For the past few weeks, Diversity Abroad has been addressing some of the most common study abroad myths; myths that we hear on a regular basis as to why students don’t even THINK about going abroad.
In our first installment, we explored the most popular myth that Study Abroad is just TOO expensive to even consider! While it’s true that programs cost money, it’s not true that there is a lack of scholarships and financial aid that exists to help you cover those costs.
In our second installment, we explored the myth that rising or graduating seniors have lost their chance to abroad. Depending on where students are in their final year of college, that’s not necessarily true. Seniors can go abroad in the winter or spring of their senior year in some cases, either for the duration of the semester or even during their winter or spring break for academic credit. But the opportunities to go abroad don’t stop once you graduate! You can still gain international experiences by volunteering, interning, teaching, or even obtaining a graduate degree in another country.
The third myth we tackled was the widely-assumed notion that students in STEM related fields of study just didn’t have the time in their academic careers to go abroad. Not only did they lack time, many assume that there’s also no relation to their future goals, so what’s the point? First, we pointed out that STEM majors actually make up the majority of U.S. students who went abroad last year. Then, we outlined the various ways STEM majors can go abroad, and how an international experience can truly make STEM majors stand out.
In our fourth and final installment, we’ll tackle one of the hardest and most complex study abroad myths out there: IT’S JUST NOT FOR ME.
Have you ever had that thought yourself? What is it about study abroad that makes you think it’s just not something you would ever consider?
At Diversity Abroad, we understand that there are a lot of concerns that might run through your head when you’re even just thinking about going to a foreign country. What if I can’t speak the language? What if I’m in trouble and need help? How am I going to meet new people? I can’t even read the signs, how am I supposed to get around? Can I really do this?
What makes this myth the hardest to confront is because only YOU can really determine what’s best for you. That’s something that goes beyond study abroad, and applies to life in general. While we in no way want to pressure you into trying something you’re not ready to do, we do want to challenge you and what you think are the limits to your comfort zone.
Here are some reflective questions that we think might help you through that thought process.
Have you ever wanted to visit a foreign country? If so, you should think about how study abroad can get you there! Not only could you possibly end up on a program with some friends or other people from school, you can even earn academic credit! Which means financial aid and other scholarship money may be used. Getting someone else to pay for you to get to your dream destination? Yes, please!
Does the idea of standing out among your peers appeal to you? If so, consider how going abroad can truly set you apart. The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report found that of the roughly 20 million college students in the U.S. only 1.5 % of them studied abroad. That’s less than 2% of college students in the entire country! Graduating from college and exploring your next steps is always a challenging journey, but an international experience such as study abroad can definitely make you stand out from the crowd.
Do you want to grow and become more organized than you already are? Choosing to do a program in another country is a wonderful way to do so. Learning how to manage your finances, strategizing how to choose your class schedule, and managing your time between classes and extracurricular activities is no easy feat. Think about the process of going abroad, and how much more that can do to help you gain even more skills; both in planning your journey, your time in-country, and how to translate those experiences once you’ve returned. Everything about going abroad -- from attending information sessions, to choosing a program, to submitting your application, and following up on deadlines to submit materials -- is a challenge that will help you grow immensely.
Are you ready to escape your comfort zone? If the answer is yes, studying abroad is the best way to do that. Try google searching “Study Abroad” and “Comfort Zone” and you’ll notice countless academic articles, first hand accounts, and other resources that emphasize the many ways that going abroad is just another way of learning, just outside of the classroom.
We can’t say with full confidence that everyone SHOULD study abroad. Some of us have family obligations or extracurricular activities that take priority in our lives. Again, decide what’s best for YOU, and when would be the best time to make that happen. While we recommend going during your time as a college student, for many of the reasons listed above, becoming a life long learner means that you can always pursue global opportunities even after school.
We hope our series on Study Abroad Myths Dispelled addressed one of the common misconceptions that you or someone you know has thought or believed. If you continue to have questions or come across other myths you want dispelled, let us know!