Cross-cultural learning and studying abroad can be transformative.”

Amal Clooney, Activist

Advantages & Disadvantages of Studying Abroad

advantages and disadvantages of study abroad

Studying abroad has become increasingly popular over the past decades. Through the high level of globalization and the invention of the internet, it has become rather easy to apply to universities in foreign countries and to spend one semester at a foreign university.

Although studying abroad has many important advantages, it also implies some issues. In this article, the pros and cons of studying abroad are examined in detail.

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Advantages of Studying Abroad

  1. You will get to know new cultures
  2. You can practice foreign languages
  3. Studying abroad can boost your confidence
  4. May give you the opportunity to make many new friends
  5. You may be able to improve your education levels
  6. Advanced learning and education techniques
  7. You can make unforgettable memories
  8. You meet people from all over the world
  9. Better personal support of students
  10. You will get out of your comfort zone
  11. Will give you a different perspective on life
  12. You can stay at a guest family
  13. Way of learning might be completely different
  14. Your level of independence will improve
  15. Plenty of leisure
  16. You will learn about your strengths and weaknesses
  17. You can grow in character
  18. Scholarships may help you finance your semester abroad
  19. May be beneficial for your career
  20. Good in case you want to work abroad

You will get to know new cultures

One key advantage of studying abroad is that you will get to know new cultures. Especially if you spend your semester abroad in exotic places of our planet, you will experience that the cultural values in those regions can be quite different from the cultural values back home.

This can be quite an important insight since it shows you the relativity of the world and of our cultural norms which we often take for granted in general.

Hence, in order to broaden your horizon and to get to know new ways of life, studying abroad can definitely help you in this regard.

You can practice foreign languages

Learning foreign languages becomes more and more important. Due to the high level of globalization, we often have to communicate with people all over the world in our jobs.

Therefore, in case you aspire to a demanding international corporate career, spending a semester abroad can definitely help you to improve your language skills, which will in turn also benefit you in the corporate world later on.

Moreover, also apart from better job opportunities, learning foreign languages can be quite interesting and a lot of fun for many people.

Studying abroad can boost your confidence

During my semester abroad, I soon noticed that my overall confidence significantly increased over time. This is due to the fact that you will learn so many new things and you will also face some challenges from time to time.

However, it is crucial to master those challenges in order to become a better version of yourself, even though it might be hard from time to time.

Therefore, since you will always face new challenges and also experience new things, you will soon lose the fear to experience new stuff and your overall level of confidence will likely increase significantly, which can also give you an edge in many other parts of your life in the future.

May give you the opportunity to make many new friends

Since you will meet so many new people during your semester abroad, chances are that you will also make many new friends. Some of those friendships might even last for a lifetime.

For instance, I’m still in contact with some people whom I got to know during my semester abroad and we have become quite good friends.

If you love traveling, it is also quite cool if you can meet up with many different people in several parts of our planet.

Therefore, studying abroad gives you a unique opportunity to make many great friendships that may even last for a lifetime.

You may be able to improve your education levels

There are also countries in which college education is rather bad. If you live in one of those countries, chances are that you may be able to significantly improve your overall education level by going for a semester abroad.

However, also note that in such a case, you might have difficulties with the high education levels in other countries and may have a hard time since exams might be much more challenging abroad.

Advanced learning and education techniques

If you study abroad at a quite good university, chances are that you may also profit from quite good education techniques and learning methods.

Many universities adapted to the technological progress regarding digitalization and offer many additional learning platforms, which may improve your learning experience you quite a lot.

You can make unforgettable memories

Another upside of studying abroad is that you can make many unforgettable memories. I still have many nice memories when I think back to my semester abroad and I don’t want to miss a single one of them.

Many people claim that their semester abroad has been one of the best times in their lives and I can strongly agree with that.

You meet people from all over the world

By studying abroad, you can also meet people from all over the world. Especially if the college is quite focused on offering plenty of courses also for international students, chances are that you will get to know many people from all over the world.

This can be quite interesting since you will experience new cultures and will have plenty of fun with your new colleagues.

Better personal support of students

Especially if you spend your semester abroad at quite good universities, you may also be able to benefit from much better personal support compared to your home university.

Those elite universities often have a pretty good student-to-teacher ratio and there will be enough time to answer individual questions.

You will get out of your comfort zone

Another advantage of studying abroad is that you will be forced out of your comfort zone. Sure, we can all agree that we like to stay inside our comfort zone since it is quite convenient there.

However, only if we get out of our comfort zone from time to time, we will be able to experience new things and to really grow in personality. Honestly, I got my most valuable lessons in life when I was out of my comfort zone and had to face serious challenges.

Therefore, if you want to learn new things and to really develop in personality, getting out of your comfort zone and studying in foreign countries can help you quite a lot.

Will give you a different perspective on life

Since you will experience new cultures during your semester abroad, you will also get a completely different perspective on life in general.

People who don’t travel or don’t study abroad often believe that their cultural values that they have been taught their whole lives are the gold standard.

However, if you travel a lot or study abroad, you will soon realize that cultural values strongly differ across the world and what you have considered being normal is just a small fraction of your individual perception of reality.

This is quite important to understand since it significantly increases the level of tolerance towards other lifestyles and makes our global society much more tolerant.

You can stay at a guest family

When I planned my study abroad, I had to decide whether I wanted to stay in the dorms or at a guest family. I decided to go for the second option and never regretted it.

In fact, it was the best thing to do since we have become really good friends over time and I also got to know the life of the locals much better since I experienced how my guest family lived every day.

Thus, also the experience of living in a guest family can be a quite valuable experience and can really enrich your semester abroad quite a lot.

Way of learning might be completely different

Chances are that you will also experience new ways of learning during your studies abroad. For instance, the curriculum might be quite different and, in my case, I had to do plenty of assignments and homework which I was not familiar with from my university life back home.

Moreover, there also had been some midterm exams instead of just one final exam. Therefore, you may also have to adjust your learning behavior a little bit, which is not bad at all since you will learn who to adjust to new educational frameworks.

Your level of independence will improve

Another significant benefit of studying abroad is that you will learn how to become really independent. Many students, especially if they still live at home, suffer from a serious lack of independence since their parents still do their laundry and cook for them.

If you are one of those students, you should definitely go for a semester abroad since you will learn to take care of yourself, which is crucial for several parts of your future life.

Plenty of leisure

During your semester abroad, you will also have plenty of leisure time which you can spend on hanging out with your new friends or for trips to national parks or other sights near your college.

In my case, I never had so much leisure again in my life and I definitely recommend you use this opportunity to have a great time since after you finished your studies, you will no longer have this opportunity since you will have to work in a job for quite long hours and your leisure time will be quite limited, especially if you also start a family.

You will learn about your strengths and weaknesses

Since you have to organize all your things during your semester abroad by yourself, you will also learn much more about yourself and also about your strengths and weaknesses.

This is quite important for your future life since everyone of us has weaknesses and it is crucial to know about them in order to adjust or to get help for things you are pretty bad at.

However, many people don’t really know about their strengths and weaknesses too much in our current state of the world, which may lead to serious problems for them sooner or later.

Only if you know about your strengths and weaknesses in detail, you can figure out what you really want to do with your life in a successful manner.

You can grow in character

Many people also significantly grow in character during their semester abroad. Since you get to know so many new things, your overall view on the world in general will change and you will likely also adapt new things you learned during your studies in foreign countries.

Moreover, through experiencing many new cultures, your overall character development may be accelerated quite a lot.

Scholarships may help you finance your semester abroad

In some countries, there are also scholarships in place which may finance your studies abroad in case you are not able to financially afford it otherwise.

Thus, if you are interested in studying abroad, make sure to check out if there are some programs in place in your country that help you finance your studies in a foreign country.

May be beneficial for your career

Many big companies nowadays require you to spend a semester abroad in order to hire you after you finished your studies. Many companies know how important it is to get to know new cultures and want to have employees who already got to know cultural diversity.

Hence, if you aspire to a career in a big corporation, you might want to spend a semester abroad in order to improve your chances of getting a job in those companies.

Good in case you want to work abroad

Also if you plan to work abroad later on in your life, studying in the country you want to work in later on may also greatly improve your chances of getting hired since you will be able to improve your language skills and may also be able to adapt to the new culture much better.

Therefore, if you plan to work in a foreign country in the future, studying abroad can also give you an edge in this regard.

Disadvantages of a Semester Abroad

  1. Can be expensive
  2. Not affordable for children from poor families
  3. You may suffer from homesickness
  4. Communication problems
  5. You may have difficulties to adapt to new cultures
  6. You may not want to go back home
  7. Classes may be too difficult for you
  8. May prolong your duration of study
  9. Not manageable in case you already have children
  10. Some friendships may be lost over time
  11. You may feel overwhelmed
  12. It may be hard to transfer credits to your home university
  13. Cultural shocks
  14. Social exclusion
  15. Mental issues

Can be expensive

Apart from the several advantages of studying abroad, there are also some issues related to it. One problem with studying abroad is that it can be quite expensive. You will have to pay for rent, tuition fees and many other things you will need for daily life.

Therefore, depending on the regions where you want to spend your semester abroad, you should make sure that you have enough money for it in order to avoid running out of money in a foreign country after a while.

Not affordable for children from poor families

Since studying abroad is rather costly, it might not be affordable for students that come from poor families. Especially for students from poor developing countries of our planet, it will never be affordable to spend a semester abroad in a country in the rich Western world since it will be far too expensive.

Therefore, for people in those countries, it would be reasonable to introduce enough scholarships that are financed by the government so that more students would have the opportunity to study abroad and to represent their nation all over the world.

You may suffer from homesickness

Another downside of studying abroad is that you may get homesick over time. Especially if this is your first time that you are away from your home for an extended period of time, chances are that you will not be able to adapt to the new circumstances at the beginning and that you will miss your family and your friends.

Thus, be mentally prepared that the first days or weeks might be rough for you since you will not have your loved ones around you and you have to stand on your own feet instead.

Communication problems

In case you are not fluent in the local language, you might also suffer from serious communication problems. Even though you will manage to communicate to a certain extent, it might be quite difficult to get in touch with locals if you don’t speak the local language in a sufficient manner.

Hence, you may want to make sure to learn the language of the country you want to spend your semester abroad in order to avoid communication problems later on.

You may have difficulties to adapt to new cultures

Especially if you decide to spend your semester abroad in rather exotic places of our planet, you may have a quite hard time adapting to the local culture and to the different ways of life.

You may feel quite uncomfortable with some local habitats and if you are someone who has difficulties adapting to new customs, chances are that you may not have a quite good time during your semester abroad.

You may not want to go back home

Some people also really love studying abroad. I know many people who had a quite hard time to leave their guest families behind. Some people also have difficulties to adapt to their life back home since they simply are no longer used to it.

Classes may be too difficult for you

You may have problems during your semester abroad since some classes may just be too difficult for you. Especially if you come from a country where education levels are rather low, chances are that you will be overwhelmed if you study in a country which has quite high educational standards.

May prolong your duration of study

Another problem of studying abroad is that it might also prolong the duration of your studies. While this is not a problem for some companies, other companies may refrain from employing you since they consider to spend a semester abroad as kind of lazy or even useless.

Not manageable in case you already have children

If you already have children, chances are that you will not be able to manage a semester abroad since you will have to take care of your children and studying in a foreign country will not be feasible for you in such a case.

Some friendships may be lost over time

Even though you can make many good friends during your semester abroad, you may also lose some of those friendships over time. It is quite natural that you lose contact with many people over time and therefore, there may not be too many friends from your studies abroad left after a few years.

You may feel overwhelmed

Due to the many new impressions, you may also feel quite overwhelmed, especially at the beginning of your semester abroad when everything is new to you and you have to organize everything by yourself.

Some people may not be able to deal with this new state properly, especially if they still live at home with their parents in their home country.

It may be hard to transfer credits to your home university

Some universities may also not acknowledge your academic achievements from other foreign universities and therefore, you may have a hard time when it comes to transferring the credits you earned during your semester abroad to your home country.

Thus, before choosing courses, make sure that the credits will be transferrable in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises when you are back at your home university.

Cultural shocks

If the cultural values between your home country and the country you spend your semester abroad are too big, you may literally suffer from a cultural shock.

If you are not able to deal with those differences on a mental level, chances are that your overall experience during your semester abroad may be quite poor.

Social exclusion

Some countries are also still quite reserved towards foreigners. Therefore, if you spend your semester abroad in a country that is rather skeptical about foreign students, you may have a quite hard time to connect to locals and to make friendships and might even become socially isolated.

Mental issues

Since you will have to take care of so many things and also have to organize your life by yourself, chances are that you might be quite overwhelmed at the beginning.

While the majority of people will adapt to those new challenges in a healthy manner, a small fraction of people might even develop serious mental issues.

Top 10 Studying Abroad Pros & Cons – Summary List

Studying Abroad ProsStudying Abroad Cons
You can get to know new culturesStudying abroad can be expensive
Opportunity for new friendshipsYou may get homesick
Studying abroad can broaden your horizonDifficulties to adapt to new cultures
You can learn a new languageClasses may be too difficult
Good to really grow in characterYou may lose some friends over time
You can grow upSocial isolation
Improvement in confidenceMental problems
You will learn to organize yourselfProblems to transfer credits
New teaching methodsProlongation of duration of study
Can be beneficial for your careerCommunication problems

Should You Study Abroad?

As we can see from the previous analysis, studying abroad provides you with a unique opportunity to experience a completely new way of life. Yet, apart from the many important advantages, there are also some problems related to a semester abroad.

However, in my opinion, the pros of studying abroad outweigh the cons and my semester abroad was one of the best times of my life. Thus, I definitely recommend that you go for it if you have the opportunity to do so.

Sources

https://www.ciee.org/go-abroad/college-study-abroad

https://www.topuniversities.com/blog/9-best-places-spend-semester-abroad

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Study_abroad_programs

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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