Why Studying Abroad should be Mandatory
Ernest Shackleton was born in County Kildare, Ireland on Februrary 15, 1874. Early in his life, his family moved to London, England where Shackleton could get a better education. At the age of 16, Ernest joined the merchant marines where he was able to travel widely around the world. He became particularly fascinated with the poles. In 1901, Shackleton went on his first expedition to Antarctic. During this expedition, Shackleton endured harsh condition were he became seriously ill. He had to return home, but through this trip, gained valuable experience.
Ernest Shackleton led three other expeditions after the first where he learned to become a leader of a team of his own and care for each individual on his team. Traveling at a young age can give you valuable experiences and teach you irreplaceable life lessons. A study abroad program should become a mandatory part of college education because it pushes students outside of their comfort zone into another culture, environment, and education system and teaches them how interact with people, improve their communication skills, and equips them to become future leaders.
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Study abroad programs equip students with a great deal of physical and measurable knowledge that they can use throughout their life. Three examples of the physical knowledge they gain would be learning a new language, improving their social skills, and bettering their communication skills. A study abroad program immerses the student into an unfamiliar culture where they will learn new skills, talents, and habits along with a better understanding of how to interact with people from different backgrounds.
The most efficient way to fully learn and comprehend a new language is to be completely immersed into it. According to Lado International Institute, studying abroad helps with native immersion, helps students understand context, and helps to personalize the language. The students who study abroad will be surrounded by native speakers, for the first time, which simultaneously provides an environment of enrichment and challenge.
The students will also be given a multitude of opportunities to explore the language and culture in new and unique ways. By being immersed in the culture, the students will learn the language in the context of the culture, something they would not have been able to do from learning in a classroom. Lastly, by meeting unique persons throughout their journey, it gives the students an opportunity to make personal connections to the language and leave an emotional attachment for the student to remember.
Students improve their social skills and social collaboration as they interact with people different from themselves. Alex Hammond goes over twenty-three soft skills, defined as “personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people,” in his article titled Soft Skills you will Gain from Studying Abroad. One of the most important soft skills that will be gained when studying abroad is listening.
By processing a new language or having to think harder about what you are hearing, your perceived listening skills will improve. Along with these social skills will come cultural awareness: “the understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds, especially differences in attitudes and values” (Collins English Dictionary). Studying abroad gives a full experience into a culture, something that reading or traveling will never give a student.
Staying on the topic of cultural awareness, studying abroad will also provide students with a sense of multicultural engagement. While the students learn about the local culture, they will also be given opportunities to meet people from all around the world. Having experience working with a diverse group of people is a vital part of working in our society today. (Alex Hammond)
While learning a new language is a huge part of studying abroad, this experience also improves their familiar, already known communication skills. It is necessary for students to learn how to effectively communicate with someone of a different culture. According to Stephanie Sadler, in the article: Ways to overcome Language Barrier Fears and Study Abroad, while studying abroad, students must figure out how to bridge the language barrier, usually in creative methods.
Students will rely on simple phrases such as “can you repeat that more slowly?” or “can you please say that again?.” They will also learn how to use repetition to get their points across more efficiently. Lastly, they will learn how to best speak through body movements or diagrams and pictures. Students will inevitably improve their communication skills by learning how to effectively communicate in another culture (Sadler, Stephanie).
Beside gaining physical knowledge, studying abroad helps the student grow as an individual as they gain experience and encounter unfamiliar situations that will be unique to themselves and their stories. Study abroad programs will equip students with experiences that will prepare them to become future leaders, provide them with opportunities to grow in their character and personality, and gives them an opportunity to gain professional experiences that others will not have.
While abroad, students will have a multitude of opportunities to learn more about themselves and grow as an individual. Through various new experiences, each students will learn something new about themselves and learn valuable life lessons. Bailey LaPoint shared how her experience in Barcelona changed her in her article titled Life Lessons From Studying Abroad. She said, “I definitely found my independence… There were many times when I was alone.
I can tell you that when you are left alone without your parents, friends, or any form of communication, you realize that you can take care of yourself.” Finding independence and a sense of being self- reliant is a huge aspect of studying abroad. Students learn to realize what it feels like to take care of themselves and live independently of their parents or friends. Another character quality that becomes more prevalent as you study abroad is the act of being adaptable to situations.
The students who make the decision to study abroad learn to be flexible in unexpected situations and learn to adapt and find ways to fix the unpredicted circumstances. LaPoint stated “Obstacles are going to arise when you least expect them. They might knock you down, or change your path, but it’s how you respond to these challenges that help you learn and grow.” (LaPoint)
A leader is made of up of various qualities and characteristics. Studying abroad provides an opportunity for many of these characteristics to become more prevalent and enhanced. As discovered prior, studying abroad teaches persons adaptability to situations, to be creative, to think critically, to communicate effectively, and to have people skills.
Many of these qualities are found in leaders. Studying abroad brings out the qualities that make people become the best leaders they can be. By reaching out of their comfort zone, they are stretched in ways that they have not been before. All of these experiences will ultimately strengthen their character and afford them with the skills they need to be a better, more effective leader in the future.
Through a study abroad program, students will learn how to become adaptable, creative thinkers, communicate well, and work independently. After studying abroad, you immediately become more marketable to employers and companies. With broad, international experience and cultural awareness, you become able to adapt to different cultures when interacting with customers, employees or bosses. According to Jenny Marshall “The ability to absorb and adapt to new cultures is highly desirable, as is a cultural sensitivity that is often demanded of people when they study abroad” (Marshall, Jenny)
According to NAFSA, in the 2016-2017 academic year, only 1.6% of all American students enrolled at a university or college took the opportunity to study abroad. The reasons for not studying abroad would be the fear of missing out with friends or opportunities at their college in the United States, the expense of the trip overseas, afraid of being homesick or unsure if they can manage the amount of time they would be away.
A numerous amount of those excuses are because people are simply afraid to try something new and different. The tradeoff and benefits of studying abroad is well worth missing a semester at their home school or putting aside fears. Troy Peden dismisses the excuse that it is too expensive by stating that studying abroad is surprisingly affordable and, in most cases, cost about the same as a regular semester in the United States (Peden, Troy). With the multitude of benefits studying abroad provides a student, it is incredibly shocking to see that only 1.6% of all college students make good use of the opportunity they are given.
Ernest Shackleton was a brave explorer who took advantage of the many opportunities he was given at a young age. Shackleton explored Antarctica on four different expeditions which equipped him with knowledge that far surpassed those of his time. During his years of travelling, Shackleton learned various life lessons and was granted valuable memories. He became a faithful and dedicated leader, knowledgeable and educated explorer, and a wise and experienced man.
But without his experiences in travel and exploration at a young age, Shackleton would have lacked the qualities that made him that man he was. Through Ernest Shackleton’s example, we can see the numerous amount of ways traveling abroad affects young adults, their education, their views on life, and their character as whole. Shackleton was given a rare opportunity that he took advantage of and I feel that college students should do the same.
College students are given an opportunity that provides them with resources to travel at a young age, experience a new culture, and grow as an individual. College and Universities nationwide should make studying abroad a mandatory part of their curriculum because it provides the students with an opportunity to experience a new culture and lifestyle while also enhancing their communication skills, providing multiple opportunities for them to learn about themselves and grow in their character, and creating a once in a lifetime experience.