Why Study Abroad? Ten Convincing Reasons

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Students who study abroad are twice as likely to land a job within six months of graduation, and they also tend to make more money, averaging 17 percent more annually on a starting salary.

Additionally, nearly 60 percent of employers reported study abroad experience as an important piece of a candidate's application, yet fewer than ten percent of U.S. college students study abroad.

Key Takeaways

  • An international experience as a student is shown to lead to higher GPAs and higher graduation rates.
  • More funding is available now for students to study abroad than has ever been, and the experience includes discounted and free participation in cultural activities.
  • Students who study abroad are more likely to learn a language, an increasingly valuable skill in today’s job market. They're also more likely to find better jobs and earn more money than their peers in the short and long term.

As the demand for international experience and language skills increases, more funding and support is being allocated by private organizations and nonprofits, government agencies, and universities to make study abroad more accessible to a wider range of undergraduate students. Here are a few reasons why study abroad is worth the hassle (and the price tag). 

A More Attractive Job Candidate

According to research by the , study abroad participants are more likely to be hired after graduation than nonparticipating peers. Study abroad students earn an average of $6,000 more annually, and they are more likely to be accepted into their first and second choice graduate programs.

Students that participate in study abroad programs learn personal and social development skills while immersed in foreign environments. These skills are increasingly necessary, especially for U.S. businesses. More than 40% of U.S.-based businesses recently reported because of a lack of international experience within the workforce, indicating a space that needs to be filled by future graduates.

Better Grades and Timely Graduation

Students who participate in study abroad programs tend to have higher GPAs than students who do not participate in study abroad programs, according to . Study abroad students are also more likely to graduate earlier and to finish college in general. In addition, they tend to take more credit hours than their peers within the same time frame, giving them a wider range of learned, marketable skills to present to potential employers. 

Improved Intercultural Communication

A study at the found that students who studied abroad improved their intercultural competence when they were abroad for three months or longer. Intercultural competence refers to the ability of a student or employees to effectively communicate using cognitive and behavioral skills in different cultural situations. Students don't study intercultural communication, but it is becoming an increasingly vital skill in the globalizing job market, according to a report.

Acquired Leadership and Networking Skills

Study abroad exposes students to learning opportunities that rely heavily on group work with unfamiliar peers. This kind of exposure encourages the developments of leadership and networking skills, both of which are extremely valuable assets for future employers, according to . In fact, a study at found that students who studied abroad were more likely to engage in the classroom, work well with peers, and retain information as well as participate in student government and volunteer organizations.

Participation in Extracurricular Activities

The same study at Seton Hall University indicated that students who study abroad are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities that complement their academic studies. Often, these activities are civically-oriented and extend well beyond graduation. Some of these activities include sports, theater, and music programs, as well as sorority/fraternity membership, internships, and academic research projects with faculty members.

All of these programs look great on academic resumes for graduate school applications as well as professional resumes for employment after graduation, as they demonstrate your interest in your chosen field as well as your willingness to work beyond what is required.

Unique Social and Cultural Experiences

You will have opportunities to travel as you get older, but study abroad comes with financial and social benefits that won’t be available later in life.

Students that participate in study abroad programs are eligible for discounted and free admission (with a student ID) to hundreds of museums and monuments, and they have access to the extracurricular programs offered by their host university. Events like concerts, lectures, speeches, sporting events, and festivals differ from country to country, and most universities offer at least a few of these experiences free of charge. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that long-term stays in other countries require visas, which become much harder (and way more expensive) to obtain after graduating.

Exposure to Different Teaching and Learning Styles

Different countries and even different parts of the United States feature a variety of that have been proven to benefit student learning outcomes. Though some of these methods are instructor-centered, while others are student-centered, a report by the details how a combination of teaching methods creates better student learning outcomes.

Additionally, exposure to a variety of teaching styles prepares students to adapt to their environment, a valuable asset for future employment.

Marketable Language Skills

Though study abroad programs are becoming more accessible to students, fewer students are supplementing their studies with language acquisition. Language ability is a marketable skill, especially in a continuously globalizing world. With fewer students learning new languages, the value of being multilingual is increasing. Companies are more likely to than those without, and study abroad is a unique opportunity to learn a language through immersion.

If you plan to study abroad for a semester rather than a year, it would be in your best interest to consider staying with a host family rather than living in a community with other English-speaking students. Total immersion in the language much faster and more efficiently than classroom study alone. 

Wide Variety of Program and Price Options

There is a multitude of low-cost exchange programs that can help offset the financial burden that comes with study abroad. Both national and international programs are available at various price points to help students avoid any additional financial stress.

Direct exchange, for example, is an option available at many universities. It allows students in different countries to trade places for a semester or a year without changing or adding to the annual tuition price, making it one of the most affordable study abroad options available. Check with your university’s study abroad office to learn more about participating universities. 

Program providers like have strong networks in countries all over the world to make the study abroad process as smooth and affordable as possible. Program facilitators like USAC alleviate the pressure to find housing, apply for visas, and integrate into a new community by offering on-the-ground support.

and are programs that sponsor passports to facilitate study abroad for students, especially those from underrepresented communities, making study abroad more accessible for students of all backgrounds. 

Accessible Funding

Scholarships to study abroad are now very common. Universities understand the value of the experience, and they increasingly provide institutional funding to send students abroad. Schools like in Indiana and in North Carolina have increased funding for study abroad participants, and the University of Georgia is actually selling its campus in Costa Rica to the , a nonprofit organization that promotes education abroad, in order to fund an endowment to send more students to Africa and Central and South America.

Students interested in studying so-called critical languages like Arabic, Chinese, Swahili, or even Portuguese can apply for the or scholarships, while the offers scholarships to first-generation college students, minorities, members of the LGBT community, and other underrepresented groups. The offers multiple awards to facilitate students studying abroad in the United Kingdom, and the send students to east and southeast Asia.

Those goal-getters out there can set their sights on prestigious international fellowships for postgraduate studies, like the or even a .

Check with your international learning office to learn more about scholarships, grants, and fellowships that are available to you.

Sources

  • Andrews, Margaret. “What Skills Do Employers Want Most?” University World News, University World News, June 2015.
  • “Career Outcomes of Study Abroad Students .” IES Abroad, IES Abroad, 2015.
  • Davidson, Katie Marie. “Intercultural Competence and Employability of Students at Iowa State University: Outcomes Assessment of Study Abroad.” Iowa State University Digital Repository: Capstones, Theses, and Dissertations, Iowa State University, 2017.
  • Di Maggio, Lily M. “An Analysis of the Connections Between Involvement in Study Abroad, Other HighImpact Educational Practices, and CoCurricular Activities .” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, vol. 31, no. 1, 2019, pp. 112–130.
  • Dulfur, Nicky, et al. “Different Countries, Different Approaches to Teaching and Learning?” The International Baccalaureate, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, 2016.
  • Franklin, Kimberly. “Long-Term Career Impact and Professional Applicability of the Study Abroad Experience.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, vol. 19, 2010, pp. 161–191.
  • “Global Research Reveals Value of Intercultural Skills.” British Council, British Council Worldwide, Mar. 2013.
  • Graham, Anne Marie, and Pam Moores. “The Labour Market for Graduates with Language Skills: Measuring the Gap Between Supply and Demand .” Education and Employers, University Council of Modern Languages, 2011.
  • O'Rear, Isaiah, et al. “The Effect of Study Abroad on College Completion in a State University System.” University of Georgia, U.S. Department of Education International Research Studies Office, Jan. 2012.
  • Parker, Emily. “Meredith College Exceeds Campaign Goal, Raising Over $90 Million.” Meredith College News, Meredith College, Mar. 2019.
  • “Paul Simon Study Abroad Act Back on Legislative Cards.” University World News, Nov. 2017.
  • Taylor, Leslie. “University of Georgia Foundation Approves Sale of Costa Rica Campus to Nonprofit Study-Abroad Organization CIEE.” Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo!, 25 Feb. 2019.
  • Williams Fortune, Tara. “What the Research Says about Immersion.” Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition, University of Minnesota, Apr. 2019.
  • Xu, Min, et al. “The Impact of Study Abroad on Academic Success: An Analysis of First-Time Students Entering Old Dominion University, Virginia, 2000-2004 .” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, vol. 23, 2013, pp. 90–103.