The wonderful life-changing benefits of studying abroad

By Annie Rose Stathes, Edited by Valeri Boyle
Published March 13, 2014

There are numerous benefits of studying abroad, many of which are difficult to capture in an article. In truth, studying abroad may influence your life in ways you cannot begin to imagine, and certainly in ways that I, as the author of this article, cannot imagine. However, in an attempt to persuade you to take the journey of a lifetime, I will attempt to capture some of the many benefits of studying abroad.

1. You may not return the same person. You will likely return a better, happier, more inspiring version of yourself. Studying abroad may stimulate your mind, body, and soul, and force you to tap into sides of yourself you never knew existed. Even if studying abroad proves to be challenging at times (and it likely will), you may emerge from the experience more wise, more self-expressed, and with greater self-confidence.

2. You may obtain a more global perspective on important issues. The United States is unlike any other country in the world. This means that whatever country you visit will be unlike the U.S. You may meet people who grew up in different cultural contexts and therefore see the world in different ways. This may help you look at local, national, and global issues in new ways and learn that context truly is decisive—that various issues, big or small, can present quite differently depending on the perspective through which one views them. Studying abroad may allow you to broaden your perspectives and consider new and different ways to view the world.

3. You may begin to establish your global community. There is magic and beauty in having a community that spans beyond the familiarity of your own community, state, and country. Studying abroad means establishing a more global community—one which includes people with perspectives and experiences unique from your everyday ones.

4. You may become familiar with another culture. An integral part of understanding a culture is spending time inside it. By living in another society for a longer period of time, whether one summer, semester, or year abroad, you may begin to understand its cultural underpinnings and personality. You may better understand its music, its dance, and its visual arts; its language, its literature, and its style of communication; its emotional, physical, and soulful expression; and, best of all, you will better appreciate the culture’s personality and how it influences and informs everyday life politically, economically, and socially.

5. Your travels abroad may influence your view of life at home. It is often times necessary for one to leave home and view it from afar in order to better understand it. Spending time in another country and participating in another culture may allow you to better understand the way in which your own country and culture are constructed. To use a metaphor as an example, imagine that before your study abroad experience you are a fish, living in a fish tank. You don’t think you live in a fish tank—you just live where you live. Then, one day, you leave your fish tank and enter another. It is only then that you can see that you were living in a fish tank. Studying and living in another country may allow you to see the fish tank that is the United States.

6. You may boost your grad school application. Many graduate schools like to know that students are confident, capable, and hardworking. Most students who study abroad have had to have been confident, capable, and hardworking at least once and most likely for an extended period of time. Adding a study abroad experience to your grad school application will tell the grad school of your choice that you’re not only confident, capable, and hardworking, but also willing to be open-minded and entertain various perspectives. Each of these characteristics is vital to success in grad school.

7. You may become a more interesting person. It’s fun to listen to people who have lived great lives and enjoyed many adventures. By studying abroad, you may become one of those people. Adventures and fantastic moments await you in any study abroad location. Visit one and you may find yourself exploring new environments, enjoying new experiences, pushing yourself in new directions, and submersing yourself in new atmospheres. Through all of this, you may become the proud owner of cool and meaningful stories that uplift and inspire others.

8. You may have a really good time. Even though studying abroad can be filled with challenges, you will likely have a great time and remember your experience with heart-warming fondness. You may meet new people, see and experience things that will forever change your perspectives, and otherwise engage in adventures that will transform, expand, and brighten the way you see life.

9. You may be challenged in meaningful, productive, and lasting ways. Facing challenges is an inherent and necessary component of any good adventure. It is through our challenges that we grow, expand, and burst through old paradigms of thought, action, and direction. By studying abroad and embracing the opportunity’s many challenges (getting lost, running out of money, dealing with language barriers, feeling uncomfortable, missing home, etc.), you may become a stronger, confident, and capable person prepared to deal with the many challenges life brings.

10. You may become stronger, more confident, and more certain of yourself. There is no way around it. One of the many wonderful benefits of study abroad programs is that you may grow and evolve as a person. No matter your experiences, you may emerge from the experience with the strength, confidence, and certainty of a global traveler. Even if you face challenges, disappointment, or failure, you may have learned and experienced things that you wouldn’t have had you stayed in the confines of your home. This, in and of itself, makes you a stronger, more confident, and more certain person.

Annie Rose Stathes is a Colorado-based writer, teacher and political scientist. Her background is in international affairs and she holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science.