Whether you decide to study abroad for the short-term or long-term, one thing's for certain: earning your degree abroad has its perks.
Why? It gives you a completely different experience than you would otherwise have. Studying abroad puts you in the position of not only fending for yourself, but figuring out the cultural, academic, and social norms in your new digs.
If you want more than a few months experience and truly want to immerse yourself in a new place, consider earning your degree abroad. Here's why...
1. You can study a topic that doesn't exist in your home country
No better place to study EU affairs than in the EU. Some technical degrees are best studied in situ, like cooking in France, or oil engineering in Norway. Really interested in US public affairs? Looks like you're headed to Washington, D.C.
If you're studying something obscure -- or something general with a specific twist, like architecture of the Renaissance -- consider studying at the source. Fashion-minded? New York, Paris, and Italy are good bets. Love art? Figure out what kind and go for it. Want to be a writer? Pick your favorite ones and study in their country. Interested in East Asian politics? Head off in that direction.
The point is, sometimes it's better to travel, depending on what you want to study.
2. Future employers like it
Boost your resume. By widening your educational experiences, you expand your network. You show that you're willing to take risks and committed to receiving the best education you can.
What you study and where you study matters -- show yourself as someone who can jump into a new situation and thrive. If studying abroad won't work for your entire degree, study at least a bit somewhere else.
Future employers like to see grit, ambition, drive, determination, and a willingness to try new things. What better way to show those qualities than studying abroad?
You'll have no problem getting a job after you've done well earning the degree of your dreams abroad.
3. You can save money
Do your homework here. Don't spend more money than you normally would. A bit of research can push you in the right direction.
In the US, education has a hefty price tag but scholarships and funding could be more readily available. In other countries -- especially those in Europe -- higher education costs a lot less money because of subsidies, even for international students.
Countries like Germany, Finland, and Norway offer significant cash assistance for international students looking to commit to earning their degrees abroad. While flights to and from these countries may not exactly be cheap, you may still end up saving money. Also, consider the general cost of living, including food and housing.
Talk to your high school guidance counselor or even your local university's study abroad office for some help.
4. Learn a new language
When you study abroad, you have the chance to learn a new language! While you can find many study abroad programs offered in English, some countries will have more limited offerings or language requirements for enrollment.
Even if you don't need to learn your host country's language for academic reasons, you can use your free time to learn -- or perfect -- a new language. Studying abroad allows you that immersive opportunity to learn that you wouldn't otherwise get.
5. You May Make Friends for Life
Such an intense and immersive experience as studying abroad will likely throw you out of your comfort zone, but in a good way! It will likely prove to be a great way of bonding with not just other international students in the same boat as you, but students from the country you are studying in. It may at first appear daunting, but search out introduction activities, such as meet-and-greets and fresher's welcoming drinks -- and people there will be interested about you and your story. Or consider joining a club or society to bond with people over common interests. Some of these acquaintances will become friends, and some of these may become friends for life. After all, it has never been easier to keep in contact with people all over the world, whether by phone or computer of face-to-face.
6. You'll Become More Independent
Don't forget about the cultural experience. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to experience life in a foreign country. While there are many similarities in student life from country to country, you will certainly find that the college experience is not universal.
For example, compared to the US, students in Europe and Asia are much more independent. Students outside the US are more likely to live in private housing like rented houses or apartments, and even when they do live in dormitories, on-campus student housing outside the US is rarely catered or supervised. This means students cook for themselves in shared kitchens, resolve disputes without RA mediation, keep their own hours, and are free to come and go as they please.
Similarly, American students might find their coursework and class schedules less structured than in the US. Classes may meet only once a week, attendance may be optional, assignments might be limited to one final dissertation, and exams administered by an independent proctor rather than the professor that taught the class.
For US students abroad, both life and learning in a foreign country might require a new level of self-discipline. Conversely, international students in the US may need to adjust their expectations regarding self-determination. In either situation, studying abroad forces you to figure things out for yourself -- and to make decisions in your everyday life that you might never have had to do at home. It's all about getting outside your comfort zone and experiencing something new.