Centuries ago, the practice of studying abroad was widely demonstrated commonly by the social elite. In those days, countries like England or France that maintained stronger economic structures provided a substantially higher quality of education, thus, bearing supreme educational opportunities for those of higher birth or wealth.
In the early 1920s, foreign study was integrated into the US college system but solely for the purpose of foreign language immersion. Today, the horizon of possibilities with regard to higher education has broadened, and more students have found that studying abroad has many additional benefits, whether they are choosing to focus their area of study on foreign language or something different.
As mentioned previously, one of the main purposes for foreign study is language and cultural immersion. The popular theory that states the best way to learn a different language is to spend a lengthy amount of time in the surroundings of where that language is spoken rings true for students who arrive back from the study abroad experience. The possibility of broadening foreign language skills increases greatly when forced to communicate in such a way different from their own.
Secondly, students glean from their experiences of living under the confines of foreign culture, the sense of having a greater perspective of the world around them, to appreciate societal differences such as cuisine, language, social customs, economics, etc. They would not receive this type of cultural exposure in a familiar societal setting.
Under the duress of living in an environment where communicating with ease is no longer the reality, a student is forced to achieve a level of social maturity that he wouldn’t normally be able to reach domestically. When abroad and immersed in foreign culture, the student must go to greater lengths to communicate for simple, basic needs. This enables him to be more socially assertive, a foundational dynamic for an aspiring young adult in today’s competitive job market.
From an academic standpoint, studying abroad provides a very attractive quality about a student applying for a job. As companies go increasingly global, the need for culturally astute candidates is blooming. Employers tend to appeal to people who have experience with foreign language and an appreciation of international culture.
If there was ever a time and a purpose to travel and be ethnically adventurous, the college age and young adulthood is prime. For when the weight of responsibility hits, a student’s chances to experience the world will be limited to money, possible family and personal availability. If the student chooses to study abroad, the memories, people, and practical knowledge will be forever engrained.
Studying abroad is a challenging and exciting experience and is not necessarily easy. However, with any faced and conquered challenge comes growth and maturity. A student choosing to study in a foreign setting by either enrolling in a foreign university or taking advantage of a domestic university exchange program will stretch and strengthen his skills academically, personally and socially.