“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” ~St. Augustine
Why should you study abroad? “Study abroad is a lot fun”, “study abroad is a great experience”, “study abroad will change your life”, “study abroad will enhance your education”, so on and so forth. This isn’t anything you haven’t already heard or else you wouldn’t be here right now, on the fence, trying to make a decision about studying abroad. Don’t forget why you’re in college, to get an education so you can eventually have a career and do whatever it is that you want to do with your life. Toward the achievement of this goal, it is important to look into the future at what you will have to offer from the perspective of employers.
Between 1995 and 2005, US college enrollment increased by 23%, from 14.3 million to 17.5 million (US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics), and is expected to continue increasing through 2014. According to the 2006 American Community Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, 39.7% of the US population between the ages of 18 and 24 were enrolled in a US college degree-granting program. This means there is a lot of competition for graduates when they leave college and enter the workforce.
Think about it…more people are applying for the same jobs, and many of these people have strong qualifications along with college degrees and good GPAs (thanks to grade inflation driven by consumerism). It’s no wonder why college students are so busy enhancing their education with other activities that set them apart from their peers. Without valuable internships, study abroad experiences, leadership positions on campus, professional references, etc. a degree and solid GPA just isn’t enough.
One activity that can greatly enhance your credentials is study abroad. This is because our cultural, economic, and political systems are becoming more dependent on and are integrating more fully with the world. Consequently, foreign language skills, international experience, cultural knowledge and expertise, and cross-cultural abilities are advantageous from the perspective of many employers. The good news is study abroad opportunities are not saturated like colleges and universities; only between one and two percent of all US college students study abroad per year.
While it is not widely published, some institutions such as Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota have researched the outcomes of study abroad experiences as they pertain to post-graduate employment. Their findings suggest that graduates with international experience are provided with more offers of employment and higher starting salaries than those without. Call it a hunch, but study abroad is becoming the cutting-edge degree enhancer of the century. The more global your degree, the better prospects your job prospects.
In addition to what study abroad can do for your degree and future job prospects, it can increase your self-understanding, boost your self-confidence, speed up your maturity, enhance your interest in studying, help you decide on a major/minor, heighten your foreign language skills, develop an open mind, and influence your life for the better (2004, The Benefits of Study Abroad by Mary M. Dwyer, Ph.D. and Courtney K. Peters). Students who have studied abroad for more than a few weeks, show employers they are different than the rest.