Many American undergraduates who, like Mack Prioleau, are avid travelers, decide to study abroad for a year of their degrees. Almost invariably, they return to their programs full of new ideas, new experiences and friends all over the world. In fact, many people argue that all students should be required to spend at least part of their education because of the many advantages it offers. Here are just a few.
It can challenge things you thought you understood
American students will, of course, be accustomed to viewing the world through the filter of American history, politics and foreign policy. Many students take for granted that the American way of doing things is superior to other ways, and may also imagine that people living in other countries aspire to American standards of success, or share America’s views about major issues in the world. It can be surprising to realize that people in other countries may see issues differently and may not see America’s actions in the world in the same way. The image that people around the world have about America and Americans is not always a positive or flattering one, and while it may not always be easy, there is a great deal that can be learned by listening and understanding why this may be the case.
It offers a fresh perspective on the experience of immigrants
Many people travel for weeks at a time and do manage to get a flavor of the country they are visiting. However, it is a different experience when you spend a year actually living in a different country. Living abroad requires you to live like a local and exposes you to different ideas and perspectives on things that you may not have considered. Importantly, it allows you to experience life as the “outsider” who may be visibly different than the majority of people, who perhaps struggles with language or cultural issues, and who doesn’t necessarily understand the ways that thing are done or what is expected of them. When students return home after a year abroad, they bring with them a new awareness of the challenges facing immigrants in the United States.
It can challenge you to stretch
There is a saying that once something has stretched, it can never be quite the same again. Living in a different place can be exciting, but it can also be very challenging and sometimes even very difficult. Coping with new surroundings, languages and very little that is familiar can lead to bouts of home sickness. But, figuring out how to beat these daily challenges can also be very empowering, and testing the limits of your comfort zone will surely require you to stretch a bit. This is a good thing – it represents personal growth and resilience.
These are just a few of the incredible benefits that young people can experience as a result of studying abroad for a year.