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Home  > Article

Why Go Abroad? Students Say Gaining Global Experience is Top Reason

By Jenna Lebel

Paris, Sydney, Cape Town, Shanghai-- to some students these may be just dots on a map, but to many they represent life-changing experiences.

A growing number of U.S. students are heading abroad for international study opportunities. Results from an Experience survey of nearly 400 students show that 77% have studied abroad.

Why do these students decide to go beyond the confines of their American institutions? What seems most appealing about studying abroad is the opportunity to gain global experience. Forty-four percent of students said that gaining global experience was the most important benefit of studying abroad. Almost equally as important to students (33%) is the chance to explore a new culture. Other students cite learning a new language, getting outside the comfort zone, and taking classes toward their major as benefits of their abroad experiences.

Each benefit is specific to the particular student and his/her experience. One student who studied abroad in Europe reported the most important part of her trip was pushing herself "beyond the familiar and seizing new and thrilling opportunities."

Another student who studied in Europe says her experience was good real-life preparation: "Exposure to new people, foods, cultures, and languages-- the broader your awareness and experience, the better you are able to handle the uncertainty of life."

Study abroad is no longer confined to capital cities like London and Rome. While Europe is still the most popular choice, with 53% of respondents reporting having studied there, more and more students are exploring study abroad destinations that are geographically or culturally farther away, including Asia (16%), Australia (7%), South America (4%) and Africa (4%).

An additional benefit for students abroad is gaining credit toward their college degrees. Sixty-six percent reported that their study abroad program was affiliated with their college or university. Most students (89%) who study abroad in a program affiliated with their college or university gain credit for their work that transfers back to their school. Some students are studying abroad on their own, with 33% reporting their program was not affiliated with their college or university.

But it's not just undergraduate students studying abroad; high school students (3% of survey respondents) and graduate students (13%) are opting to study abroad as well. Still, at 72%, the vast majority of those who study abroad do so during their undergraduate career.

Students study abroad in various countries at different times in their lives for a number of reasons. They say their time abroad helps them develop on personal, academic and professional levels. And they come back encouraging their friends to go too; as one student put it, it doesn't matter where, when or why you go, as long as you go.

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