The college experience should allow students to start out in a stable and profitable career while also broadening their horizons and introducing them to different cultures and personality types. College helps students transition from adolescence to adulthood and gives them an opportunity to take advantage of myriad different experiences that exposes them to new environments and ideas. One of the best ways for students to broaden their horizons is by taking a semester abroad. Living in a different country helps students improve foreign language skills while immersing themselves in tons of new cultural experiences that will create memories to last a lifetime.
- Cultural Expansion
One of the best ways to learn about different cultures is to actually live in that culture and experience it from an everyday perspective. Traveling as a tourist can give students a taste of other cultures but they might find that tourist attractions are quite different from day-to-day life. When students live abroad for a summer, a semester, or even a full year they have the opportunity to really get to know local people and live life through a different perspective. Some students find that the two cultures have a lot more in common than they originally thought while others discover that the local lifestyle is completely different from what they are used to.
- Foreign Language Skills
Nearly every college student takes a foreign language as part of their general education program. However, not many graduates claim to be fluent in a language other than English. The reality is that when students don’t have a chance to speak their second language on a regular basis they forget most of the skills they learned a few days after the end of the course. Additionally, students need a chance to hear native accents, learn local slang and common language, and understand how certain words are used in context in order to truly be considered fluent. When students study abroad they have a chance to greatly improve their foreign language skills because they speak that language every single day when interacting with local people.
- New Friendships
Study abroad students also have an excellent opportunity to make new friendships both with locals and with students from their home country. It’s amazing how much two people have in common when they’re both in a completely new environment. This solidifies friendships with other students who traveled together as part of the same university program. Also, students have a chance to make friends with local people from each country they visit. When students get to know different types of people they become more empathetic in general, see life from multiple perspectives, and become more likely to maintain an open mind about different cultural experiences.
- An Impressive Resume
Although studying abroad is very exciting, not too many students choose to take advantage of the opportunity. As a result, students who list a semester abroad on their resume more likely to stand out in a crowd of applicants for new hire positions or graduate school admissions. Additionally, if students can represent that they are bilingual as a result of their study abroad experience they will find more doors open to them than they ever knew were possible. In an ever shrinking digital world it’s becoming more important for students to be able to speak a second language and converse with people from around the globe.
Robyn Scott is a private English tutor at TutorNerd. She attended the University of California, Irvine as an undergraduate and the University of Southampton in England as a graduate student. She has worked with students from the United States, Japan, South Korea, the European Union, and Africa.