Would You Like to Study Abroad? Key Insights & Resources to help

Would you like to study abroad? Do you know of any study abroad programs?

Keep reading as we just got back from The White House summit and learned about their exciting new initiative on this very topic.

Technically Craig and I have never studied aboard. Not in the sense of doing a semester of a college or Uni degree in a foreign country.

But, I did do my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate in Dublin and I studied pretty hard each time I arrived in a new place to live and teach.

We’ve also lived and worked in four foreign countries so we pretty much understand what study aboard is about and its benefits. Now that I’ve traveled for over 16 years I really wish I did study aboard. I can’t think of anything more exciting than to be a young college student learning in a foreign country.

The day before we attended the White House Travel Blogger Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship we met with a reader of our blog for coffee in Georgetown.

Madeline is a local from Washington DC and was super excited to meet us as she’s planning to follow her heart and move to New Zealand for a working holiday experience. She didn’t realize it was possible until she discovered travel blogs like ours and saw that people actually do create a lifestyle around travel.

Hanging out with Madeline in Washington DC
Hanging out with Madeline in Washington DC

This is why travel blogs are useful and inspiring and why 100 travel bloggers and digital media peeps were invited to the White House for this event.

It’s because we live the life others most dream about. We show them it’s possible and then we show them how they can do it.

Madeline’s intense desire to move to New Zealand came from her study abroad experience in Dunedin for a semester. It opened her eyes to another world of possibility and made her think that the current normal path she was on was perhaps not what was best for her.

Isn’t it awesome to discover that now before you’ve gone ten years down the career path and realize your heart is heavy with a lack of meaning and you missed the boat by not traveling more to discover it?

Because I believe the true power of travel is how we discover who we truly are and what we want and then go on to create a life that is in tune with that.

There are also hundreds of other benefits, which I’d love to share with you here through many amazing quotes below that we heard during our time at the summit. Each of these got a huge hell yeah fist pump for me.

Why is the White House making study abroad such a big focus?

It is crucial for our country’s next generation of leaders to travel, live, work, intern or volunteer abroad in order to gain the skills needed to understand and operate within the global political and economic landscape of the 21st century. It is in America’s national interest, writ large, to build and sustain a globally minded and internationally literate workforce, not just for government, but for private industry and society more broadly. – Assistant Secretary Evan White

Of course, it benefits society as a whole to have more globally minded people living in it. So it’s an important conversation for the White House to have and to create study abroad programs and opportunities to help students.

The White House wants to see an increase in the representation of people studying abroad so that it is more diverse and includes an increase of those from minority groups.

Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more programs, grants and scholarships come out to assist those from these minority backgrounds who otherwise would not be in a position to take advantage of studying abroad.

This should be an experience that is available to all, not just those who are in the fortunate position to afford it.

The White House announced at the summit that they have created a new U.S. Study Abroad Office, which will manage some of the premier study abroad programs and advocate alongside the broader community for the benefits of study abroad.

Why study abroad?

Education abroad is an asset that someone can take with them throughout their lives. This is really not limited to just students.

Anyone can study abroad at any time as Robert Reid from National Geographic tweeted:

But to start this trans-formative journey outside your boundaries and comfort zones at such a young age is exhilarating and life-changing. Now that I know how valuable travel is on a personal and professional level, I would have jumped at the chance.

My most memorable and life changing experiences have been living and working abroad. It was through these experiences that I got to know myself on a much deeper level and discovered I had strengths and confidence that I never believed could have existed in me.

I have the most amazing memories from forming new friendships that crossed all borders, to the more challenging ones like trying to find my way around the tube system when I first arrived in London without any money. It’s an empowering journey.

“Travel opens doors for young people to cross socio-economic, cultural, and geographic borders to engage in people-to-people connections, to increase mutual understanding, and to collectively solve global challenges.” – Edward R Murrow

I’m excited that government is talking about these issues, recognizing the need to raise awareness for American students to take that giant leap of faith into this new international world so that it may benefit their own professional and personal lives as well as that of an American future that respectfully and compassionately participates in a  global world. It’s something all countries need to be focusing more on raising awareness about.

Personal benefits of study abroad (a.k.a travel)

Travel opens your mind to discover and appreciate other customs, backgrounds, and traditions, ultimately making us more willing and able to find common ground.

It also helps you to discover yourself and appreciate that a little more. There are so many personal benefits to travel. Here are a few of my favourite quotes from the summit on how travel can change your life.

  • “Travel is a fresh start. One of the few things that creates a new beginning” – Samantha Brown
  • “Time slows down when you travel”  – Alex Montoya
  • “Travel is the time to fail and be humiliated. Living in the uncomfort zone is not a bad way to feel.” Samantha Brown
  • “You start with zero confidence, but bit by bit it elevates and by the end of the week you can order a cup of coffee in another language and you’re flying.” Samantha Brown
  • “The emotional value of travel lies in experiences, not to do lists. It’s where you discover who you are and what you want to be in life.Study and work aboard are what give you these deeper experiences.” – Samantha Brown
  • “Travel is the first step into a wider world – Robert Reid
  • “You develop greater cultural sensitivities and appreciation for the beautiful mosaic that is our world today.” Penny Pritzer
  • “99% of the time you come back from travel saying my life is better.” Don Wildman
  • “Not only do you learn about new cultures but you become an ambassador for your own culture, helping to shape global perceptions, in a positive way. (we hope!)” Ben Rhodes
  • “Study abroad is often considered the pivotal event of young people’s lives. It is the moment the world is opened up to them and their preconceived notions are turned upside down.” Evan Ryan
  • “Travel teaches us that our similarities are more than our differences” – Penny Pritzer
  • “Learning another language even at a basic level, is an olive branch between two cultures” Patrick Dowd  

Professional benefits of study abroad

“More and more companies are looking and recruiting more global minded students for future leaders.” – Angel Cabrera (President of George Mason University)

So the common theme among all speakers from experience and from stats that were shared is that recruiters are now actively seeking candidates with global experiences.

They realize these experiences actually help to make people better problem solvers, and more open minded with the ability to think outside the box.

“Global skills are more about temperament than intellect. Travel enhances that temperament” – Millenial Trains Project

Success leaves clues and it spoke loudly to me to see that all the members of the administration that spoke, most of the panel members, and many in the room had all studied abroad.

The world is now a very globally connected world. Your prospects for job and career expand significantly with study or work abroad experiences because you are in touch with that global world and have a better understanding of how to approach it in business and life.

“More and more employers want to hire people with a true “world view” – with the adaptability and openness that comes with having experienced other cultures. In fact, a MetLife survey found that 65 percent of Fortune 1000 executives identified global  awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career” – Penny Pritzker (Secretary of Commerce)

I know my experiences teaching abroad helped me to become a better teacher and I was hired at a school upon return home because I had worked abroad and my principal, who did the same in the 60’s, knew the benefits of it. It’s amazing the new pathways that people take in their professional life because of travel.

The VIF program that I was a part of when teaching in the United States was created by two brothers in North Carolina who studied abroad and saw the benefits of global education. It’s now a company that changes the lives of thousands of American students and teachers around the world.

Robert Reid shared a quote he had heard from a previous study abroad National Geographic student:

Tips and resources on Study Abroad Programs

This was the exact reason why we started y Travel Blog. I had a burning desire to do something with all I had learned and create something from it. Travel helps you discover what that thing is you can create.

It’s a journey that you feel more in control of than just graduating from college with a degree and then finding a job that fits.

Yes, study abroad can cost a considerable amount of money, but find a way to make it work because it will earn you more in the long run.

Tips and resources for Study Abroad Programs

And if you can’t make study abroad work due to cost, then look into how you can work abroad once your studies have finished. The benefits are the same. (Remember, if you work abroad you don’t have to save as much before you go traveling!)

What does our community have to say?

We asked our Facebook community if they had studied abroad and the impact it had on their lives. We had a huge response and it was so wonderful to hear the impact it had on their lives and futures. You can read their answers here. 

Best places to study abroad?

Where does your heart call you? Do you want to learn a new language? Maybe an extreme exotic experience?

The summit spoke about how most American students study abroad in either Spain, France or London and they are hoping to expand the number of destinations to places such as Latin America and Asia.

I’m sure you will see many programs and grants that will cater to that diversified direction the government is hoping for.

I still believe that you should go where your heart is calling you, so if that is Paris then go there. But, if the best options to make it more possible for you are these regions then go for that too.

Any study abroad experience in any destination is worthwhile.

What about the cost of study abroad?

Everyone at the summit, even the officials, agreed that cost is the biggest barrier to more students studying abroad. It’s the biggest barrier to anyone wanting to travel in any form.

Education costs in America are huge, so the added expense of studying abroad is just not feasible for many people. More has to be done to lower college tuition fees so that students don’t carry mounting student loans and to bring in more programs to help those at a financial disadvantage to study abroad.

For college students, it’s a good idea to talk to your college adviser who can point you towards various scholarships and grants that can help ease the burden of cost.

We’ve always traveled following the work abroad strategy so we did not need as much money to travel with as we earned as we traveled.

Study abroad resources

Here are a few resources for you to discover how you can make a study abroad experience work for you with financial constraints:

  • The US Virtual Study Abroad Fair will take place on February 25th 2015 on-line and everywhere. This will help students and their families learn more about study abroad topics, such as choosing a program, learning how to finance studying abroad, applying for scholarships and preparing for study abroad, the value of study abroad for careers and job prospects.
  • National Security Language Initiative for Youth and the Critical Language Scholarship programs offer U.S. high school and college students fully-funded intensive summer language institutes overseas in a number of critical foreign languages.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program targets populations traditionally underrepresented in study abroad by offering scholarships for academic studies or career-oriented internships abroad to U.S. undergraduate students who receive Pell grants.
  • Fulbright U.S. Student Program is sending a record number of American students overseas this coming year. These recent college graduates, graduate students, and early career professionals will conduct research in large cities and small villages across the globe, engaging with local citizens and becoming part of the fabric of their overseas community, while also gaining important linguistic and cultural skills. The Fulbright Program continues to innovate and find new ways to engage talented, highly motivated Americans early in their careers.
  • Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship will allow fellows to research and share narratives on globally significant issues through new media platforms, hopefully encouraging the next generation of student travelers.
  • Peace Corps: I love how the director of Peace corp, Carrie Hessler-Radelet said that you can enter the Peace Corp broke and they will take care of you. The Peace Corps offers a range of programs and benefits to help ease the cost of your college tuition.

We hope that by sharing this information here it might help potential students find the support they need to make this a reality.

If study abroad is something you want to do then take the time to search through these resources and find a scholarship or grant that is right for you.

I think it’s important that the US government finds a way to let students know of all the programs that are available to them, otherwise they probably won’t look for themselves thinking it will never be a reality.

Worried about study abroad?

We find the following are the five main reasons why people won’t travel. You may have these same obstacles when thinking about studying abroad. (Click each link to read our tips on how you can overcome these.)

  1. I don’t want to leave family and friends
  2. I have too many responsibilities
  3. My career will suffer
  4. It’s not safe
  5. I don’t have the money

Of course for students some of the other concerns are:

  • Missing curriculum and a loss of progress – Talk to your advisers about how this works and what credit you can receive.
  • Missing events and parties – You can go to foreign ones instead. And they’ll be there when you return.
  • Intimidating to navigate a foreign life – It seems intimidating to you now because you haven’t left yet, but once you immerse yourself in a new culture you will love this navigation process. It is full of surprising twists and turns and delightful finds.

From my experiences, there are hundreds of things you can worry about.

But, we can never predict the future so making decisions based upon your future thought projections is futile. We must make decisions based upon what we know to be true now.

You won’t have all the answers, but you can pretty much figure out a plan, and then a backup plan just in case your original plan doesn’t work out.

I’ve lived and worked in five countries (including Australia). Every time I leapt with a lot of fear, never knowing how things would work, but believing that I was leaping into one amazing adventure that would transform my life and teach me more about myself and the world than any form of education or job would ever do.

I have absolutely no regrets and my life is so much better because of it.

You are more powerful than you think and can figure out almost any challenge you encounter along the way AND you’ll discover that the world is full of amazing people who will rush to help you figure it out too.

Have you studied abroad before? What tips can you offer? Or what challenges are holding you back?

16 thoughts on “Would You Like to Study Abroad? Key Insights & Resources to help”

  1. For a lot of students, the cost of studying abroad can be the same or cheaper than a semester back home. Many universities are trying to make it really easy for students to study abroad, so all financial aid and scholarships transfer with you. At my university, instead of paying room and board, we paid a “program fee”, so it was about the same cost. Since I studied abroad in Asia, my cost of living was very low, so I actually saved money! I think it’s really important when you’re visiting a university, to make sure that financial aid and scholarships transfer with you when you study abroad. I have a few friends who went to universities that didn’t do that, and they weren’t able to afford a semester abroad. Thankfully, now these universities are in the minority.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Richelle. It’s very helpful for others to understand how they could possibly approach this and make it affordable

  2. During the entire 2012/2013 school year (yes, about 200 days!), I studied abroad in Germany as a high school student. I highly recommend study abroad to everyone and anyone no matter how long they study abroad (week, semester, year, etc.) or how old you are. It was the greatest experience of my life (thus far) and worth every cent. Money is often an issue, but that’s why there are a lot of options as to where to study (Latin America’s general costs, like cinemas, tend to be less expensive), plus different organizations have different costs. An organization like Rotary (I went with them) is an internationally well-respected non-profit, so you pay for flights, insurance, etc. and no “service”/”program” fees. This ends up costing significantly less. If you’re considering a study abroad year, stop considering and just do it!

  3. Hey guys – I have absolutely no interest in what’s going on in the USA and American policy and it seems like they’re left it late to realize the importance of studying abroad, but I just wanted to point out how on the ball Australia was/is when it comes to studying abroad and it would be worth the US looking to Australia as a model. One of Australia’s biggest exports is education and it’s been very successful in terms of both advising foreign universities with consultancies and campuses all around the world, as well as recruiting foreign students to its own study abroad programmes in Australia.

    When I first started university in 1986 there were a lot of opportunities to study overseas, however, I was studying filmmaking then and more interested in what was going on in Australia. When I returned to uni to do my first Masters degree ten years later in International Studies, it was to do an innovative two-year multi-disciplinary programme, one of the first in Australia, where one semester abroad was actually a compulsory part of the degree. We did courses like Modernization and Globalization, the Making of the Third World, studied the politics/economics of the region we were heading to, and had to do two intensive years of language study. It was fantastic preparation. We then got to choose whether we wanted to do a semester or two at a foreign university or do a research project. Most of the younger students went to universities but as I’d already been working for 11 years I was disciplined enough to be able to manage and organize my own research project. I did – in Latin America – and it was incredible. It was the most transformational experience of my life.

    It didn’t cost much. As you know, Australia has a brilliant education system – even though the current government appears to be doing as much as it can to dismantle it – and I was able to do the programme through a combination of Austudy and part-time work freelancing as a writer and teaching film. The university covered a lot of my costs – flights and study expenses – and I was able to borrow a low-interest student loan to cover personal expenses. When I resumed working full-time after the degree I paid those off in a year, so it was a fantastic investment and I wasn’t in debt for long.

    When I returned to Australia, I had that sense that the world was my oyster and I needed to live overseas. I spent a few months finishing my thesis while freelancing and my husband and I made plans to return to Latin America. I took on a lucrative six month PR contract to speed up the process of saving and it was during that time while researching opportunities in Latin America, that I stumbled across the perfect job in Abu Dhabi and days after my contract finished we’d packed up our apartment, put everything in storage, and moved to the UAE.

    That was in 1998 and we’ve lived overseas ever since: just over 7.5 years full-time in the UAE, another 7 years ‘based’ there but actually living out of our suitcases on the road, including living for months at a time in cities in Europe, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Hanoi, and Hoi An, and now 1.5 years in Cambodia (so far) and I expect we’ll be here for years to come.

    Studying abroad is transformational – for the reasons you describe – it’s wonderful to see you encouraging it!

    P.S. You look so cold in those pics!!! Merry Christmas from Cambodia! xx

    1. OMG, once again, apologies for the essay! Obviously the comment of a writer – and former academic! It was a thought-provoking post that brought back memories. In summary: studying abroad is transformational. Everyone should do it once! 🙂

    2. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with study abroad Lara. Reading this makes me a little sad, I was never made aware of this as an opportunity for me as an Australian university student. But, it also makes me happy to hear of this innovation of Australia’s education. I really hope this continues and the current administration stop trying to ruin this incredible country that we have. We really are so fortunate with the opportunities that are given to us, particularly in relation to travel.

  4. Asia and Middle east according to me has one of the most ancient colleges and best ones. Ofcourse can’t ignore the rest but every college or university has its own style and class of teachers….Travel abroad, learn more! Happy new Year! Love From Dubai!

    1. Absolutely, we’re all about encouraging travel and study abroad to any destination that appeals the most to you!

      Happy New Year to you too 🙂

  5. Abroad education has countless advantages. Students can not only make their career bright as well they experience the new country’s out look, culture and understanding of world. I would say “It will change your life. You’ll come back a new person.”

  6. Thanks for sharing wonderful post.The resources which you shared is much more beneficial to the students like me and yes i agree with kaylyn comment abroad studies make your resume strong.

  7. Studying abroad sounds a little bit scary to most of the students. Actually it is the most useful thing that one student could do with his education. Meeting new people and living in a new social environment are great start in life. If you manage to adapt fast you will not have troubles adapting to all the things which could happen to you in your life later. I have 2 daughters. Both of them are studying in Germany. I am so proud with them! Best regards!

  8. “More you travel and more you explore” this makes me inspiring always, moreover studying abroad make you learn new language, culture and get new set of people from your host country

  9. Studying abroad is the best thing that can happen to anyone in school or college. You never know if it will ever happen again or not. Study tours are the best tours.

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