After being on pause for more than a year, the world is beginning to open up again. And while your first thought might be to plan a vacation, why not go one step further and study abroad? You’d be in good company—around 300,000 students in Europe alone study abroad through Erasmus+, the European Union’s student exchange program. What’s more, a total of 347,099 US students made the decision to go to university overseas in 2019.
There are plenty of reasons to study abroad. Some are professionally motivated, while others are more personal in nature. Regardless of your reasons, getting the chance to travel, learn a new language, and explore foreign cultures can be a great experience, especially while you’re studying.
And yet, packing your bags and heading off with your passport in hand may seem daunting. To help boost your confidence, we’ve put together a list of compelling reasons to study abroad this year.
1. Government grants can help cover the costs
You might think studying abroad is expensive, but that doesn’t have to be the case. There are various foreign study grants available to students looking to spend a semester or two in another country, including the following three major ones:
- Students eligible to receive a grant under the European Erasmus+ scheme get €300-€350 per month, depending on the country they decide to study in. The grant helps with the costs of living abroad and doesn’t have to be repaid. Erasmus+ grants are arranged through your home university.
- BAföG, the German student funding program, provides eligible students with between €60 and €450 per month to study abroad, plus a fixed travel allowance of €250 for destinations within Europe (or €500 for places outside Europe).
- Under the Turing Scheme—the UK government’s program for British educational institutions—around 35,000 UK students per year can benefit from collective funding of £100 million to study at universities around the globe.
2. Learn a new language
According to a survey by the European Union, 56% of Europeans speak a language other than their native one, 25% speak three languages, and 10% speak four or more. Learning a new language—even if you don’t have enough time to fully master it—has many advantages, including improved memory, sharper problem-solving, listening and critical-thinking skills, better concentration, and a higher level of employability. What’s more, a language gives you an insider’s perspective on a country’s culture—something you might miss if you had to rely on your native tongue alone. Finally, the more you practice and speak to other people, the more bonds you’ll make with locals—ensuring a more authentic experience overall.
3. Explore neighboring countries and regions
Germany shares its border with nine countries (Poland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourg, if you’re interested). Spain contains 17 autonomous regions, and the UK is home to four countries. The point is this—if you’re asking yourself why you should study abroad, take a look at a map of the countries on your shortlist and see how many other places you could reach by bus, train, or short-haul flight. You might spend six months living in Paris, but by the end of your experience, you could have been all over the SEPA zone—while benefiting from a host of international student discounts along the way (see point 7!).
4. Develop and grow
You may have already changed a lot since you started college, but studying abroad brings a new set of challenges with it—and the chance to overcome them. Even going to the grocery store and interacting with the cashier isn’t something you can take for granted—you have to get into the rhythm of the conversation, understand the language, and navigate your way through the transaction. And then there are the inevitable university presentations before a group of students, meeting new friends—the list goes on! Ultimately, studying abroad compels you to leave your comfort zone and grow as a person.
5. Boost your employability
Why study abroad? Well, employability is the one reason that could pay off the most over the long term. According to a study by IZA World of Labor, study abroad programs are more likely to give students the skills and experience employers are looking for once they graduate. Anywhere between 29% and 54% of students who have studied abroad believe their time spent in another country was directly related to their success in securing a job after receiving their degree. And if you can speak the local lingo on top, expect to receive an earnings premium of between 2% and 5% compared to an employee who never studied abroad (though this very much depends on the company and the language).
6. Pave your way for graduate school
This one may still be some way down the line, but it is still worth pointing out—any edge you can bring to your application for a master’s degree or PhD program is a good one. Don’t forget that you’re looking to stand out among a competitive field of applicants. Graduate schools like to see evidence that applicants can work well with others, are open-minded, and can handle real-world situations. A stay abroad is proof that you’ve mastered all three of these qualities.
7. Save money on services
Study abroad, save money abroad—there are various ways international students can cut costs and get more for their euro. The Interrail Pass is an all-in-one train ticket for European residents—a Eurail Pass is available for non-residents—that allows you to explore 33 different countries by train. If you’re under the age of 27, you’ll receive a 25% discount on your pass. Then there’s the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which offers discounts on over 150,000 products and services, including accommodation, travel, electronics, and sports.
8. Develop new interests
Ever played pétanque in Paris or gone bouldering in Barcelona? Not yet, perhaps, but this is yet another reason why studying abroad can broaden horizons and expose you to things you never would have dreamed of doing back home. While living in another country, you’ll meet people from all walks of life and with all manner of interests. Sports and cultural activities are a fantastic way to bond and form friendships, and you may just end up finding a new passion along the way! Even if you don’t enjoy it, then at least you tried.
9. See your own background in a different light
One aspect that’s easy to overlook when deciding why you should study abroad is how being immersed in another culture can make some of the quirks of your own stand out. From mealtimes and greetings to how people queue for the bus—daily customs can differ greatly depending on the country, region, or town you are in. When you return home, you might change part of your old routine to reflect what you’ve learned abroad—or you might simply be glad to have things back to normal. Either way, you’ve broadened your mind.
10. Take advantage of lower tuition fees
This one comes with a couple of conditions—lower tuition fees will depend on whether you’ve decided to do your full degree abroad and which country you decide to study in. A few good study options here are:
- Germany: no tuition fees. Expect an administrative fee of €100-€350 per semester only
- France: low tuition fees of around €170-€620 per year
- Spain: tuition fees ranging from €750 to €2,500 per year
- Netherlands: between €700 and €2,100 in tuition fees per year
- Portugal: tuition fees of €950-€1,300 per year
For more information, check out this guide to finding student financial support in Europe.
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