical thinking, independence, and flexibility, which are all developed by study abroad, improve your overall marketability.