Ah, study abroad — that time-honored tradition of venturing to a faraway land to immerse oneself in its culture, history and tradition. Or, to hole up and get drunk with other Americans in between sleeping with mysterious, sexy foreigners without anyone back home knowing the better.
In my experience, it can go either way. Which is really the short answer to Audra’s question today, and that’s:
Ok… so here it goes. Is study abroad a waste of time?
Another student who just gets right to the point. I love it. My quick answer is: of course not, not necessarily. Don’t get me wrong, you can certainly waste an entire year away learning nothing if you choose, but you can do that here in America, too.
I *want* so badly to have a reason to study abroad. I know I can take a generalized course or two if decide to go… but what I want to know is, does it do anything that makes me stand out from the rest when it’s all said and done? If I study abroad will I have anything on the other people in the job market other than great memories of going away for a period of time?
Not really, no. A notable exception is if you’re applying for a job where foreign language skills are key, and if you’ve studied abroad somewhere and spoken that language along with the natives for a year, then sure, that’ll definitely give you a leg up on someone who hasn’t done that.
The simple fact that you’ve gone abroad, though, isn’t enough ALONE to gain you special favor with employers, though. But again — if you accumulated some unique experience while abroad that is salient to the job you’re looking to get, then sure, now we’re talking.
That said, don’t discount those great memories. If it’s financially feasible and you have the time to do it, I totally recommend it. If you’re like a vast majority of Americans, you may not get a chance to live abroad at any other time in your life.
Trust me, life blows by fast. In the blink of an eye you may be married with three kids, credit cards maxed out and wistfully pining for the days where you COULD have spent your afternoons drinking sangria and reading poetry on the steps of an 800-year-old building alongside a handsome olive-skinned fellow named Alejandro.
Take this recommendation with a grain of salt, because I didn’t study abroad myself, although I wish I had’ve. But of all the people I’ve known who DID study abroad, none of them has said, “You know, it sucked and I wish I hadn’t done it.” Everyone I know seems pretty happy they did it. Again, for what it’s worth.
One would think, if you can do it… go for it! But for me… I am a single mom (yes, I have the luxury of letting my 5 year old stay with my parents if I should decide to go)
Whoa. That changes things.
and money would be a *little* on the tight side if I did it (since the cost is about double what I pay for one term) … so I want to know — IS IT WORTH IT?
OK, I’m switching from “college/scholarships advice guy” mode to “father of a 5-year-old myself” mode when I say: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Do not, under any circumstances, voluntarily leave your 5-year-old child behind while you go to another country for a year.
The only exception to this rule that I can think of would be if you’re being doggedly chased by international-spy assassins and need to stash your child somewhere out of the way and safe from your relentless pursuers.
Failing that — stay home with your kid. Even if your folks are great caretakers, it’s no substitute for Mom.
What are your honest to goodness study abroad thoughts? Thanks in advance, and yes… I know I love to use ellipses way too much 🙂
OK, for everyone else, I think study abroad is much like study domestic –what you get out of it is completely up to you and how much work you put in.
You can really try to blend in and live like a local and learn as much as you can about the culture in which you’re immersed, and in that case it’s great. If you don’t do any of that, you’ll probably learn a lot less (although I think living in a foreign country, in and of itself, is a learning experience of some value, even if you do nothing useful educationally while you’re there).
The area of study abroad where I’d advise the most caution is cost. School-sponsored study abroad programs are usually priced much higher than you’d pay to simply go to the country on your own and study similar things. This is mainly because a lot of things are handled for you: the courses, lodging, the entire study-abroad program itself, etc. And that’s fine if you’re willing to pay a fat premium for all that, but if you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, then you can go off and study abroad yourself for a LOT cheaper than you could in an organized program.
That’s my advice for the day. What about you — any advice for Audra? General comments about study abroad? Let us know below.