Q&A: Why Do You Think Students Today Should Study Abroad?

We asked and you answered! In our latest installment of “Q&A,” we wanted to ask ISA students a simple question: Why?  What is your motivation for moving halfway around the globe? What do you get out of it? What, beyond the obvious perk of travel, is it that makes study abroad so important?

“Why do you think students today should study abroad?”

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1. To Challenge Yourself

Studying abroad is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise either doesn’t remember it or hasn’t actually done it. There is confusion, and culture shock, and adjusting to a totally new academic system, not to mention the inevitable homesickness and constant craving for Taco Bell (which exists in Iraq, but bizarrely not Ireland). So why do it, if it’s so hard? Essayist Andrew Solomon once wrote, “Life is enriched by difficulty.” By studying abroad, I’ve found that to be true. I’m not saying that I’m going up against great suffering–I’m not raising children in a refugee camp or anything heroic, but going off to a country that I’ve never been before to study at a school seventeen times the size of mine is hard. Probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But that’s why you should do it. You should go off on your own and challenge yourself to establish a life far away from familiarity, because in these four months of living abroad I have learned more about being an adult and taking care of myself than any time prior to this. I have confidence in my ability to be a global citizen and to navigate that globe. It has been difficult, but my life has been so enriched because of that difficulty.

-Elizabeth Hogg, Galway, Ireland, Spring 2015

2. To Build a Career

Not only is study abroad an incredible personal experience, it is also a great career builder. So many students today are looking to stand out and get an edge, and study abroad can do just that. There’s tons of research that shows that students who have international experiences are more creative, better communicators, more culturally sensitive, more flexible, and work better in a team. These are all traits that employers are looking for, and going abroad can help you develop them. Plus, studies show that students with international experience will make, on average, $7,000 more each year compared to their counterparts without international experience. And who doesn’t want that?

-Emily Enquist, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fall 2014

3. To Understand Global Context

Studying abroad means constantly learning, reassessing, discovering, contemplating, and challenging what you think you know about yourself and the world around you. Our world is a much smaller place that it was 100 or even 10 years ago, understanding one’s place within a global context is one of the most valuable assets a student can graduate from college with. Studying abroad provides the most cohesive, immersive, thorough, intensive, and downright fun opportunity for students to understand this global context.

-Heather O’Keefe, Cape Town, South Africa, Academic Year 2014


4. To Be Environmentally Conscientious

Students need to study abroad because there is a great big blue and green world out there that needs attention. In our little bubble of hot water and to-go coffees, it can be easy to forget not only that there is an environment out there that is struggling to thrive, but also that our behavior directly effects it. Once you see the Brazilian rainforest, it is hard to not want to save the Brazilian rainforest. Buenos Aires is a city just developing its green initiative and it was truly delightful watching my host mom adjust her personal habits because she wanted the planet to look good for her grandchildren. Months later, I’m still taking five minute showers. It’s not a poverty thing, it’s a being a good human thing and going abroad helped me realize that.

-Siobhan Billings Pearce, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Fall 2014

5. To Walk a Mile in Someone Else’s Shoes

My first night out constituted a massive table in the back room of O’Neill’s Pub. Everyone else had a pint of some kind; I sat there with a cappuccino listening to their conversations overlap. People who barely knew each other were divulging information about their own cultures, opinions, and lives. One was a few Guinnesses for the worse. He said to me, “I like to read books that just show me a cinema in my head.” He smiled, pleased that he could tell someone about this part of him. That is why we should study abroad. We should study abroad to discover what other people love and share what we love. We should study away from all that is familiar to declare why we are different and then shed more light on those things that make us unique.

-Kathryn Brock, Dublin, Ireland, Spring 2015

6. To Figure Out Who You Are

Because there is no time like the present. If you haven’t studied abroad yet, it’s most likely that one of your friends has studied abroad, come back home and raved about it. Yet, here you are still on your home campus wishing that you had studied abroad. Well, the time is now! To students who still don’t know what to choose for a major: perhaps a semester abroad will help you in the process! My semester abroad in Valparaíso, Chile with ISA changed my life and ultimately my career path. I now work at ISA, helping students daily to choose a location for study abroad that will change their life for the better!

-Abby Zelenka, Valparaíso, Chile, Spring 2011

Here’s what our friends on Facebook had to say:

We believe if College is a time to learn, what better way to learn than by experiencing the world. – College Tourist

Because we are what we have seen. So, the more we’ve seen, the more we are. – Emma May

You’ll never know what you are missing until you explore the great unknown! – Lindsay McGonegle

You’ll change, and people will notice! – Kelsey Mirehouse

For next week, we invite you to answer the question:

If you could give one piece of advice to students interested in studying abroad, what would you tell them?

There’s so many things to tell the next student after you, but you can only tell them ONE thing. What would you tell them? Comment here, on the ISA Facebook page, or email your 50-100 word answer to blog@studiesabroad.com. Any ISA student or alum is welcome to contribute!

12 thoughts

  1. How does one get enrolled in a Study Abroad Program. I have an MS in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech USA and now work for a company in Islamabad Pakistan.

  2. Reblogged this on Bows and Roses and commented:
    I hope i can continue my master studies abroad. In uk/australia/japan? But i only manage to apply for the next year enrollment. Hmm. Pity me. I’ve made my mind. I need to work first! Oh Allah please ease everything.

    Now, i have two choices whether to continue my stem cells study or learn new thing, which is master in science (botany), as my passion was in taxonomy. I really love taxonomy! I can engage with nature. I will know many types of plants. I love doing botanical illustration. I love working with plants. Some people said it is tiring working in herbarium and you will literally, someday get bored. No, i don’t think so.

    Everything you do with your heart, you are sincerely with what you are doing. It will gonna be okay. Your passion. You’ll love it. I know it was challenging. But, you can learn new things everyday. Who knows, you manage to find a new plant species? Some plants are still undiscovered. But, i am afraid if there is no career opportunity in thr future.

    Well, i do love stem cells (neuronal stem cells research). I am glad if i can continue in this field. Here in Malaysia we are still fresh in this field.

    I don’t know which one is better to choose. Follow the opportunity? Or follow my gut? My passion?

    I don’t know what future holds. I don’t know which on will lead me to a better career/future.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this post. Studying abroad is my dream for about 6 years now and it’s finally gonna come true. I don’t see my futur without this year abroad. It’s an experience that can open yourself to the world and makes you realize so many thing !

  4. You guys forgot the most obvious reason to study abroad… to have fun! As a former studier abroad, I can honestly say that I’ve never had more fun in my entire life than when I spent last summer in Argentina. And I apparently had so much fun that I’m going back for seconds, because I’m all signed up and ready to go to the Dominican Republic on another ISA program this fall. (I’ll blog about on suitcasecastle.wordpress.com, so check it out from time to time if you want more awesome travel/study abroad advice.)

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