We all hear it each semester from advisors, counselors, and even friends. "Study abroad is life-changing," they'll say. "The benefits of studying in another country are priceless." And they're right (although the literal price of studying abroad is quantifiable and quite high)—study abroad really is indescribably beneficial for personal development.
Advisors may have a bit more to say about why exactly it can be a rewarding experience, but sometimes it doesn't really click—what makes studying abroad worth the time, money, and emotional energy? I mean, it's a whole ordeal just locating your new housing location, and that's before you throw foreign classes into the mix. Below, I'll get into just a few of the things that I found rewarding during my own experiences abroad.
A fairly obvious takeaway from study abroad is improved communication skills. Communication becomes more and more important as we continue to progress technologically. Your future employer or clients can learn a lot about you just from how you interact with them over the phone or via e-mail. What better way to train yourself to communicate well with strangers than to navigate communication across cultural boundaries?
Learning how to remain polite and well-mannered outside of the conversational norms with which you are familiar is key when you're abroad, especially because you have to maintain professional relationships with peers and professors.
On a related note, navigating a whole new country on your own (or at least relatively on your own) is a huge confidence booster. Successfully existing for weeks or months so far from home might be just the validation you need to convince you that you can do big things back home, too. Traveling to and subsequently living in a different country can show you that you are, in fact, a capable and independent individual who can survive the real world after university.
Sure, you could vacation to a foreign country with your family and still reap many benefits of experiencing other nations' cultures. However, studying in these countries adds a whole new layer of depth and significance to the experience. Taking classes, interacting with other students engaged in similar programs, getting to learn from scholars this other country has to offer—it's all unique to the study abroad experience.
If none of that sold you, there's always the classic meme aspect of study abroad students coming home: for the rest of your life, you can be the annoying one saying, "Oh, haven't you heard? I ~studied abroad~!"
Just kidding...mostly. Anyway, if you're considering applying to study abroad, please do it! You never know what you might find when you take a few steps outside your comfort zone.