By Daniel Travers
- When thinking about starting an undergraduate degree, the straightforward choice seems to be to stay at home rather than venture abroad. Yet the obvious choice isn't always the best one. Those who chose to engage in international study, whether for just an exchange or sandwich year or instead for their entire undergraduate degree, will encounter many unique experiences and benefits that they perhaps would not have found on more familiar shores.
The choice to study abroad, above all, opens you up to experiencing a vast range of different cultures and traditions that you would never be able to find at home. An education is about knowledge but it is also about developing and broadening yourself as a person. What better way to do this than to see how the rest of the world lives?
This embracing of other cultures is particularly beneficial for those studying foreign languages. The best way to learn a language isn't to stay in a classroom but to go out and live it! By surrounding yourself with native speakers and experiencing a culture within which the language itself is intermeshed, you can greatly enhance your language skills. Many students studying European languages such as French or Spanish, for example, find that a year abroad as part of their course can greatly assist them in understanding both the respective language and wider culture behind it.
International study isn't just limited to foreign language students. Both the UK and Australia are immensely popular locations for students from English-speaking countries. Experience student life in another culture without being overwhelmed by an unknown language.
Or, if English isn't your first language, undertaking a degree in these countries will allow you to develop your skills in one of the world's most widely spoken languages, without having to explicitly study it.
The variation in the educational systems themselves can also make studying abroad an attractive prospect. Know you want a University education but aren't completely sure yet what you want to study? The USA's higher education system allows students to undertake a much broader course of study than in other countries, with students able to take a wide range of classes before they have to declare a focussed major in later years.
Or if you perhaps feel the university system at home is too rigidly structured for you, Holland may prove an enticing choice. The Dutch style of teaching focuses more on student interactivity and teamwork. Rather than taking charge, lecturers and professors act more as facilitators or guides.
But all of the above contribute to the one key thing that studying abroad can do for you: helping to set you apart from the crowd. Whether it's the foreign language skills you picked up in France or the team-working abilities you developed in Holland, whether it's the cultural broadening you achieved in Australia or the diverse education you received in the US, all will help you as you embark on a career in the working world. The decision to study abroad shows a willingness and an eagerness to try unfamiliar things, to develop new skills and surpass old boundaries. Stand out and study abroad!