Waleed Almotairi Suzanne Barnett English 101.23 10 November Benefits of Studying Abroad Today an increasing number are making the decision to conduct their tertiary studies abroad. Many of them are taking up this initiative as self-sponsored students, but just as many also secure part or full scholarships from foreign universities, companies, and non-governmental organizations. Increasingly, companies are also providing scholarships for students to study in foreign highly regarded colleges and universities as part of their social responsibility program. Many of these companies also do so because they intend to enable students to acquire exceptional skills in a certain field that they take part in, and then employ them after they complete their studies.
The onset of the so-called global village has necessitated the need for students to acquire an international experience, so as to be able to function as career men and women in a world that is rapidly becoming more and more interlinked. The notion of a “global perspective” has replaced the old global dream of a “world order.” The global village perspective emphasizes interdependence among all the nations of the world. Numerous new concepts serve as evidence of international interdependence that today’s students cannot avoid. These include the competitive pressures that have resulted due to globalization of economies, the linguistic and cultural challenges encountered in international business, the massive impact of 9/11 that the world feels to this day, international environmental challenges such as the negative ecological effect of global warming, and technologically facilitated telephonic and internet communications. Since the end of the Second World War, interactions and activities that essentially took place within the borders of a single state are increasingly taking place across national boundaries. Examples include business relationships, employment, professional associations, and family and social connections. This ongoing process of globalization has presented new pressures to individuals to competently engage in the free flow of commerce, communication, and ideas across national boundaries. To this effect, studying abroad serves as a way of preparing students to function effectively in this globalized society (Williamson 28-32). The advantages of studying abroad outweigh the disadvantages. The world is becoming increasingly globalized. therefore, studying in a foreign country is beneficial because it enables students to learn new languages and cultures, obtain exposure which widens their level of thinking, and learn to tolerate people of different cultures and backgrounds (Donald 134-142).
A number of reputable scholars have written about the advantages of studying abroad in the last few decades. Among the most significant of these studies is The Benefits of Study Abroad: New Study Confirms Significant Gains by Courtney K. Peters and Mary M. Dwyer, PhD, who explored the various advantages that students experience when they study abroad. Another credible study is Impact of Education Abroad on Career Development by the American Institute for Foreign Study, which explores the overall effect of studying abroad on the careers of college and university graduates. All these studies concentrate only on positive aspects of studying abroad and ignore the negative ones. This is because most of the research written concerning this topic has so far concentrated on the benefits. The purpose of the studies was to influence students to undertake their studies abroad. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that there was bias in these studies. This research will explore both the benefits and disadvantages of studying abroad and weigh them against each other to determine the overall suitability (Bolen, 322).
A common assertion of study abroad educators is that one of the main aims of studying abroad is to train future leaders to be more globally effective. In addition, these future leaders aim to gain respect for other cultures, economic and political systems, and acquire the willingness to take a common stand for the welfare of the world’s people, not just what is beneficial to one country. Findings of numerous studies conducted by various organizations and universities indicate that studying abroad is succeeding in this mission. Education International, a non-governmental organization (or NGO) that safeguards the welfare of international students, carried out a study which established that studying abroad provides a culturally valuable experience. 98% of respondents reported that studying abroad assisted them to understand better their own culture and get rid of their cultural bias. 82% reported that studying abroad helped them to develop a more sophisticated perspective of the world. Many reported that the experience made them aware of habits and preconceptions they possessed and were previously taking for granted, but they only became aware of them when studying abroad exposed them to people of other cultures and backgrounds who found those habits and preconceptions offensive or inappropriate (Dwyer and Peters).
It is significant that these intercultural benefits are not short-lived but continue to impact the lives of students long after completing their time abroad. 94% of the respondents said that the experience is still influencing their interactions and associations with people hailing from different cultures. 23% reported that they have continued to maintain contact with friends they made in the host country, and 90% reported that the experience instilled in them the predisposition to seek a friend base with greater diversity. 64% reported that it also led them to explore the cultures of other people. Seeing a photo of Buenos Aires or reading a travel pamphlet about the bustling and colorful streets of Mumbai is one thing, but visiting these foreign lands in person is a completely different experience. Studying abroad enables individuals to engage in the daily activities of a new locale and gain a first-hand appreciation and understanding of the new culture. As society becomes more globalized, it is now more important to acquire the skills that will make it possible and relatively easy to communicate across various cultures. Of course, this means gaining an understanding of more than just different languages. It helps individuals to gain familiarity with the traditions and customs of the host country, as well as with the local language. Interacting with locals provides an invaluable opportunity to become appreciative of the culture and the aspects in which it varies from an individual’s own (Williamson 67-82).
Students studying abroad lose their regular support group of friends and family and therefore constantly encounter new and challenging situations. However, as Michael Byram asserts in Living and Studying Abroad: Research and Practice, “this is not a big issue because they are able to meet new people and develop friendships that will provide them with companionship and help them to get by comfortably”. Whether a student lives in a students’ residence or resides with a host family, he gets endless opportunities to form lasting relationships with the people around him. These friends and companions will provide him with consolation when he feels homesick and introduce him to the local ways of having fun. Recreation plays an important role in the experience of studying abroad, and sharing these experiences is much more enjoyable than spending time alone (Evans 234).
Between lecturers, academic directors, program staff, host families, and other students, individuals are able to forge a far-reaching network of people during their experience of studying abroad. Individuals can also acquire professional contacts while studying abroad. Course loads of some foreign programs tend to be comparatively lighter than those individuals encountered back in their home countries. therefore, they have more free time on their hands. This serves as an ideal occasion to undertake internships, volunteer, or work part time. Some students may be able to call upon established professional contacts soon after completion of their program in pursuit of employment recommendations or scholarships (Bohrer).
A survey conducted by Washington State University established that students undergo significant personal growth while studying abroad. Many respondents reported that they learnt more about themselves in a single semester than they did in the entire duration that they spent in high school (Tao and He 64). This achievement was possible because the foreign environment provided them with a unique space for learning, experiencing, and exploring their responses to the pressures and challenges of coming into long term contact with other cultures and a completely unfamiliar environment.
According to Mell Bolen in his work, Consumerism and U.S. Study Abroad, “Studying abroad serves as a catalyst for attaining maturity as well as increasing self confidence”. After encountering unfamiliar challenges and managing to deal with them effectively without considerable assistance from other people, students become confident in their abilities to tackle problems. In addition to increased self confidence, this experience enables them to develop effective problem-solving skills which prove highly valuable in their careers as well as their day-to-day activities. Furthermore, the experience enables them to learn tolerance for ambiguity and has a lasting impact on their world views. Long lasting friendships that develop also serve as important elements of personal growth. This is because they enable individuals to acquire values that will be beneficial to them in their family life. The experience shared with friends of living immersed in a foreign culture contributes to making these friendships particularly enduring and poignant (Tao and He 64).
In his masterpiece, Studying Abroad, Cerys Evans asserts, “Most people live in a comfort zone and lean on the support network of friends, family and acquaintances around them. Students who take the initiative of studying abroad suddenly get taken away from this support network and have to learn to depend on themselves henceforth”. This experience enables them to develop independence and become responsible persons. Whether it is buying groceries or washing laundry, individuals learn to take responsibility for their actions. When they return home, their increased independence turns out to be very useful to them. It helps them in their domestic chores, day-to-day routines, and their job search activities (Cullen).
As the world becomes more and more globalized, people are now more than ever migrating to foreign countries in search of better employment opportunities, more political and religious freedom, education of a higher quality, and better quality of life. Because of these migrations, many people are now born in countries which are not the place of origin of their parents. Some people can even trace their migration into their current country back two or three generations to their great grandparents. When they grow up, many of them begin to feel insecure because of a lack of a cultural identity. Thus, they start to get the urge to explore their original culture so as to rediscover their roots and obtain a cultural identity, in addition to a sense of belonging. Studying abroad in the countries of their origins is an effective way to accomplish this noble endeavor because it provides students with opportunities to mingle with the locals and learn the culture and language from them. Learning the culture and the language will provide the individual with a sense of belonging since he will finally have many things in common with a certain group of people, including sharing the same ancestors (Bolen 491-507).
Despite the numerous benefits that students experience when they study abroad, the experience is not entirely positive. There are several challenges linked to studying abroad that students need to consider. The most obvious one is the possibility of experiencing homesickness. This could especially be a serious issue if the student has never been away from home for a long period. However, this is only a temporary problem that students encounter while they are still new in the foreign country. After some time, students usually get used to their new environment, and the homesickness dissipates. Another challenge is the possibility that the locals may not be receptive. This is especially a serious issue in countries rife with xenophobia, whereby the locals feel that foreigners who come to study in the country fail to return home after concluding their studies, and instead, seek jobs in the country because they are more lucrative than in their home country. The locals sometimes feel that foreigners are securing all the good jobs while they settle for the low paying ones (Cressey 156).
Sometimes, individuals may get too accustomed to the new country and its people so that when they return home after a long stay abroad, their home country may feel foreign to them. This may present a challenge when interacting with old friends and even family, as they may feel a strange awkwardness. Another challenge is that some foreign programs may be too expensive. There are numerous scholarships but, unfortunately, not everyone who wants to study abroad may be eligible to acquire them. As a result, students who choose to pay for themselves or take student loans may burden their family financially or may find it challenging to repay loans later when they finish their studies. In instances where a student’s purpose of studying abroad is to conduct research, then it will be advantageous to mention this to their college or university, as it may be possible to transfer credits acquired abroad to their home institution. However, it may not always be possible to transfer credits, and this could cost students financially (Byram 76).
Evidently, the advantages of studying abroad are numerous, but the disadvantages are also significant. It is, therefore, essential for students considering undertaking their studies abroad to weigh the advantages against the disadvantages, and determine whether studying abroad is worth the financial cost and effort. Generally, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for most people and, therefore, overall, studying abroad is beneficial.
Bohrer, Isabel. “Ten Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad in College – Benefits and Challenges.” Money Crashers, 25 Oct. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.
Bolen, Mell. “Consumerism and U.S. Study Abroad.” Journal of Studies in International Education 14. 1 (2010): 491–507. Print.
Byram, Michael. Living and Studying Abroad: Research and Practice. New York: Multilingual Matlers Limited, 2006. Print.
Cressey, William. Guide to Studying Abroad. New York: Princeton Review Publishing, 2004. Print.
Cullen, Calvin. “Studying Abroad: Is it really worth it?” NPR, 2012, 9 Aug. 2012. Web 25 Oct. 2012.
Dwyer, Mary and Peters, Courtney. The Benefits of Study Abroad. IEA News, 2011. Web 25 Oct. 2012. http://www.iesabroad.org/study-abroad/news/benefits-study-abroad
Evans, Cerys. Studying Abroad. London: Crimson Publishing, 2012. Print.
Johnstone, Donald. Higher Education in a Global Society. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, 2010. Print.
Tao, Liking and He, Wayne. “Benefits of Studying Abroad.” The New York Times, 24 May 2009. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.
Williamson, Wendy. Study Abroad 101. Chicago: Agapy Publishing Ltd., 2008. Print.