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advantages of studying abroad
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What are the advantages of studying abroad?

The advantages of studying abroad – an overview

There are many advantages of studying abroad, and the latest statistics bear this out. In 2020, 5.8 million young people decided to take this huge and exciting step and apply to foreign universities. This figure is predicted to rise to 8 million by 2025. The following table illustrates the ten most popular study abroad destinations in 2020 – the outbreak of the pandemic made it difficult to compile accurate statistics for 2021, given the shutting of borders and widespread online learning.

Percentage of international studentsCountryNumber of international  students
5.5USA1,075,495
22.3UK551,495
23.7Canada503,270
1.2China492,185
31.3Australia463,643
13.4France358,000
8.5Russia535,331
11.7Germany302,157
6.2Japan228,403
7.9Spain125,675
Project Atlas, 2020

Just outside the Top Ten, we find: New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and Norway, all of which are becoming increasingly popular destinations for young people who wish to study abroad.

Why do students decide to go to university abroad?

Although there are many advantages of studying abroad, these can be broken down into three main categories: the academic, the professional and the personal.

The academic advantages of studying abroad

Each country has its own style of education, and studying in a new country allows you to discover different ways of learning. If you have been taught in a teacher-centred system, where students merely take notes on what they are being told, then you will find it inspiring to experience other educational philosophies. Some educational systems promote the idea that teachers are facilitators who support self-learning, while others view teachers as delegators, who guide students’ learning and act as observers rather than lecturers. This transformation of  teaching style will, of course, modify how you learn and open new avenues to explore.

One advantage of applying to study abroad is the huge number of world-class universities who open their doors to international students, and the broad range of courses you can take. Perhaps your country does not offer an established academic path in the field which interests you? Perhaps you want to do a niche subject or specialise in a small area, and you cannot find a course which meets your needs in your home country? Or perhaps you simply want to attend the best institution in the world for the subject that you want to study? If you are open to study abroad, you will not only find the ideal course, but will also be able to combine it with internships, placements, project work and hands-on practical experience. For example, many US universities encourage students to customise their degrees, so you could combine art and biology or archaeology and mathematics – which is rarely the case in Europe – and end up studying exactly what appeals to you, rather than choosing to follow a more traditional and narrower curriculum.

One of the main advantages of studying abroad is the big opportunity you have in meeting new people and discovering new cultures. This will help you to create a network, useful also for your future work.

The professional advantages of studying abroad

Unless you have decided that your mission in life is to be a permanent student, you will leave university and start to look for work, whether after completing your graduate or postgraduate degree.  Globalisation has made networking a valuable asset, and one of the advantages of studying abroad is that you will meet people and make friends who will offer the international connections essential to today’s professional network, and may prove instrumental in finding work or suggesting opportunities at some point in your career.

Employers are looking for individuals with international experience, languages, a global outlook and the ability to communicate with diverse groups of people and show cross-cultural awareness. These are skills which cannot be taught, but are acquired by living and studying abroad.

If you study abroad, your CV will stand head and shoulders above those of other applicants, since it will demonstrate your adaptability, competence, global mindset and rich life experience. Anyone who chooses to study abroad is prepared to face challenges and rise above them and to be open to new cultures and perspectives.

A recent poll found that 80 per cent of employers were actively looking for employees who have studied abroad, and 40 per cent of US businesses stated that they had been unable to develop international business opportunities because they did not have the staff with the international background they needed. This clearly demonstrates the benefits of studying abroad. In addition, Erasmus determined that 85 per cent of the students who took part in its programme were motivated by a desire to improve their employability and career prospects. Other interesting findings from Erasmus’ research included:

  • 1:3 Erasmus students who did a work placement went on to be offered a permanent job
  • Young people who have studied abroad are half as likely to be unemployed six months after graduating
  • Students who gained their degree abroad earn 17 per cent more than their peers
  • 97 per cent found a job within 12 months, in comparison to 49 per cent of students who studied in their home country
  • If you study abroad, you are 44 per cent more likely to get a senior management post
  • AND, on a more personal note, 27 per cent of students met their partner while studying abroad!

The personal advantages of studying abroad

Moving to another country after finishing high school or your first degree is a major step towards independence. Away from home and familiar surroundings and family support, you will have to organise your own life, finances, accommodation and deal with any practical and emotional issues you may face. You will need to cook, clean, manage your time, find a balance between work and play, prioritise and compromise. Meeting new people is both stressful and absolutely  amazing and you will develop personal skills, live new experiences which help you grow as an individual, and learn responsibility as well as how to resolve problems and follow administrative processes.

Once you arrive at your new study destination you will find yourself immersed in a different culture, with its own food, music and attitudes. You will develop a better understanding of the country and its people, learn new things and familiarise yourself with other traditions. As a resident, rather than a tourist, you will be able to join in, whether in a singsong in a Dublin pub, a tomato-throwing fiesta in the streets of Spain or cheering on your US varsity football team and chanting encouragement.

One of the main advantages of studying abroad is, quite simply, the change of scenery. Fresh landmarks, vistas and landscapes may spark your creativity and give you a totally new appreciation of the world we live in. You will be able to try hobbies and sports that are not available in your country and enjoy different kinds of entertainment and colourful festivals.

Last, and definitely not least, another major advantage of studying abroad is being able to expand or perfect your language skills. Regular, daily practice in many different real-life situations, will help you polish up your vocabulary and speak with confidence. Cross-cultural communication is highly valued as a soft skill by employers, and adds another string to your bow when you start writing your CV and looking for work.

The University of Texas compared students who are studying abroad with those who are studying at home, in terms of self-confidence, 12 weeks into their degree course. The researchers found that students who study abroad have far higher levels of self-confidence, and are far more satisfied with their university experience than their peers.

And finally…

As you can see, there are numerous advantages to studying abroad and now is the time to make the leap and embrace this adventure. After all, this is a once in a lifetime chance to spend an extended period of time in a foreign country, getting a brilliant education – before family commitments, children, houses and mortgages tie you down.

World class universities and global professional opportunities beckon – and are yours for the taking. The world really is your oyster if you take advantage of all the benefits which come from studying abroad!