The Benefits of Studying Abroad

This post is based on a speech I gave in my public speaking class. I tried to make a YouTube video, but the sound was too quiet. However, I would like to share the contents, so here it is. Note: the speech was part of a college class, and given to American college students. Thus, it is Americentric, and I apologize to my readers outside USA. (Seriously, I am trying to not be Americentric.) So, for those of you outside USA, I am interested in your thoughts as well. Please leave a comment below on how this applies or differs from the situation in the country where you live.

This post is about the benefits of studying abroad, defined by the International Institute of Education  (IIE) as “US citizens and permanent residents who earn academic credit at their home institution for study in another country” (Kronholz, J. F.; Osborn, D. S.; p. 70). I will go over the social, personal, and professional benefits of studying abroad, and address the concerns of safety and affordability.

I will start with the social benefits. First of all, it can serve as good PR for USA, in an era in American foreign policy is highly unpopular and anti-American propaganda rampant. Another benefit is a broadened perspective, which makes one a more informed citizen. Sanford J. Ungar mentioned that when he was president of Goucher College in Baltimore  (back in 2001), he observed that study abroad alumni were able to see their country more clearly. (This reminds me of the old saying, “He does not know England who has only England seen.”) In addition, Ungar observed increased tolerance and, at times, increased cooperation among the differing social, ethnic, and religious groups of which study abroad participants are members. (Ungar, S. J.)

There are personal benefits to studying abroad as well. At Goucher, Ungar observed that participants had a better sense of self and a stronger personality. In a study conducted on study abroad participants conducted at a Southeastern public research university, Kronholz and Osborn noticed that the participants reported a clarification of their values, interests, skills, and, in some cases, their career goals (p. 77). Kronholz and Osborn cite other studies that note increased self-confidence, global competency, independence, open-mindedness, and general personal development and well-being among those who studied abroad (p. 71).

Furthermore, there are professional benefits of studying abroad. But before I address these, I will address John Ross’s article “Overseas Study Brings Little Career Benefit” from The Australian. Ross mentions a study conducted by Gregory Wolniak of NYU’s Centre for Research on Higher Education Outcomes. Dr. Wolniak found no discernible career benefits to studying abroad that could not be chalked up to discipline, majors, or institutions. (To conduct the study, Wolniak had analyzed a 2002 Education Longitudinal Study that involved 15,000 Americans from their mid-teens to their late 20’s. The study focused on 4,000 participants who had finished three follow-up surveys, gotten their degrees, and were employed full time.)

Now, for the other side: there are a number of career benefits mentioned in the article “Study Abroad Increases Professional Job Prospects” by Isabel Eva Bohrer. First of all, those who studied abroad, on average, started at $6000 mpre that those who didn’t, and 2/3 of the former found their first job within six months of graduation. In addition, 90% of those who studied abroad were admitted to their first or second grad school choice.

Bohrer’s post observes that many of the social and personal benefits I previously mentioned are valuable to employers. One such benefit is global competency. With the globalization of our world, employers are beginning to value things like foreign language proficiency, cultural understanding, international knowledge, and cross-cultural communication. In fact, according to Ungar, 65% of Fortune 1000 executives list global awareness as “essential” or “very important”.

Some peopleare concerned about safety. Well, the Forum on Education Abroad conducted a study on this. To do the study, they examined the 2014 insurance claims from two international providers, which included 147,000 insured students, 10% of whom filed claims. They then compared it to the mortality rate at 157 US campuses. The results were 29.4 per 100,000 deaths stateside and 13.5 deaths abroad. However, due to the lack of availability of the nonfatal injury rate stateside, this was mot included in the study. Nevertheless, this is evidence that studying anroad is safe. (Fischer, K., p. 1)

Finally, I will address financial concerns. Students eligible for the Pell Grant may also be eligible for the Gilman International Scholarship, and those studying languages deemed “critical” by the US State Department  (such as Chinese, Arabic, and Russian) may be eligible for an additional stipend. Furthermore, study abroad students may be eligible for grants from other countries, and can even save money by applying directly to a program, rather than going through their home institutions (Ungar). In short, study abroad may be the same price as, or even cheaper, than study at an American campus. 

To sum up, studying abroad has many personal and social benefits that are attractive to potential employers. In addition, it is safe and affordable. Well, I need to start on my own study abroad program, so have a good day/evening/etc., everyone!

Sources:

Bohrer, Isabel Eva; “Study Abroad Increases Professional Job Prospects”; transitionsabroad.com (link to article above); updated by Transitions Abroad November 2016

Fischer, Karin; “Why Studying Abroad Is Safer Than You May Think”, Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 62, Issue 28; 25 Mar. 2016

Kronholz, Julia F., Osborn, Debra S.; “The Impact of Study Abroad Experiences on Vocational Identity Among College Students”, Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, vol. XXXVII; April 2016

Ross, John; “Overseas Study Brings Little Career Benefit”, The Australian; 22 Apr. 2015

Ungar, Sanford J.; “The Study Abroad Solution: How to Open the American Mind”, Foreign Affairs, vol. 95, Issue 2; March-April 2016