Join the army, they said. See the world, they said.
Thanks to increasing globalization, there are now plenty of ways to see the world that don’t require you to join the army.
For example, you could kill two boards with one stone and get your education in a foreign country (or two). More students are taking the opportunity to study abroad, and experience all the benefits that it has to offer.
Benefits such as:
Gain insight into a different culture
You can see much of the world by backpacking across a continent, but to truly learn about a culture, you have to live in it.
Studying abroad requires you to actually live and work amongst the people of a country for an extended period of time. This allows you to gain a better sense of their cultural quirks than if you were simply passing through. This is especially the case if you’re attending an educational institution in a less central location.
Learn a different language
Living amongst a different culture is the best way to learn a different language, which, aside from improving your communication ability, is beneficial in many ways. There is evidence to suggest that speaking more than one language improves the brain’s ability to process information, and can help delay the onset of dementia later in life.
Research has found that languages are constantly active in the brains of people who are bilingual or multilingual, and their brains are continuously choosing between the various words when they attempt to express a concept. This constant stimulation helps develop cognitive functions and improves information retention, benefiting not only language majors, but students in general.
Aside from that, learning a new language provides an additional skillset, one which opens up a number of new career opportunities and increases your value to any organization that chooses to employ you.
Whatever part-time work you engage in, whatever people you meet, and whatever experience you gain while traveling will grow your network of contacts. Whether they’re of a social or professional nature, they can provide information and assistance that can be critical to your education, career, or your pursuit of business opportunities.
Expand your interests
Pushing your boundaries and acquiring new skills can pave the way for new and unexpected career paths. Perhaps the need to cover your expenses prompts you to find work in an area you might never have otherwise considered, and you may find it to be to your liking, or particularly well-suited to your strengths. Or, perhaps fending for yourself improves your confidence in your own abilities, and you find yourself more willing than ever to seize opportunities.
There’s even a chance you’ll feel more at home in your new surroundings. There are countless stories of people who have fallen in love with a culture and opted to stay much longer than originally intended.
Improve your resume
Ultimately, the skills most valued by employers are the same skills you need to succeed in a foreign environment. Anyone who chooses to study abroad shows a willingness to meet challenges and face the unknown. Living overseas for an extended period of time shows adaptability and perseverance. Furthermore, organizations will value the insight that your experiences in distant lands can provide.
Combining education and experience
For all that books and lectures can teach you, most would agree that experience is the ultimate educator. When you study abroad, you gain the benefits of both an academic and cultural education. You’re forced to develop a greater degree of independence then might otherwise have been required, and you’re forced to operate in an environment and culture to which you are unaccustomed.
Such experiences can contribute more to your education than any degree ever could. After all, education is not just about developing your academic abilities. Traveling presents a great opportunity for personal growth, and there are few better opportunities for traveling than to study abroad.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Matthew Flax writes about the ways in which travel can broaden your education, being himself an English speaker who learns countless new and interesting words whenever he visits England.