The Unexpected Benefits of Study Abroad
The joys of spending a semester (or two!) as part of a study abroad experience can be endless, thrilling, and worth all the hassle that it takes to plan it. For most students, the delight of simply having the chance to finalize where to study abroad, traveling and exploring a new country, eating new foods, potentially learning a new language, and having a change of pace from “regular” life is enough.
However, while many will consider some of the basic benefits of studying abroad in 2022 that they may have heard about from friends or on TikTok, other unexpected opportunities can arise that are worth keeping in mind as you forge forward with your hopes to build the semester away of your dreams:
Your Study Abroad Experience & Careers
Among the amazing experiences and opportunities that studying abroad can bring many students, career advancement is often at the top of the list. As mentioned previously, while studying abroad has been around for decades, it is still relatively niche, meaning that most students worldwide are NOT opting-in to participate, granted for a variety of reasons.
Because of this fact, studying abroad can still be used to stand out among other applicants when searching for advancement, either career-focused, or even when applying to specialized academic programs, graduate schools, internships, and apprenticeships.
Employers and admissions officers are eager to hear, not just about your adventures while you were away, but often see the value in any challenges you may have faced while you were abroad. It is also a sign of the ability to take risks, willingness, and openness to new avenues, and demonstrates ambition.
The biggest benefit for your career when you study abroad is that you nearly double your network, which means there is potential for even more access to new opportunities further down the road.
I always encourage students in TheLiveStudyLearn Abroad Association along with other independent students that I advise to seek out career-driven opportunities during their semester away, even if they are in their freshman year OR a Senior in high school.
Note: As you know, you will always want to remain compliant with any parameters related to your visa and understand your host country’s rules around paid or unpaid work, but there are still many opportunities available to be pursued during a semester away.
In the past, I have advised students that have engaged in a variety of career-building activities during their semesters away, including:
Volunteering with Nonprofits
Create Part-Time Businesses (ex: Etsy shop)
There have also been many of my students, along with myself included, who were able to parlay opportunities abroad into full-time roles directly after our programs ended or later on in our careers.
If you are interested in working abroad in the future, begin to search for opportunities while you are there, even if you are not ready to start working. The ability to build connections, learn more about your interests, and also get a head start can be beneficial and puts you in a unique position since I can guarantee most of your “competition” is NOT doing the same.
Your Study Abroad Experience & Relationships
There’s no simple way to get around it: Life is all about relationships. From friendships to romantic relationships, common cordial interactions with co-workers, and even the kinship we have with our pets, they are unavoidable and therefore, worth the effort.
For most students studying abroad, there is always the consideration of the friends you will make during your time away or even the connections that will be had with instructors who can eventually give you a good recommendation.
But for many students, an unexpected opportunity to study abroad is finding love while on a semester away. While I always discourage students from entering a situation with the “goal” of finding love (just as you would not enter a job interview expecting to be handed the job!), it’s an added benefit not to be overlooked.
Throughout the world, college and graduate school are (pretty much!) the last chance to be in a space where there is an equal playing field when it comes to finding a mate with parallel potential and compatibility without much effort. You are usually studying alongside people of the same age group, who are on the same general roadmap, and where you are from the same generation and have similar interests.
Dating in college is hard enough, so why “wait” until you are finished when you have to start adulting and it’s 10x harder to connect with someone?
Now in specific, I am talking to the Ladies & Gents out there that are genuinely interested in companionship, potentially starting a family early on, and may have exhausted their search at home. Based on the world we live in today, careers and family planning are co-pilots, not an either-or choice. If it’s really what you want, be the person who can do both.
I want to be clear that I am not suggesting that you have to date and explore long-term relationships while studying abroad, but that it will only enhance your search if you are looking and want to reach any goals of being attached or married younger, as many do.
That being said, as with all things, enter all relationships with safety and care and please be noble. Do not fake love to advance your immigration status or gain access to often unfounded “perceived benefits” of being married to a foreign-born individual.
Your Study Abroad Experience & Personal Growth
So you have conquered your career and found love, now what? Let’s not forget the most important aspect of studying abroad that is often overlooked – YOURSELF.
One of the most popular searched questions on Google about study abroad is actually “How Does Study Abroad Change You?”. Therefore, it is obvious that students understand that it CAN, but they are not always clear on specifically in what ways it will and the WHY of the change.
While personal growth is an individual journey, studying abroad helps to reshape your views on your core values. I prefer to say that it helps to strengthen you as opposed to ‘changes’ you.
Among the benefits for your personal growth that you will find is that you now have lived experience in “X country”. It will no longer simply be a figment of your imagination of wondering what it might be like and there is less room now to stereotype your host country in the way you might have in the past just based on what was consumed in mass media and stories passed on.
As highlighted when discussing career advancement, most study abroad students also face challenges whether it be language barriers, homesickness, dealing with roommates, or trouble assimilating to name a few.
These experiences can be painful, but build character in certain ways as all adversity does during our lifetime and many students find that their hardest time during their semester away has the longest lasting impact compared to the basic memories of selfies with friends and gelato in the park every day.
Lastly, when it comes to studying abroad and personal growth, you will find that you experience the ability to better decipher what DOES and DOES NOT serve you. The time that you have between being away from campus and returning is often powerful because of the chance to step away, immerse into a new environment and re-evaluate.
Does this mean that you should return to campus in the spring semester and stop talking to all of your friends, shave your head, and declare an obscure new major? DEFINITELY NOT!
But if this happens, please report back. We love a good story around here! 🙂
But in my experience and so many of the kids I have worked with throughout the years, studying abroad gave us the framework for styling and editing an upgraded version of our lives. It left us wanting more of the new and questioning how to let go of that which no longer served us in the way we previously may have needed.
A change in environment brings many rewards, but among the best you will ever receive, the reflection will be the best of all.
What are you most looking forward to as you plan your study abroad semester? LEAVE A COMMENT & SHARE!
Until next time,
Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide.
She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy.
In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.