Why Should Students Study Abroad?

About 3 years ago, Teach Thought was included at the table for the first White House Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship.  

We gathered in the shared belief that what is learned in the classroom only goes so far; there’s a whole world out there that is only learned through experience. Travel is and should be for everyone, regardless of financial or ethnic background, because everyone deserves the personal and professional transformation that comes with it.

With less than 10% of Americans studying abroad today, this inspiring group of 100 top influencers reunited in support of #studyabroadbecause, the movement that began in late 2014.  Led by Hostelling International USA (HI USA) and Partners of the Americas, this time the Summit took place at the HI NYC hostel and attracted a diverse range of influencers passionate about the cause, as well as iconic travel brands, like National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and Virgin Atlantic.

Together, this relatively small group achieved the inconceivable: in just 3 days, #studyabroadbecause yielded nearly 43 million impressions.

The message is hitting home. It’s being shared. People believe in the transformative power of travel and that the younger you start discovering the world, the better off you and the rest of the planet will be.

But it’s easier said than done. There are still endless objections to why “I can’t” or “it’s not for me.” As educators, let’s educate potential candidates on the surprising realities of study abroad. There are tons of resources available, and by shining a light on how to overcome these obstacles we can help move the needle.  

First, there are innumerable benefits of studying abroad that simply can’t be achieved from inside the classroom back at home. Here’s a look at some of the top benefits.

From Citizenship To Academics: 5 Benefits Of Studying Abroad

Personal Growth
Until you experience it for yourself, it’s hard to fully understand what the transformative power of travel really means – but it’s exactly that. When you’re out of your comfort zone, meeting people from different backgrounds and beliefs, and seeing the world through a different lens, you are forever changed.

You discover new things about yourself, as well as other people and places while developing a new confidence and curiosity for the world.  You’ll be forever changed, and arguably a better person.

Career Ambition
Many students struggle with what they want to do with their lives. But discovering new things about yourself can also lead to defining your career ambition. A new environment in a different country naturally lends itself to trying new things, developing new skills, and discovering opportunities you never knew existed.

Professional Growth
Successful businesses are thriving as a result of being on the pulse of the global economy, with clients, service providers, and staff dispersed around the world. It’s important for them to hire individuals who speak different languages, understand other cultures, and can navigate an international marketplace. Having a study abroad experience on your resume signifies that not only can you adapt to this environment, you’ll also be an asset.

Responsibility
Being abroad forces you to take independence to a new level. Friends and family you may have relied on for things like bills and budgeting, laundry, transportation, or taking care of you when you’re sick are no longer an option.

What may sound daunting at first, will turn into empowerment later, while building a personal sense of responsibility.

Global Citizenship
Travel invites you to experience a new way of life, breaking down cultural divides, stereotypes, and hate. It also builds friendships, understanding, and respect for other ways of life, helping create better global citizens and a more tolerant world. And the sooner the next generation of leaders can experience this, the better off our society as a whole will be.

Despite all these benefits, there are still going to be concerns. Here’s a look at how to turn some of the top roadblocks into open doors.

Overcoming 3 Perceived Challenges Of Studying Abroad

1. Financial

The perceived cost is often the biggest objection. There are more than 200 scholarships out there for travel, and Go Overseas lists a ton of them. In particular, HI USA offers 98, $2,000 Explore the World travel scholarships each year, and the State Department has dozens of opportunities.

3. Family Support

Sometimes parents just don’t understand!  

Check out Why Wait to See the World’s advice on coping with parental pushback. If that’s not enough, find out why Forbes thinks college isn’t soon enough to study abroad.

4. Career Development

For academics, this one’s for you! Read former Assistant Secretary of State Evan Ryan’s remarks on how study abroad helps shape foreign relations and improves our country. She then provides case studies on how study abroad alum have achieved notable career growth as a result of their international exchange.

In today’s increasingly globalized world, travel is a necessity, not a luxury.  And the sooner we can send the next generation across borders, the stronger we’ll all be.