BY ANTON LUCANUS
They say that not all classrooms have four walls. High school and college students, especially, are realizing this more and more as the Internet allows them to see what lies outside the four walls, and across the seas. As the early Christian philosopher, Saint Augustine, once said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only one page.”
As the Internet brings to life the thousands of amazing places to visit and cultures to experience, students have begun to look for opportunities to savor and absorb them while they are still students, also in many instances heart-whole and fancy-free. So it is that Study Abroad programs have gradually become popular, and now, are undoubtedly a trendsetter.
According to the latest Open Door report by the Institute of International Education, around 332,727 Americans studied abroad in 2018, for credits earned at their national colleges in 2016/17. In other words, about 1 in 10 U.S. students study abroad during their undergraduate career.
Indeed, according to different studies and also as life experience shows, students who have broadened their horizons through travel and through intimate knowledge of and empathy for other cultures, are better-equipped to function in the global workforce. They become strategic thinkers and problem solvers, and excellent communicators in multiple languages. In another recent study, 95% of the students surveyed, accepted that they matured faster because of the international exposure through Study Abroad programs, while 96% said they had enhanced self-confidence and 95% had a deeper perception of the world.
In fact, many students who join the Study Abroad programs are initially challenged by the necessity of adapting to new cultural norms. For instance, Kelsey Hrubes, a software engineer from Iowa State university, says she was forced to adapt to alien cultural norms and to understand everything in a language she had never known before.
Even though the numbers of students seeking overseas study opportunities have gone up in recent years, fewer than 10% of all U.S. college students study abroad during their undergrad years. From among those who do travel, over half of them (53%) go to Europe. Three countries – U.K. (13%), Italy (10%) and Spain (9%), account for about 1/3 of students. Next is France with 6% and China with 5%. Now, however, more American students are seeking out college opportunities in South Africa, Denmark, South Korea, Peru and Thailand. Asia and Latin America are fast gaining popularity for continuing U.S. higher education.
American students who leave on these overseas study tours, seek out an efficient answering service to handle their calls while they are away, as they do not want to end up with huge roaming charges.
Even as U.S. college students make their way to overseas colleges on Study Abroad programs, the U.S. remain the top global host of international students. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Marie Royce, said, “International students studying alongside Americans are a tremendous asset to the United States. We need to develop leaders in all fields who can take on our toughest challenges. We need people who can find solutions that keep us secure and make us more prosperous.”
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students made a significant financial impact on the U.S. in 2017, contributing $42.4 billion to the U.S. economy through tuition, room and board, and other expenses.
Students who participate in study abroad programs, realize that all the connotations of these programs add a lot of weight to a resume, and that it is a compelling way to stand out from the crowd. Hard skills like paper writing are taught in tertiary curriculums, but soft skills like cultural understanding and communication are better learnt through study abroad. Studies have shown that 64% of employers tend to value international experience when recruiting, while 90% of study abroad students landed a job within six months of graduation.
Overseas study also introduces them to different ways of studying. According to a recent study by the University System of Georgia, students returning from a Study Abroad program observed an increase in their overall GPA. They had absorbed new time management skills and methods of study, which they had not known of before traveling.
Two other skill sets that students can acquire through study abroad are problem solving skills and leadership skills. Many are the times that international travel requires split-second decision making. Students are suddenly thrown into challenging situations which need critical thinking skills to handle. As time goes on, thinking outside the box becomes a habit. From another viewpoint, students mature faster when they have to fend for themselves in a foreign country. This leads them to develop a keen sense of leadership after taking a lead on their lives for a length of time. This is also a reason for employers to consider Study Abroad in a positive light when considering for leadership positions.
As American author Neale Donald Walsch, said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Byline – Anton Lucanus is the Director of Neliti. During his college years, he maintained a perfect GPA, was published in a top cancer journal, and received many of his country’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships. Anton writes for The College Puzzle as a means to share the lessons learnt throughout his degree and to guide current students to achieve personal and educational fulfilment during college life.