From brushing up on your foreign language skills to making lifelong friends, it’s clear that studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity for both personal and professional development. Though the benefits of a year abroad far exceed the following, I’ve compiled what I think are the top six reasons why studying abroad is a great experience.
The chance to experience a different approach towards learning. Compared to most American liberal arts colleges, the British approach to learning is much more self-guided and emphasizes independent study. This is perfect if you already know what academic area you want to pursue in the future, and a large university like the LSE will undoubtedly provide you with more than enough resources at your fingertips. Given that the British style of learning encourages student independence, pursuing independent study as an undergraduate is a great practice for students who have to write an undergraduate thesis or those who plan on pursuing some form of graduate education. Conversely, if your home institution is a large, research university with 500+ students in lectures, spending time at a small university abroad will allow you to develop a closer relationship with your professors and make the most of smaller class and seminar sizes. Gaining a new academic perspective and approach to problem-solving will help you when you return to your home institution and when you pursue further studies.
Personal development. Your university and adolescent years are easily some of your most formative, and living abroad in another country is a great environment to cultivate a sense of independence. Navigating the challenges that come with newfound responsibilities and autonomy is crucial in both your professional and personal growth. Living abroad will test your self-reliance and sense of personal responsibility, but such experiences can be extremely fulfilling. Spending time abroad also allows you to further appreciate the small things from your hometown or home institution that you might have initially taken for granted.
Navigating the challenges that come with newfound responsibilities and autonomy is crucial in both your professional and personal growth.
Access to resources that might not have been available at your home institution. Though this varies on a case-by-case basis, studying abroad at another university that’s different from your own will allow you to experience and take advantage of certain opportunities— academic, professional, and personal— that you might not have access to at your home institution or anywhere else in the world. Specific study abroad programs might even open up opportunities for you to study or work in your foreign institution’s country after you finish your academic year there, which in turn will open up further opportunities in the future.
The opportunity to travel internationally and see the world. Apart from seeing the typical tourist attractions, living abroad allows you to truly get a feel for life in a foreign country, something that you wouldn’t get just by visiting for a few weeks while on vacation. Some of my most rewarding experiences while in a foreign country have not come from seeing standard tourist traps, but from visiting more unexpected places and experiencing a new country in the ways that locals might. While most tourist destinations are definitely famous for a reason, spending a prolonged period of time in a particular country and getting to know it really well can be deeply rewarding and allow you to make the most of your time there. Additionally, if you’re coming to the UK from outside of Europe, studying in the UK allows for easy access to various parts of Europe. There’s nothing like taking the Eurostar to Amsterdam or Paris during a school break, or even taking a weekend trip to Ireland or Wales to really make you appreciate your study abroad experience!
Develop your foreign language skills. Though this might not be the case if you’re originally from an English-speaking country and planning to study abroad at another English-speaking institution, studying abroad can also be a great chance to develop your foreign language skills at both the informal and academic levels. If you’re coming from a non-English speaking nation and want to study abroad in the US, UK, or other English-speaking countries, learning and practicing English has a huge payoff since it’s a widely used language in both business and academia. Any form of cultural immersion is a great way to quickly pick up a new language or refine your skills at a higher level.
Any form of cultural immersion is a great way to quickly pick up a new language or refine your skills at a higher level.
Getting out of your comfort zone. For many, this was particularly evident during COVID-19. Spending time in a foreign country during an unprecedented global pandemic definitely forces you to think on your feet and adapt to unexpected news and unfamiliar situations. Especially after two successive summers of quarantining at home with my family, the challenges that come with living abroad and on your own were definitely intimidating, but ultimately rewarding.
Studying abroad is an experience like no other and can often serve as an instrumental part of one’s growth and development both in and out of the classroom or lecture hall.