Skimming through the archives of one of my go-to news sites, PolicyMic, I was aghast to come across an article that goes against everything I believe in: 5 Reasons College Students Should Not Study Abroad. At first glance, I assumed that this was a pressure point piece, being controversial as a way to assure a rush of comments and readers. After scrolling down to the comments, my belief about how great travel is was affirmed by the 50+ responses from outraged wanderlusters like myself, who all shared my opinion that living abroad is the experience of a lifetime.
Still, there is something to be said for the reasons that the article listed for not going abroad. These reasons are all the same excuses I have heard time and time again from friends in college defending their decision to stay put in their home country. While I understand that there are numerous factors that go into the decision to live abroad, I think it is important to differentiate between reasons and excuses.
So in defense of travel, self-exploration and discovery, here is my response to these 5 Reasons College Students Should Not Study Abroad:
1. You probably will not get a better education overseas
First off, to claim that American universities are the best in the world is quite an arrogant assumption (a glance at the World University Ranking shows that the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada, China, Australia, Japan, Korea, Denmark and Germany all have universities that rival those in the United States). More importantly, however, is the necessary acknowledgment that an education cannot be confined to things that are learned solely inside a classroom. When living abroad, you are immersed in a new culture that allows you to develop skills that are important in the modern, globalized workplace. In fact, a report published last year by the British Council, Booz Allen Hamilton and Ipsos Public Affairs found that businesses are putting increasing emphasis on the importance of intercultural skills. It also noted that job seekers benefit from international experiences when competing for jobs (See Why Do An Internship Abroad).
2. Traveling abroad is expensive
Debt is a pressure most college students face and budgeting for going abroad can be intimidating. When it comes down to it, interning or studying abroad is similar to the investment you make when deciding to go to college. It requires research and planning, but in the end, you come out being a more confident, self-aware person with experiences that will give you an edge when looking for a job. Living abroad gives you an experience that allows you to develop a global network, broaden your horizon and learn intercultural skills that will follow and help you for the rest of your life. My colleague Alex does a fantastic job in summing up the benefits in his post, Why Should I Pay to Intern Abroad? You can also check out the Top 8 Tips to Save Money Abroad and the equally important Traveling on a Budget: Drinking Abroad for more ideas on how to reduce costs.
3. You can step out of your comfort zone while at home
There are always opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone no matter what environment you’re in. However, joining a campus organization or finding a new hangout spot hardly compares to the challenges you face while traveling independently in a new country. It is scary to leave behind everything you know in exchange for a foreign area, full of unfamiliar faces. The stages of going abroad remind me very much of that one crazy time that I decided to jump out of a plane. There was excitement, followed by fear, followed by comments and questions like, “What the hell do you think you are doing?” It all came to a pinnacle when I was in the air feeling excited, nervous, awestruck and immensely happy that I had decided to take the leap. What’s more is that being abroad allows you to see your own culture through the lens of another country, which helps you to develop a keen sense of self-awareness and an appreciation of the world around you. And yes, this appreciation is impossible to hone in from inside the U.S.
4. Now is not the only time in your life you can travel or live abroad
This may not be the only time in your life you can travel or live abroad, but it is certainly the easiest time to. Freedom is a luxury afforded to 20-somethings that quickly disappears as you get absorbed in a career, find a serious partner, and eventually start a family. The ability to pick up and go is one that we tend to take for granted. This is a time in your life when you are learning, growing and becoming more comfortable with yourself. What better place to do all of that self-discovery than in Dublin, Sydney, Barcelona, Florence, Milan, Paris, or (my personal favorite) London?
5. You miss out
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a common concern of those avoiding the abroad experience. Let me just show you a few of the things that our London interns have done in the mere two weeks since they’ve been in the UK:
Who has FOMO now?
So yes, this article makes a fair amount of points that I have heard time and time again. But the arguments against each affirmation will tell you a lot more about studying abroad than this article ever will.
Mallory is a former Washingtonian studying in London, working towards her MA in Global Media & Transnational Communication. As a Program Coordinator for Global Experiences she gets to share her love of London with interns and helps them to make the most of their experience abroad. She loves good food, good wine, and good company. She suffers from chronic wanderlust.
Photo Credits: Melissa Alavro, photography intern in London