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For those who have the ability and opportunity to study abroad, it can be a difficult decision, especially for school-age students prior to attending college, where study abroad programs abound. There are many credible, quality programs and organizations that offer study abroad opportunities (which will not be discussed in this article), but when weighing whether or not to pursue this for your child, there are considerable benefits that should be explored as you weigh them against the potential risks that always accompany long-term travel. Here are four tangible benefits for youth studying abroad.
According to a study conducted by the Institute for International Education of Students (IES) with more than 3,400 respondents, studying abroad, even for as few as six weeks, showed lasting benefits. Ninety-six percent of respondents reported gaining higher levels of self-confidence. The experience was reported as a catalyst for increased maturity for 97% of those who studied abroad, and the experience had a lasting impact on their world view for 95% of respondents. Students who are in situations that force them to rely on their own problem-solving skills cultivate their confidence in being independent and finding success in a number of situations that will translate back into their experiences upon returning home. Self-reliance and resilience are gained through going into a totally new situation and finding a way forward.
It makes sense that once school-age students are abroad, they are far more likely to reinforce commitment to studying a foreign language, and broaden their subsequent educational experiences.Learning a foreign language in today’s globally connected world gives students an incredible edge as they enter college and beyond, increasing job opportunities and creating desirable candidates for college admissions, scholarships, and even internships.Graduate programs look very favorably on those who have studied abroad, recognizing that the experience leaves a positive impact on academic success, problem-solving skills,adaptability, and an improved attitude to toward multiculturalism.
Students who study abroad are exposed to new and different ways of living life. Everything, from food and clothing to celebrations and customs, can be unique exposures to how diverse the bigger world is, and that all cultures have something to offer and learn from. According to the IES survey, 98% of students who have been exposed to other cultures reported gaining a deeper understanding of their own culture and biases. This deeper understanding undeniably increases empathy and connection to all individuals and positively influences interactions with a diverse group of friends, coworkers and peers.
Students who study abroad are deeply impacted by their experience, and their eyes are inevitably opened up to more opportunities and possibilities than they otherwise would be exposed to. Students often make connections with others that they stay in touch with (and therefore network with) throughout their adulthood and it can lead to broader career opportunities. Friendships made abroad are enduring and can have social, personal, and professional dividends. A majority of IES Survey respondents reported that their experience influenced changing or expanding their college majors.
Choosing a study abroad program can be a daunting challenge, but if parents do indeed send their child to participate in an exchange program of any sort, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Spending time abroad when young can leave a lasting impact, reaping undeniable benefits both immediately and in the long-term range for a child’s life, while making special memories along the way.