Jane moved abroad for her master’s degree programme five years ago. Since then she’s gone on to get a PhD and now teaches at an European university. She shares her experiences on LinkedIn about opportunities she has been a part of since moving abroad.
In her posts, Jane often highlights how her outlook on life has broadened with meeting new people and cultures. For her and many others who I’ve asked, studying abroad is worth it.
There are several reasons why studying abroad is worth it for different persons. A prime example is those moving from lower income/developing to developed countries. For this set of persons, studying abroad, even for short periods, leaves lasting effects on their lives and worldview.
In this piece, I will attempt a research-based approach to answering the question of if studying abroad is worth it. Before now there have been academic articles and researches on the subject to understand its benefits and social impacts among other aspects.
I will be drawing on these works while highlighting benefits in favour of studying abroad. Hopefully at the end, we’ll see an answer to this question backed by research. Without further ado, let’s jump right in;
1. Studying abroad improves cultural awareness
Cultural awareness is to be aware of the differences in culture and to respect these differences when interacting with others. For many, their understanding of other cultures is informed by the internet and books. But first-hand experience while studying abroad is a perfect opportunity for individuals to thrive in a multicultural environment. In a study, the author did a quantitative review of twent-eight previously published works on the impact of studying abroad on cultural awareness.
All twenty-eight reviewed studies showed a correlation between studying abroad and marked increases in cultural awareness (Haas).
2. It has an impact on global engagement
Perhaps one of the most robust works on studying abroad – a survey of over 6,000 individuals spanning over 50 years – showed that studying abroad produced considerable impact on various aspects of global engagement (Paige et al.).
Global engagement refers to a commitment to global experiences. In the survey, significant impact was noted on civic engagement, knowledge production, philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and voluntary simplicity which make up the five aspects or dimensions of global engagement.
3. Studying abroad has significant impact on future career and educational paths
For undergraduate students who go abroad, a decent number consider going for graduate studies. Like Jane, many students go on to pursue a higher degree or take interesting career paths on a global scale. A study of the European ERASMUS student exchange initiative showed that studying abroad increases the students chance of working abroad by up to 15% (Parey and Waldinger).
4. Opportunity to build a global network
There have been numerous studies showing how a healthy network is more likely to grant one a job than academic qualifications. Studying abroad spreads your network of loose connections across different countries. These connections may become relevant if you consider moving to that country for work or to launch a new product/service.
5. It improves your resume
Recruiters will likely pick a candidate with more global experiences than one without it. This is especially so if the work environment is a global, multicultural one with people from different parts of the world. The abroad experiences may be what gives the candidate an edge over others.
6. Opportunity to improve on a foreign language
Abroad study is a good opportunity to learn a new language especially when it is different from the native tongue of the student. Being able to speak the language to first hand speakers helps the student to grow so that you can.
So in the end is studying abroad worth it?
It definitely is.
And there are many more reasons why this is so including some that have been mentioned. Given the opportunity and means, I’ll recommend students explore studying abroad even if it’s for an exchange or short term programme.