Prepare to Become an Agent of Change: Study Abroad

Whether you are choosing a traditional career in sciences or humanities, or you are exploring new alternatives at the college level, every higher education institution wants you to have a breadth of knowledge that helps you succeed in the job market, along with expertise in your particular discipline. Studying abroad, the learning process that takes place in a different country, often amidst different cultures and languages, allows students to earn credit towards graduation while they are enrolled in educational programs overseas.

Why consider studying abroad?

There are many reasons to consider going outside the U.S. in order to achieve the objectives of breadth and depth in higher education. Among these experiences, foreign travel allows you to be more confident in yourself, to mature, and to become more independent. Courses at international universities may be more challenging than ones locally, and the teachers and classmates may be totally awesome. Learning in unconventional teaching environments tests your adaptive capacity to be less ethnocentric, to accept people who look and sound different.

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Studying abroad is also an ideal opportunity to show our American patriotism, since students travel as informal ambassadors to a foreign country, giving the best of themselves and representing the U.S. to others in the new location. In addition, when students come back home, they often revisit American values in a more objective manner and can see how global awareness affects local communities. Life-long friendships develop which nurture future interest in travel.

A semester abroad is often cheaper than a conventional semester in an American university with out-of-state tuition. Also, employers favor resumes with international experience, multicultural awareness, and bilingual ability for the self-confidence it represents in their prospective employees.

Types of Study Abroad Programs

Going abroad used to be a priviledge of the wealthy elite. In the last thirty years, the trend has changed. Most students are now able to participate in study abroad programs. Study abroad is statistically the most popular feature in the evaluation of the overall university-life experience. In this new century, the question is not if a student will go abroad, but when.

Several types of programs currently are available in your university of choice, either private or public. You can choose programs endorsed at the state level among universities and colleges in Georgia, as well as those that aperate at the regional or national level. Some schools develop their own programs, while others use service providers and professional organizations. Choices include traditional short-term (e.g., Maymester, Junemester, Summer sessions, Spring Break, or Christmas Break, etc.) and long-term (e.g., Spring Semester, Fall Semester, Semester at Sea, Year Abroad, Student Exchanges, Joint Degrees, Dual Certification, etc.). Non-traditional programs allow students to chose to go abroad for thesis research, dissertation preparation, internships for service learning, externships for professional development and in-job training, and other programs that support independent student travel abroad.

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How expensive is it?

Parents often are surprised when they realize the affordability of some programs, depending on the length of stay and the target country, the number of credits taken, the cost of housing onsite, international airfare, local transportation, and meals.

Economically speaking, the investment of studying abroad will generate revenue that will last a lifetime. It is very difficult to place a dollar value on the experience. If you are paying private school fees, you may find it quite competitive. If you are paying state university fees, travel is facilitated by financial aid available in the form of entitlements, loans, scholarships, assistantships or grants. As a matter of fact, a growing number of outbound students study abroad two or three times before graduating.

What can high school students do to begin preparing now?

A senior high school student should request information on study abroad from guidance counselors. Visits to the Study Abroad Office at the colleges you are considering will also help you get specific answers and guidance for your decision. Start saving money to help you or your parents cope with the costs, and plan for a rewarding learning exercise.

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Be part of the wave of internationalization that most universities are experiencing and prepare to become an agent of change.