Moving to study abroad in a foreign country can be a defining moment. Immersed in a different culture, education system, and social network, the experience is as challenging as it is rewarding. From enhanced foreign language skills to lifelong friendships, here are five compelling reasons why you should strongly consider studying abroad.
1. You’ll learn a new language
A second language becomes more valuable as globalization brings different cultures together. In particular, the growing necessity for bilinguals in business, academic, and social settings make those who can speak more than one language stand-out from the crowd. But, why exactly does study abroad program boost language skills? Let’s explore some of the reasons below.
Study abroad is a quick way to learn a new language
There’s nowhere to hide when you’re living in a country where your second language is the mother tongue—after all, from socializing with friends, ordering food, shopping for groceries, or watching TV, each day is an opportunity to practice. Unsurprisingly, immersion speeds up the learning process and is probably the key reason why you should study abroad.
Better still, being surrounded by a different language allows you to leave the textbooks behind, encouraging you to speak like a local by picking up colloquialisms and slang. As you do this more and more, speaking will become a more natural part of your day-to-day as you bond with your new friends and classmates. For better results when learning a new language abroad, remember to:
Live with natives, so the foreign language is spoken at home.
Involve yourself in social situations, even if you struggle to fully understand. You might miss parts of conversation, but diving into the deep end is the best way to learn.
Insist on speaking the language when others attempt to speak English with you, even if it takes longer to communicate.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure or losing track. Your peers will understand and appreciate the effort.
Learning a new language boosts your brainpower, too
Learning a foreign language has extra benefits. For example, a 2012 study discovered bilingual children are more creative and better problem-solvers than those with one language. According to the NYTimes, bilingualism has “a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language.” On top of improved communication, bilingualism sharpens regions of the brain and boosts intelligence, offering a compelling reason why you should study abroad.
2. Study abroad boosts your future career prospects
An international student survey by Hobsons—questioning 40,000 students from over 200 nations—discovered that career prospects are the main reason why study abroad attracts students. “More and more employers are realizing the extraordinary benefits of study abroad,” says Dr. Mary M. Dwyer, President & CEO of IES Abroad, “and are seeking out graduates who have had study abroad experiences.”
Employers value potential employees who have strong character traits, and who can offer standout qualities such as soft skills and leadership attributes in another language. But what are these traits, and how are they developed while studying abroad?
Soft skills are key for professional development
Businesses hire employees who have a combination of hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are teachable, measurable “technical” skills, such as coding, writing, or web design. Soft skills, on the other hand, are interpersonal. They’re a marker of how well you communicate with others and fit into a team dynamic.
Soft skills are difficult to quantify as they relate to traits such as creativity, positivity, problem-solving, and adaptability. However, they’re in-demand. A report by Deloitte Access Economics predicts by 2030, two-thirds of jobs in Australia will rely on soft skills. This is predicted to apply across the globe.
The opportunity to improve soft skills is a contributing factor when considering why you should study abroad or attend a university in Europe. According to Erasmus, students who study abroad are more adaptable, work well in teams, and communicate effectively.
Develop better communication and leadership skills
Most modern businesses are multicultural. Consequently, to communicate and guide effectively, business leaders need to understand different cultures. According to the Ivy Business Journal, universalism—a character trait based in compassion and tolerance of others— is a crucial element of successful leadership. It consists of:
Respect for others
Each of these traits are developed when studying abroad. You’ll immerse yourself in a different culture, expand your worldview, and learn how to communicate effectively with people from a wide range of backgrounds. These skills will serve you well if you aspire to become a leader in the future.
Students who study abroad have a strong advantage in the job market, thanks to improved soft skills, enhanced foreign language skills, and the development of cross-cultural communication. All things considered, it’s no surprise Erasmus report the risk of long-term unemployment is halved for mobile students. It justifies why study abroad is a smart career move.
3. Study abroad offers you financial benefits
Projected lifetime earnings increase with improved employability. A report by the Go International programme discovered students who study abroad earn on average €1,400 per year more than peers who studied at home. Aside from future benefits, there are also other short-term reasons why study abroad is financially viable.
Students studying abroad receive financial incentives
Traditional ways to financially support your education abroad still apply, such as student loans or part-time work. However, due to reasons covered—such as enhanced foreign language and employability—governments across Europe are keen for students to go overseas for their education. As a result, they offer financial incentives.
The Erasmus + programme is the biggest of its kind for EU citizens looking to study abroad for shorter periods. The numbers themselves provide insight on the scope of the—if you need further convincing, here are some essential stats to consider:
Between 2007-2013, the programme provided grants to 1.6 million students.
Across the same time period, Erasmus+ was backed by an impressive budget of €3.1 billion.
The average monthly grant within the EU is €274 per student.
Placements averaged six months.
However, for longer spells abroad, there are a wealth of international bursaries available.
An added incentive to why study abroad helps financially is the prospect of saving money. Tuition fees could be cheaper than your home country. For example, a number of public universities in Europe offer free tuition for EU citizens— these include Germany, France, Greece, and Sweden, amongst others.
4. It’s fantastic for your personal growth
A compelling reason why you should study abroad is the value of soft skills, away from career or study. Living in another country for an extended period of time is much different from a brief stay or holiday. At times, it will feel difficult, but the richness of experience leads to personal growth in a number of areas. Take a look at some reasons below:
Experience a new culture to broaden your mind
As the well-known phrase says: “familiarity breeds contempt.” Studying abroad will expand your horizons, immerse you in a new culture, and change your outlook on the world. Not only will each day present unfamiliar situations, places, and experiences, you’ll be surrounded by multinational peers with unique perspectives on life.
Leave your comfort zone and boost self-confidence
Fear is understandable when leaving places and people you know and love. Once you’ve arrived, you’ll consistently be outside of your comfort zone—whether bonding with a new group of students, socializing (or learning!) in another language, or adjusting to an unfamiliar culture.
However, adapting to daily challenges will also encourage you to develop personal strength, resilience, and trust in your ability to cope with all that life throws at you. Additionally, moving to a completely fresh and unfamiliar environment means you will learn more about yourself, boosting self-awareness and self-confidence.
Cultivating personal skills will mature you as a person, leaving you better equipped to deal with different situations and likely to feel a strong sense of independence. This unlocks doors for your future—knowing you’re able to adapt, you’ll be more likely to make ambitious plans, including further travel, work placements, or study overseas.
5. You’ll make life-long friends, and maybe fall in love...
The fifth and final reason why all students should study abroad is due to the people you meet. Many students who study abroad make life-long friends from all over the world. This creates opportunities to travel, sofa-surf, or move permanently to new locations.
On a professional level, you’ll meet like-minded individuals who will likely have successful careers themselves, providing a solid network ripe with potential for exciting workplace opportunities. Plus, Erasmus report that a third of students who studied on their programme now live with a partner of a different nationality. So, here’s a final reason for the romantics amongst us—studying abroad may even lead to love!
The N26 bank account is an ideal companion for when studying abroad, with free ATM withdrawals all over the world and no hidden foreign transaction fees on purchases. Better still, automatic categorization tracks your spending and provides a clear overview of your finances, helping you spend and budget wisely as a student. With your money management taken care of, you’ll be free to focus on settling into your new home. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?