Impacts of Studying Abroad
Many students noted that they gained an increased sense of independence, maturity, flexibility, perseverance, patience, adaptability, assertiveness, confidence and global-mindedness, as well as, gave them a higher sense of one’s self. The Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory (CCIA) tests emotional resilience (measure the degree to which an individual can rebound from and react positively to new experiences), flexibility/openness (measure the extent to which a person enjoys the different ways of thinking and behaving that are typically encountered in the cross-cultural experience), perceptual acuity (assesses the extent to which a person pays attention to and accurately perceives various aspects of the environment), and personal autonomy (measure the extent to which an individual has evolved a personal system of values and beliefs while at the same time respects others and their value systems). The CCAI supports the findings of personal growth within students who have studied abroad. According to a study done by Kelly and Meyer, out of 150 students who studied abroad, 65% reported feeling a greater sense of independence, 58% reported gaining a higher level of self-confidence, 72% reported becoming more open-minded, and 62% reported learning how to adapt to a different culture.
Many of the students associated independence with being able to do things for themselves, such as managing their finances, making their own choices, organizing transportation, and traveling alone. They also claimed that being in an environment where they were surrounded by a language they were not fluent in, gave them a stronger motivation and sense of confidence, will learning how to live in a different country. Students reported learning adaptability through learning how to deal with uncertainties, culture shock, discomforts, and personal anxieties. They also highlighted that they learned how to live in foreign surroundings, to be comfortable standing out in a group, and to communicate in a different language. Students also have reported learning new things about themselves, thus giving them a different perspective in their lives. Some other benefits that have been outlined throughout research are: (a) disposition to critical thinking; (b) support networks; (c) deeper self-awareness; (d) increased academic commitment; (e) increased intercultural development; (f) improved career development; (g) improved communication skills; and (h) deeper global and international competence.
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Upon returning from studying abroad, many students report being more appreciative of advantages and opportunities afforded at home; more aware of cultural and international issues; and are desirous to seek further intercultural experiences both at home and away. Further, studying abroad has been linked to improved academic achievement, and higher levels of employability. For example, students participating in Erasmus, the European Union’s long running student-mobility program, have a 23-per-cent lower rate of unemployment than other youth. Despite this, when asked their motivations for wanting to study abroad, most students didn’t consider either of those when making their decision. According to Trower’s research, rather than being instrumentally motivated, many students were motivated by the potential of personal growth, the chance to escape their everyday lives, the chance to see somewhere new, the opportunity to challenge themselves to gain independence and the chance to have new cultural experiences. They also claimed to be motivated by fun, excitement and delaying entry into adulthood. Thus showing that for most students, the primary motivation for studying abroad is personal growth and adventure, not academics or employability. In contrast, many students feared that studying abroad may have a negative affect on their academics. They also worried that a degree from a foreign country may not be universally accepted.