For even the most adventurous, the decision to study abroad isn’t easy. You’ll leave behind friends and family, and funding the experience on a student loan requires some forethought. You might be nervous about navigating an unfamiliar city or worried homesickness will get the better of you. But if you do decide to take the plunge, the benefits both professionally and personally can be enormous.
You can do some serious traveling
If you have itchy feet, studying abroad will satisfy your wanderlust without putting your education on hold. But even if you’re just a little bit curious about foreign study opportunities, you’re sure to catch the travel bug while you’re away. There’s no better way to get under the skin of a new culture than to live as part of it. And it won’t just be your study location that’s ripe for exploration; neighbouring countries will be easily accessible too. So you can pack your weekends and end-of-term holidays with fascinating trips, and bring home memories you’ll treasure forever.
You’ll grow as a person
In Mark Twain’s words, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Living abroad and travelling to different countries will expose you to new experiences and ideas. You’ll realise the way you’ve always done things isn’t the only way, perhaps, even, that it isn’t the right way. You’ll find yourself outside of your comfort zone, which is the ultimate catalyst for personal growth. Who needs safe when you can take a few risks and achieve something you’re really proud of? There’s nothing like conquering the many challenges living abroad presents – how to use the public transport system, communicating effectively with the locals, making friendships across cultures – to make you realise you’re capable of much more than you thought. You’ll return infinitely more independent, open-minded and confident.
You can learn a new language
Did you know studies have shown that learning a new language improves attention span, memory and the ability to multi-task? Well, the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, and the best way to immerse yourself is to live abroad. You’ll have the chance to hear and use the language every day, whether you’re communicating with fellow students, shop assistants, the bus conductor or friendly strangers in the local bar. And when you can apply what you’ve learned to your day-to-day life, you have a great incentive to keep on improving. With enough effort, you could be proficient within a year.
You’ll increase your employability
There’s no denying we’re living in a global world. And the broadening and deepening of world-wide interconnectedness is particularly relevant to the workplace. Adam Michaels at Strategy& (formerly known as Booz and Company) even goes as far as to say, “Globalisation has now become a requirement to compete and succeed.” So whether you want to go into finance or marketing, studying abroad is a great way to establish your international credentials. Stacie Berban, author of A Student Guide to Study Abroad, asked employers across a wide spectrum of industries and sectors why they favoured applicants who’d studied abroad. The top reasons were adaptability, listening and communication skills, and knowledge of another culture and language. In a tough job market, studying abroad will give you a significant edge.
You’ll make lifelong friends
If you’re worried about missing your friends and you think you’ll struggle to make new ones abroad, we’ve got news for you. One of the great things about being thrown in at the deep end is the meaningful connections you’ll forge with the people who help you stay afloat. This includes fellow students, both native and foreign, and the locals you’ll meet outside of your program. The friendships you’ll make, based on the experiences you’ve shared during the biggest adventure of your life, will last forever. So what are you waiting for?