What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Studying Abroad?

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Studying Abroad?Study abroad programs provide students with unique learning opportunities that they will not likely experience at any other time in their academic careers, but there are clear advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad for today’s students. Years ago, study abroad opportunities were privately arranged for young people by their wealthy parents. Currently, many schools encourage students of diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds to participate in study abroad programs, and some schools even help the most promising of their student body with scholarships for their time overseas. Here are some common benefits and challenges of studying internationally.

Advantage #1: Opportunity for Foreign Language Fluency

Most people spend years studying to gain language proficiency because they understand the personal and professional value of learning another language. For example, job opportunities with international companies are made available to those who have a combination of technical and language skills that are in high demand in certain markets. Also, domestic companies that want to extend their reach into foreign markets welcome workers who have language skills for their targeted international region. The key to polishing those foreign language skills is immersion, and the opportunity to live, work and play in one’s international setting of choice is provided by many study abroad programs.

Disadvantage #1: Ignorance of Local Laws and Social Norms

When studying abroad, ignorance is not always bliss. Young people can get into a lot of trouble when they do not understand the local regulations and social customs in foreign locales. However, the trouble can be avoided in most cases with a little cultural education prior to travel and a heavy dose of common sense. For example, some countries in the Middle East ban the use of alcohol consumption, and violations can include jail time. Some Middle Eastern countries also have formal laws and societal customs that frown upon immodest clothing worn by women; even in Europe there are certain places like historic churches and other sacred sites where one is expected to dress in more formal and modest attire. Being drunk and loud in public in certain parts of Mexico can also land one in jail, and most students do not have enough money or influence to coax the authorities to let them off with warnings. Also, littering in Singapore can earn students $1,000 fines and some unique janitorial work abroad experiences.

Advantage #2: Occasion to Gain International Work Experience

While doing community trash pick up in Singapore for littering violations probably will not help one’s professional prospects, many study abroad opportunities position students for beneficial internships in their host country. Students who want to gain international work experience through internships must apply early and plan carefully since they usually have limited time in the country. Because many U.S. companies desire to operate on the international stage, graduates with international work experience have an advantage over their peers.

Disadvantage #2: Difficulty Transferring Credits

Students who choose to attend study abroad programs that are sponsored by their universities usually have no problems transferring the academic credits they earned while studying abroad. However, students who participate in independent study abroad programs because their schools do not offer study abroad options or do not sponsor trips to areas where they want to study, must make sure that their earned credits will be accepted by their degree granting universities. Getting written approval from academic advisors, department heads and admissions staff for proposed courses in advance of study abroad trips is the best course of action.

Most people believe that the benefits of studying abroad far outweigh the negative aspects of the academic journey. When examining the advantages and disadvantages of studying abroad, one can easily overcome the listed challenges with adequate preparation and planning.

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