Pros and Cons of Your Student Studying Abroad this Fall
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By Lorena Roberts, Uloop
As more and more universities and degree programs require a “Ready for the World” experience, your student might be exploring the possibility of studying abroad in order to broaden their perspective on the world. College has always been about preparing our youth for the life ahead. One of the greatest things your student can do for their own education is to take a chance on studying abroad for a semester. If the thought of your student being out of the country for several months frightens you, take the time to look into some study abroad blogs that students have written about how much it changed who they are.
You’ll be amazed at what a semester abroad can do for a person’s confidence and outlook on the world. However, it’s not all sunflowers and daisies when it comes to studying abroad. It takes a lot of organization, planning… and funds to get a semester studying abroad together. If your college student is studying abroad this fall, you’re running out of time to get your details lined up.
Here are some pros and cons of your student studying abroad this fall:
1. Improved self-confidence.
I can speak from personal experience and tell you that studying abroad did wonders for my self-confidence. As a freshman in college, I studied in Germany for five weeks. It was the first time I’d been out of the country, and the first time I’d really traveled without my parents. I had to navigate foreign transportation systems, a foreign language barrier, and getting lost way too many times throughout my trip abroad. On top of all of this, I had to attend classes, keep up with my studies, and make sure I didn’t waste the thousands of dollars I spent on going overseas.
There was a time when we were on the outskirts of the city of Prague, with no Czech coins, and zero understanding of the language. There weren’t any taxis around, our cell phones didn’t work, and we had no idea where we were. I truly thought that was going to be the end of my life. I remember thinking that was the way I was going to die. Little did I know, a taxi would come along, scoop us up, and get us back to the city center (for way too many Euros).
It was after studying abroad in Germany that I came back thinking, if I can handle being in another country on my own for five weeks without Chick-Fil-A, I can do anything.
When your student returns from their study abroad experience, there’s no doubt they’ll have an improved self-confidence.
2. Better understanding of the world and other people.
Before my study abroad trip, I thought everyone in the world loved Americans. Nope.
Having the opportunity to talk to “the locals,” and learn what their thoughts were on Americans was an incredible opportunity. I was in Germany before Trump got elected, so I might have an even more intense experience if I went back now, but for the most part, people were open about what they thought about the US. They see American students as lazy. Party animals. Greedy. Impatient.
Yeah, sounds about right, doesn’t it?
Once your student has the experience of studying abroad, they’ll understand that we are not, in fact, the “Superman” of the world. America isn’t viewed as positively in the eyes of other countries the way we may think. Your student’s eyes will be opened to how people really feel about their home country within minutes of arriving in their new “home away from home.”
3. Making friends!
When your student comes back from studying abroad, perhaps the best resource they can come home with are the friends they made while they were away. These friends have now become a base for traveling all over the world. In ten years, when your student needs a place to stay on their layover in Amsterdam, maybe they’ll be able to hit up their study abroad contacts. Making friends overseas is one of the best “pros” that can come from your student studying abroad. The closer they become with this new friend, the more likely they are to gain an insider view into the lives of what it’s like to live in another country.
4. Learn a new language
Having the ability to speak another language is truly incredible — and it’s becoming more and more useful by the minute. Though English will get you decently far in Europe, the ability to converse with locals is priceless. If your student goes abroad again in their lifetime and they can make conversation with people or even just ask for directions, it’ll be a much more positive experience.
Learning a foreign language is such a humbling experience. Being abroad isn’t the same as practicing in a classroom – so being in the real world and having to use what you know is the best way to get good at it!
5. Financial impact on your educational budget/college fund
I have to admit that studying abroad cost me quite a bit of money. The biggest piece of advice I can give you and your college student is to look into study abroad scholarships. Whether it’s departmental, or college-wide, $500 here and there can add up to a lot. If you can get your plane ticket across the ocean covered, you’re doing well for yourselves!
Try to plan ahead. If your student knows they’ll have to study abroad before they graduate, try to plan out when they’ll go and make a financial plan to set yourselves up for success. Taking out a bit more in student loans is always an option, but allowing your student to blow $10K on their study abroad experience might not be a good financial decision. Do what’s best for your student and your family.
6. Getting off track on classes.
Sometimes studying abroad means a change in advising plans. Whether it’s that your student’s classes might not transfer back to their home institution (which is definitely something they should check on before they go), whether the classes they need are offered abroad, or whether your student thinks they won’t be able to handle the same class load in a foreign country, studying abroad can greatly mess with your student’s academic advising plans. It’s smart to start planning ahead early on so your student has everything lined up academically before they even buy their plane ticket.
7. Feeling lonely.
Your student will probably feel lonely or homesick at some point, which is a major downfall of studying abroad. Encourage them to reach out to people, attend social functions, and make friends upon their arrival. Adjusting to their new environment is tough — they’ll need some support to get through it.
The feeling of loneliness might not go away. Maybe your student has decided to study abroad before they’re ready. It’s okay for them to make that mistake. They’ll learn a lot more about who they are and what they’re capable of this way. So don’t worry about them too much — if I made it, so can they!
More than anything, a “con” of your college student studying abroad is that you’ll miss them greatly. They might miss holidays and special occasions with the rest of the family. It’ll feel odd to not have them there, but know that what they’re doing is better for the greater good. There will be many more Christmases and Thanksgivings. There will be hundreds of hours for the family to spend together. Missing them is okay, but don’t let it consume you as a parent. Try to remember that they’re finally blooming into the beautiful butterfly you always knew they would be!
If there’s anything you should encourage your student to do while they’re in college, it’s to study abroad. Nothing will give them a better sense of self. Nothing will build their self-confidence to the degree that studying abroad will. You’re giving them the opportunity of a lifetime by helping them finance their study abroad trip.
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