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Benefits of Traveling Abroad
Introduction Studying abroad as a student in college has become very popular, nearly fifty percent of college students indicated in a study that they plan on studying abroad in their time at school (Studentpoll 2008). Traveling abroad has proven to be very beneficial for anyone of any age but especially for college students studying abroad. The students who study abroad are learning about new cultures, languages, lifestyles and more while earning credits that work toward their graduation requirements. While abroad, they can take classes toward their major and also courses on local culture, food etc. M. G. Vaccaro (2002) found that many students thought that their time abroad would benefit them greatly in more ways than one when it came time to apply for jobs post graduation. Something that multiple authors also found was that the cost of travel and cost of living abroad for a semester or two were very important factors when students were looking into studying abroad (Cunha-e, Maria, Dulca, Luis 2004 and Shields 2011). For this article I conducted personal interviews with two subjects, one is a coordinator for the University of Idaho study abroad and exchange programs, and the second is a student who traveled abroad their junior year of college. Jill Kellogg, the UI study abroad coordinator said that during college is the ideal time to study abroad for multiple reasons such as cost, timing, and gaining a sense of confidence. Sara Randolph, my student interview subject, said that studying abroad was a great way for her to improve her foreign language skills and do something that was out of her comfort zone that taught her a lot about both another culture and herself. This article will go through different opinions on the benefits of studying abroad and what the differences are between studying abroad as a college student and traveling abroad post graduation for either leisure or business. Methods The research for this article included two personal interviews with a U of I staff member and a U of I student. (See Appendix A for complete list of interview questions) The staff member, Jill Kellogg, was very insistent that studying abroad during college was a great opportunity that many should look into. Kellogg helps students to plan their trips abroad and chose which program they would like to go through, which can make a big difference and depends on what kind of experience the student wants to have while they are abroad. It is very important for a student to have the help of an advisor while planning their semester abroad. The advisor helps to match the student with the right program, country, living situation and more. By matching these different areas to each student individually, it ensures that the students will get a personalized, educational and beneficial experience while they are studying abroad. I collected data through articles written from different perspectives with overall varying ideas and areas of research on the topic of traveling abroad, specifically in college. The general way of understanding in these articles was that traveling abroad was an extremely beneficial way for college age students to gain new experiences and skills. Many authors suggested that studying
Stagg 2 abroad could be a way for students to realize what they want to do post graduation or at least obtain skills that will help them down that path. Many said that once a student travels abroad in college, they will be prepared to travel again post graduation specifically for work related trips and they will have the skills needed to be a successful traveler. It would be very beneficial to a company that does business internationally to have employers who have had experience traveling abroad and being in other cultures and foreign situations. These employees will have an advantage if sent abroad for business because they will be able to fall back on the experiences they had when they studied abroad in college. I observed that many authors encouraged international travel while still in college for various reasons instead of traveling post graduation. The general consensus was that it is cheaper to go abroad during school because the student can use scholarships or financial aid, and the student will gain skills that can be used later in life. These were two reasons that were found throughout my research pointing toward studying abroad during college being a smarter choice than traveling abroad post graduation. I also found that people thought it would be more beneficial for students to study abroad during college to gain skills for their future careers before they are actually graduated and out searching for a job in the ‘real world’. Results Through my interviews I found that going abroad during college really is the ideal time to travel abroad. While in college, students have scholarships and financial aid you can use and apply to your expenses. Post graduation instead of scholarships there are loans and bills that would not create a good situation to travel abroad. Kellogg said “It’s harder to do once life starts so take advantage now before you get a job or go to graduate school.” She also said that it could be helpful in helping you to decide what you want to do in the future. Many students learn new things about their likes and dislikes when they are put in a new environment such as studying abroad. It is also a great way to get a new perspective, according to Kellogg. She said that students get to see their own culture from the outside and compare and contrast how you do things here and there. “There is no other way to get that experience until you are living in that culture and seeing why they do the things they do the way they do them.” Kellogg also said that students gain a great sense of confidence when they study abroad. “Just going abroad you are going to be dealing with differences on an everyday basis and dealing with how each country works. It’s crazy how different things can be. It lets students know that they can travel to different places and be ok.” Kellogg said that studying abroad as a college student is probably the better option rather than traveling abroad post graduation for multiple reasons. First, she said that when you are studying abroad you are in one place for quite a long time. You have opportunities to travel as a group on weekends etc. but if you are traveling abroad you are only in one place for a short amount of time so you do not become as immersed in the culture as you would studying abroad for a semester. “The nice thing about studying abroad is you have a home base so you can go and travel and be put in all these new and tiring situations then its nice to be able to have a home base where you can come back to and then go out again and see other places.” Vaccaro (2002) makes a point of showing that there are so many different programs available, that it is easy for everyone to find a program to fit their needs such as your educational focus and career goals. (p. 1) “Study abroad used to be for the financially secure,” says Cynthia Truitt
Stagg 3 Lynch, a study abroad advisor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “It's not that way anymore.” (Vaccaro p. 3) Sara Randolph, my student interview subject, said that for her, studying abroad was an exciting way to have a break from the regular and see new things. “Sometimes going to school at the same place for years can get redundant and boring so studying abroad is a great way to break that up and have a new experience.” She also said that she is hoping the practice with Spanish and the overall experience will help her to find a good job after graduation. Analysis The results of this research shows that the percentage of college students that study abroad will most likely keep rising in the next few years. Many resources say that students should start looking into study abroad programs as early as high school to be able to find the perfect program to fit your needs. Some questions Vaccaro (2002) suggests students ask themselves before picking a program are, do I want to live with a host family or in a dorm? Do I want traditional classes or real world experience? How much contact do I want with the local community? (p. 6) Once these questions and more are answered, the student can narrow down what program to go through and what kind of experience they would like to have abroad. It is important for college age students to be aware of the world around them. It is not enough to be focused on their own lives and what they want to do in the near future. They should also have an awareness of current international happenings and global issues. Studying abroad is a sure way to make a student more globally aware and have an understanding and appreciation for the rest of the world and not just their own country, state or city. After traveling abroad, a student will most likely have a new view on global media and will not go back to being absorbed in their own life and only theirs. Similar to what my interview subject Sara Randolph told me, it is likely that students who study abroad during college will have more of a desire and willingness to travel post graduation whether it be for leisure or business travel. Students will have a confidence when it comes to traveling abroad as well as everything that comes with that whether it be getting used to the language barrier, cultural differences, or living situation. It is a helpful skill especially for having a job that requires you to travel for business, to be able to cope with these differences and be a skilled traveler. Discussion College students should look into studying abroad even if they have initial qualms about it. College advisors, such as Jill Kellogg, who specialize in helping students coordinate their semester abroad can help students find the best program and help to make the experience as cheap as possible. Many students come into college thinking they will not study abroad because it is too expensive and they cannot afford it. This research shows that it is very possible to study abroad during college and spend about the same amount as a regular semester at your college campus. Students can use financial aid and scholarships to assist in the payment and in many cases the cost of living where the student travels to is actually cheaper than living in a dorm or apartment at some colleges.
Stagg 4 It would be very interesting to do a future study on how many corporations and employees look for their candidates to have some kind of international experience such as studying abroad during their college years. Most employees would probably very much appreciate someone’s familiarity with traveling abroad and all that they gained from that experience. It would also be beneficial to know what percentage of students in other countries are studying abroad and if they have the same view on the benefits of traveling abroad as we do in the U.S. Some other countries may not have the same view on studying abroad as we do or they may have a negative view of students who come over from the U.S., which would be an important thing to know before traveling there for a semester. So many students are looking into studying abroad that it is also realistic to think about how many advisors or coordinators like Jill Kellogg are needed at all the different colleges around the U.S. or even at universities world wide. If a student really enjoys their process of planning their trip and then going abroad for a semester, it could be a possibility for them to think about looking into being an advisor for the study abroad program at their alma mater or another school so they can help students have a similar positive experience abroad.
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