It’s easy to glamorize the concept of studying abroad. But opting for a semester or two in an overseas program comes with a long list of pros and cons. If you plan it right, get it financed correctly, and choose a program that suits your long-term academic needs, the idea can be a life-changer. Here’s an honest look at both sides of the semester abroad experience.
Expand Your Horizons
It’s almost a cliche to say that taking courses in another country expands personal horizons. The fact is that even a single summer abroad can truly change the way you think, help you make important connections, and give you ideas about non-traditional careers. The benefit is a bit intangible, but those who have done it all seem to confirm the belief.
Paying for Your Degree
Sometimes, spending several months in a foreign country can add to the total cost of a degree, be it an undergrad or graduate diploma. When it comes to cost, everything depends on the school you attend, how long you stay, what you study, and other factors. Getting a degree is one thing. Paying for it is a totally separate question and should be dealt with first.
The good news is that no matter where you go or what you’re majoring in, it’s easy to take out a student loan from a private lender to cover the full cost of undergrad or grad school. Regardless of whether spend a few months or an entire year studying in London, Tokyo, Moscow, Paris, or Rome, private lenders offer competitive rates and reasonable payback periods. Applying for graduate loans can be a smart way to help you put financial questions aside and focus on your studies.
Beef Up the Resume
People often mention that it’s much easier to learn a foreign language when you live in the country where it’s spoken. Of course, that’s a huge benefit of leaving the U.S. for part of a school term. But, as anyone who’s gone through the experience will tell you, the words studied overseas during college is a phrase that adds zip and intrigue to any resume.
A Few Pitfalls
There’s really only one downside of foreign study, and it only comes into play when you fail to properly plan for the experience. What kind of planning should you be doing? If your term will be in a place where English is not the native tongue, make sure you are conversant enough to get along in the culture (even if all your coursework is in English, or at an American school).
Never view an academic experience as a party break from the rigors of everyday study. If you do, you’ll simply be wasting one the best opportunities of your life. As noted above, make sure you have all the financial based covered before boarding the plane, and be diligent about following the laws of the nation where you’ll be living. One of the fastest ways to ruin an otherwise excellent experience is to be arrested for something that’s legal in the U.S. but seriously illegal in your host country.