Every year, millions of students travel abroad to study some or all of their courses. And, despite the challenges, from navigating visa rules and language barriers to surviving in a foreign land, international study is becoming more popular every year.
There are few universities that don’t offer opportunities for their students to study abroad, or that don’t welcome international students to their courses. Indeed, as fewer countries offer free or heavily subsidized education, students are increasingly considering their global options, and universities are competing to attract them.
If you are considering one of those universities competing for your tuition fees, what are the benefits of studying abroad? You might think that a degree is a degree, or a master’s is a master’s. But while broadly speaking, you might get the same qualification wherever you study, going abroad offers so much more than just a certificate. Many students are finding that studying abroad brings a lifetime of benefits.
Studying abroad brings better results
There is evidence that people who study abroad get better results. For some, this might be down to exposure to different teachers and teaching methods. If the study abroad is just a part of the course, it can introduce some novelty, helping to re-energize a student who might be flagging during a four-year-long degree.
However, far more powerful — and relevant whether it’s a full course or just a semester — is the exposure to different perspectives. In some courses, these differences might be obvious. There will be a very different perspective to, say, a European history course taught in America to one taught in the UK, France, or Germany.
But even technical subjects will be affected. Things like the country’s history in the subject, or exposure to its effects on the world around us, will shape the curriculum and teaching. This added perspective provides a stimulating intellectual element to the course, which translates to more rounded students.
A broader cultural experience
Anyone who has traveled will always be struck by two things: how similar other people are to them, and how different they are! A student who has to live in a different culture will get to see this in detail.
Even when studying in countries that might be considered culturally similar and with the same language, when you live there, you will begin to pick up the differences, from things like food and language to the dynamics of everyday relationships.
Studying abroad, because you become a temporary resident of that country, means that you get to live their life. Some students love what they find so much, they never leave, but all students come out of it with a deeper appreciation of how the world may have many differences, but also shares a lot in common.
An opportunity to develop language skills
Although some international students will be travelling between countries with the same language, most will find they can strengthen their language skills.
Many universities teach in English, especially for courses delivered to international students. But the biggest opportunities will come from outside the academic environment. While managing day-to-day life is possible with a handful of phrases (and perhaps the help of a smartphone), immersion is one of the most effective ways to learn a language.
Just hearing natives speaking every day will develop your ability to hear and understand a language. Students often find that even if they begin with just a few words, they are approaching fluency by the end of their course.
It’s a great opportunity for tourism
Many people will enter the world of work and then, for their entire career, only travel abroad for a week or two every year. And while travel can broaden their horizons, short holidays can only scratch the surface of a country.
As a student, you have an opportunity to really visit a country. You can enjoy the cultural experiences that are offered in the city you are studying, but it can be a base for travels that takes you much further afield. And, if you have the resources, the long university vacations are the ideal chance to explore.
For students studying abroad, it’s an opportunity to find and enjoy places that most people from their home country would never dream of visiting.
The experience lasts a lifetime
Studying abroad offers what might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a student. However, the benefits will last for the rest of your life. Students who have taken part or all their course abroad later go on to have, on average, higher earnings and to reach higher positions, than peers who were only educated domestically.
Research has not, sadly, found the precise reason for this. However, there are several potential reasons. One is that studying abroad tends to produce better results, which, along with the foreign study, makes for an impressive resume and gives graduates a head start in the jobs market. Another theory is that the experience of surviving in another country, away from the support of family, builds confidence, equipping them to thrive in the workplace. And yet another theory is that the cultural immersion of foreign study helps develop a global mindset that is ideally suited for an increasingly global workplace. The skills they honed when understanding and relating to people as a student makes them more effective, whether they are talking to a colleague in the next office or a client on the other side of the world.
As a student, the qualification will be your prime concern and is likely to be the main consideration in your university choice. However, although the university experience is enriching wherever you are, studying abroad brings a set of additional benefits that can only come from being immersed in another culture. The combination of finding the right degree or master’s course with the life-changing experience of living abroad is proving irresistible for more and more students each year.