College Myths: Study Abroad Edition

Here are some study abroad myths.

Flickr User: Nicolas Raymond

Studying abroad is an experience many students wish for. This can a very meaningful and inspirational opportunity for students to partake in. However, there are many study abroad myths. We are here to set the record straight. 

Myth #1: I can’t afford to study abroad

Studying abroad can be less than, equal, or more than it costs to study at your home institution depending on the individual student and program. Many institutions offer exchange programs where the tuition and board are equal to that of your home institution. Many programs accept financial aid you would incur while studying at your home institution. On top of that, there may be more scholarships available to you studying abroad than domestically. The most expensive part of studying abroad is the travel you do while there. This doesn’t have to be true, though. Immersing yourself in the culture surrounding you can save you financially. It leads to a more meaningful experience abroad, which leads to my next myth.

Myth #2: Study abroad is just a vacation

While some students abuse the privilege of getting to study in another country, not everyone uses their time like that. Unfortunately, with lower drinking ages and more freedom, many students fall into a routine of partying, rushing to landmarks, and socializing rather than actually “studying” abroad. Choosing a program can largely determine what kind of students will be surrounding you. Programs tailored to meeting America’s convenience demands provide shuttles to places on the weekends. Segregation from native students will not provide you with the life-changing, meaningful experience you are likely looking for.

Choose a program that will push you outside your comfort zone, thrusting you into interactions with local people, learning the language, and using your own devices for navigating the country. These will all help you to build independence, cultural competency, and a greater appreciation for the country you are inhabiting. This experience will challenge you to question your set of beliefs and think critically about the world around you. Isn’t that all anyone could ask from their study abroad experience?

Myth #3: I won’t graduate on time if I study abroad

Wrong! Kind of. Certain majors will have a tighter schedule than others. But, for most fitting studying abroad in is hardly a challenge with proper planning from your relationship with your academic advisor. You need adequate research on what classes to take each semester of your college career. Find out which of those are offered abroad, and that will transfer for equal credit classes you need at home.

Studies have shown that students who study abroad typically have higher four-year graduation rates than those who do not. A hypothesis of this could be the extensive planning mentioned before. If a student is considering studying abroad, they will typically need to plan things out and consider their academic schedule, giving them a good picture of their standing and the path to graduation.

Myth #4: American students only study abroad in Europe

While Europe holds a treasure trove of well established, alumni backed programs, there are plenty all over the world to discover. Studying abroad in Europe is certainly worthwhile, but may not provide the culture shock you’re searching for. Large parts of Europe and the United States share a “Western world” culture so there may be a lot more similarities than you would guess.

If you are looking for a truly different experience, many top places for students to study abroad include China, Australia, and Argentina. More students are also studying in less-traveled destinations like Africa, India, and Turkey. With these countries’ rising economies, studying abroad there and understanding their culture could give you a major advantage when it comes to finding a career and work in an ever-increasing global economy.

Myth #5: I will be all alone

There will be many students traveling with your chosen program to study abroad in the same area as you. If you live in a dormitory or apartment provided by the institution, you will likely find it easy to make friends. You will be surrounded by American students away from home as well. If you have the opportunity, try to meet local students or non-students. These folks will give you a more authentic experience of what their country and culture has to offer. If you are fortunate, they will want to learn from you and you will learn a great deal from them. Forming relationships like this will benefit you personally by gaining friendship, but is also an excellent example in an interview of how you can work cross-culturally on a team.

Another excellent opportunity to feel less alone is to live with a host family. Not all programs have these options, and a language requirement is often involved. For example, if you are a Spanish major, you might go live with a host family in Spain. This allows you to sharpen your language skills, experience their culture authentically, and find a meaningful home away from home. This is also an excellent way to get a more deep understanding of the community you are studying in. As mentioned in the first myth, traveling to a different country can eat up your budget fast. To save money and get a more in-depth experience, travel around the area with your host family and see all the country has to offer.

With these 5 myths debunked, we hope you are now considering if studying abroad is right for you. If you are interested, check back for more information including financing your study abroad, scholarships for studying abroad, a how-to guide, and a checklist before you go!

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