Advantages and Disadvantages of Studying Abroad
The idea of studying abroad can seem like a fabulous opportunity, but there are also plenty of potential downsides: practical, financial, and psychological.
As a British person who has experienced other European countries and now lives in the USA, I can certainly testify that living away from your home country can be difficult at times.
I wouldn’t wish to put anyone off the experience, however, as experiencing other countries can be also be rewarding and life enriching, as well as often having practical benefits - but like with most things, there are pros and cons.
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad.
Top 10 Most Popular Study Abroad Destinations
Based on figures obtained by asking prospective grad school applicants which countries they’d most like to study in, when they attended QS World Grad School Tour events between 2008 and 2013.
Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.— Saint Augustine
Advantages of Studying Abroad
- Life’s an adventure. Living abroad can be great fun and it broadens your perspective on life – there are new friends to make, new experiences to have, plus you’ll always have lots of stories to tell to the folks back home.
- You can learn another language and immersing yourself in a place where they speak another tongue is the only good way to become fluent. Even if you are not studying that particular language on your study course, it may well come in useful later when you are seeking employment, or in your personal life.
- You can explore another culture. They say that travel broadens the mind and finding out about other cultures can be fascinating. It can also give you insights and perspective on your home culture.
- You may have better study opportunities abroad than you do at home. You may be able to do a course that you couldn’t do in your home country, or be able to study at a college or university that specializes in your chosen area of study.
- Mentioning that you have studied abroad can look very good to potential employers when it comes to applying for jobs. The fact that you have lived and studied abroad shows that you possess valuable workplace qualities such as independence, initiative, and resilience. It also shows that you are not afraid of a challenge and that you can be adaptable if the circumstances demand it.
When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.— Winston Churchill
Disadvantages of Studying Abroad
- You may experience language problems if you are studying in a place where they speak a different language to your native one. Learning a new language can be tougher than you think, especially if you need to understand it thoroughly enough to complete an educational course that is conducted in it (plus it can make the process of gaining new friends and social networking more difficult).
- You may well experience culture shock. Even if you have researched it extensively and think you know a country, you will find lots of things are very different when you actually live there. Some of the differences might be practical and obvious, but others might be more subtle – there are likely to be social and psychological differences in how people relate to each other and behave, for instance.
- You may find yourself feeling alone and without any of the social and emotional support from relatives and old friends that you might normally take for granted back in your home country. Making and developing friendships takes time and it can be more difficult in a culture that you are not used to.
- There are likely to be increased costs involved with studying abroad – both with the expense of your education and with everyday living. Language and cultural differences can sometimes make finding part-time work more difficult. Financial pressures can undermine your overall enjoyment of an experience if you are not careful.
Without stirring abroad, One can know the whole world; Without looking out of the window One can see the way of heaven. The further one goes The less one knows.— Lao Tzu
Studying Abroad? Be Prepared to:
- Learn something about your host country before you commit/arrive.
- Learn the language and culture of your host country while you're living there.
- Go out of your comfort zone at times and be open to new experiences.
- Be prepared to do things on your own, or with people from the local culture when abroad, rather than just sticking with people from your home country all the time.
- Treat the experience as an adventure - don't forget to enjoy yourself!
Having read through the advantages and disadvantages, do you think that you will study (or live) abroad?
© 2012 Paul Goodman