If your child is college-aged, the idea of a semester — or even a year — abroad will inevitably come up. But, is study abroad right for your student?
Study abroad is not a new concept. Sending girls to “finishing school” or allowing young men a “Grand Tour” was an accepted – and expected – rite of passage for the wealthy since the mid 1800’s. The concept of study abroad today, however, has much broader appeal. This is an adventure in education that is now taken frequently by students whose last name is not necessarily Carnegie, duPont or Rockefeller.
As a university-sanctioned program, study abroad actually has its roots right here in Delaware! The University of Delaware was the pioneer in the concept of study abroad for university credit, originally called the Delaware Foreign Study Plan. And, this year, the program celebrates its 90th anniversary.
According to the University of Delaware, “In 1923, America’s first study abroad program was launched at the University of Delaware when a young professor walked into the president’s office with a daring plan: to send students abroad for their junior year.” And, On July 7, 1923, eight intrepid University juniors sailed for France.
Today, most colleges and universities across the country participate in some sort of study abroad program. In fact, colleges as diverse as the University of Denver in Colorado and Elon University in North Carolina boast study abroad enrollment of over 70%. Two schools — Goucher College in Maryland and Soka University of America in California – are so committed to the study abroad program that they actually require every student to study outside the United States in order to graduate.
But, what are the benefits of a study abroad program? Is this simply an opportunity for your student to soak up the sun on the French Riviera or play ski bum in the Italian Alps?
Although the excitement and adventure of a semester or year abroad can’t be denied, academically, there are substantial benefits for students.
Looking at the world through new eyes. Students who spend time abroad invariably gain new perspective on the world and their position in it. For business, finance or economics students, gaining first-hand knowledge of the world as a truly global marketplace makes classroom learning and required readings come alive.
Improving foreign language skills. Complete immersion in a foreign language helps students dramatically improve oral and written language skills. For students with a language major or minor, this is absolutely crucial.
Improve decision-making and problem-solving skills. Students in foreign countries learn to expect the unexpected. With a dramatically reduced “safety net” (no parents rushing to the rescue) students learn to adapt and become more resourceful – a skills that will serve them well throughout their lives.
Networking. For students whose interests lie in business, international relations or government service, the networking opportunities during time abroad can’t be overstated.
So, is study abroad right for your student? There are several qualities that make the study abroad experience more successful and the transition easier.
Is your student:
If you answered “yes,” your student may enjoy time abroad. Don’t forget, however, that even the most motivated and engaged student can suffer a bought of homesickness. My suggestion? Plan a trip to visit in the foreign country if possible. And, don’t forget to pack the sunscreen or skis… study abroad isn’t all class time, you know!
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