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Why You Need To Study Abroad

Written by Mandy Voisin

Studying abroad is life-changing. Not only for the individual themselves, but for their future employers, their families, and even America as a whole. But since college itself is expensive, it can be difficult to talk your parents (or yourself) into paying for one.

IES, a a Chicago-based study abroad company, conducted a quantitative study in April of 2016, surveying 1,205 students who studied abroad between 2012 and 2015. According to that data and a bunch of other sources, here are five reasons why you need to study abroad. Scratch that. Five reasons why to study abroad will change your life.

1. You are Twice as Likely to Find Employment

It’s true. Nearly 90% of graduates surveyed by IES found employment within twelve months of graduation, while only 49% of college graduates found employment. And not only that – their starting salaries were 25% higher than college graduates who did not study abroad. A UK study supports that study abroad students are more likely to have a job 6 months after graduating. 

Still not convinced?

A British study found that their study abroad graduates out-earned their peers by 17%. This equates to $7,000 a year for US students, translating to an extra $567,500 over one’s career, according to the University of California. That should more than make up for any fees accrued during your time abroad.

2. It will Expand Your Worldview

95% of study abroad participants surveyed believe their time abroad had a lasting impact on their perception of the world. And carrying over to their careers, 80% believed that it contributed to their ability to adapt to diverse workplace environments.

“I felt like my time in Jerusalem was such an eye-opening cultural experience,” says twenty-one-year-old Janessa Loveland. “I learned things you can’t learn in a classroom which is saying a lot, since I studied geography and took a lot of classes about places and cultures.”

Loveland goes on to say, “I took classes about both Judaism and Islam, both of which were taught by members of those faiths. I was better able to understand the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and learned that there are so many sides to people’s stories and it’s hard to draw clear-cut conclusions or come up with solutions to cultural conflict.”

Loveland now teaches high school geography in Oklahoma City, and believes her study abroad made her more culturally aware, and better at embracing diversity in her classroom.

3. You’ll Gain More Self-Confidence

96% of study abroad participants said their time abroad gave them a significant increase in self-confidence. Being introduced to new people, and living in close quarters with them gives you a unique opportunity to be more open. Being alone can do the same thing though, twenty-five-year-old Kandice Zimmerman found on her study abroad to England.

“I learned that I could be alone and have the time of my life,” Zimmerman explains. “I started sneaking out in the evenings when friends would be watching American television shows at the flat and took myself on dates. I bought myself treats. I discovered that eating alone in a restaurant is one my favorite things to do as long as I have a good book.”

Kandice lived with twenty-four other students in a flat near Kensington, and attributes her current career as a museum curator to her time in London. “I once spent an entire day alone in the National Portrait Gallery and found that I could be carried away by paintings and sculptures,” she says.

Another survey, conducted by AIFS found that 93% of participants felt a better sense of confidence in new situations or when meeting new people.

4. You’ll Gain Valuable Life Skills

Because college is a sort of divide between childhood and adulthood, a study abroad will help to bridge the gap. 

Twenty-three-year-old Elliott Brown says of his study abroad to Spain, “I learned how to be an adult in Barcelona. For the first time I caught a plane alone, navigated a subway system, dealt with foreign banks, and booked my own travel.”

Life skills are learned on a study abroad, but so are job skills. 84% of study abroad alumni reported that their studies helped them build valuable job skills. 16.5% stating that it was very effective, and 71% that it was an effective tool to build job skills. 

“I can be surrounded by strangers and be fine,” Brown continues. “I can figure out new transportation systems, and be okay.”

Study abroad’s offer the kind of hands-on learning that cannot be taught in any other way.

5. You’ll be a better student

Struggling in school? 100% of study abroad participants reported a greater improvement in GPA post-study abroad. One hundred percent. 

And according to a Georgia study, students who studied abroad saw their GPAs rise twice as quickly as a result of going abroad compared to their counterparts who stayed on-campus.

If you’re interested in a study abroad, the best place to find more information on resources and programs is at your college or university. Most have an international office and are happy to help you determine the best location for you and your major.

About the author

Mandy Voisin

Hey I'm Mandy. Writer, traveler, wife, mother, author, woman, over-sharer. I like to talk about the grit of travel, the beautiful, and the people that I meet.

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