Why study abroad? That’s a question I am asked often from students. As a high-achieving, high school student, you’ve spent the last few years devoting many hours studying, taking college prep coursework, and volunteering to gain admission to the college of your dreams. You finally arrive on campus and now you’re being told you should leave the campus you worked so hard to attend?
Benefits from study abroad are both personal and professional. Research shows that study abroad alumni graduate on time at higher rates than students who did not go abroad. Returning study abroad students have higher grade point averages after study abroad than students that do not. Study abroad students return from their experiences more independent and exhibit stronger problem-solving skills. Those alone are interesting outcomes, but we are finding there are many professional benefits as well.
Study abroad is still a unique experience and one that not everyone is doing. According to the Institute for International Education (IIE), in their latest survey of U.S. college students, only 1.6 percent of all currently enrolled college students studied abroad in 2013 and 2014. If you compare graduating bachelor degree students, only 14.8 percent of those students study abroad.
Because not everyone is studying abroad, listing a study abroad experience on your resume is valuable. Employers are taking notice as well. A recent study done by the European Union found that study abroad students found employment quicker than their non-study abroad job seekers and more found management positions. In our own research of Semester at Sea Alumni, 98 percent list their experience as their most valuable semester of college.
Students have a wide variety of study abroad choices. You can study for a few weeks, to up to a year. Any major can be accommodated with proper planning. You can study in one country or attend a program like Semester at Sea and sail around the world in a semester. In fact Semester at Sea participates with NSHSS by offering college students ascholarship opportunity.
Study abroad opportunities vary widely among different colleges and universities. As you research the universities you are interested in attending, don’t overlook the study abroad offerings. And plan to go away!