You’ve probably heard many typical reasons why study abroad is a great idea. For example, how gaining experience abroad helps you become more culturally aware or how it opens our minds to new ways of thinking. Study abroad experience on a resume is also widely recognized as an impressive credential to employers in an era in requires constant adaptation to the change. All of these benefits are available to those who get the opportunity to study abroad at any age. However, there are five specific benefits of studying abroad, specifically as a high-school student. These benefits not only profit the student but also what they can potentially contribute to society.
Increased Maturity and Independence
In high school, you are at a stage where they are just beginning to discover what sparks your interest. Simply being around peers and teachers causes you to become open to new ideas and new ways of thinking. You are also learning how to express yourself in ways that feel most natural to you. With the growth you’re experiencing, this is an opportune time to step out of your comfort zone and what's routine. Studying abroad at this stage can provide you with an invaluable experience, increasing your maturity and independence and pushing you to think for yourself.
A Global Perspective
Studying abroad empowers you to experience the world through exposure to different cultures and customs. You will discover that, regardless of race, socio-economic background, or religion, people have the same basic needs and have similar goals. You will also begin to find your place in the world and start thinking of the type of person you want to become. Particularly for minority high school student, the world looks different through your eyes. The political and social issues of our world often impact minorities differently. Being aware of these issues gives you the perspective to be a better leader and professional.
A Competitive Advantage
A high school student who has studied abroad has a higher chance of getting accepted into their preferred college. Admissions counselors can see proof that you're able to adjust to new and different environments. It also indicates you may be more receptive to different ideas and concepts which makes you more inspired to learn. Studying abroad enhances your appeal to admissions counselors seeking to add to the uniqueness of their campus. Also, studies show that students who have studied abroad have higher grades and are more likely to graduate from college. By sending more high school students abroad we can begin to ensure a more promising future for our youth.
New Career Possibilities
A study abroad experience can help point you in the right direction when determining what career best suits you. For example, while abroad you may discover an aptitude for language learning. Without a studying abroad in high school, you may not recognize that until much later. For instance, I have always loved languages, but it wasn’t until I studied abroad in Spain as a college student that I realized how much of an aptitude I had for learning Spanish. If I had been able to tap into that before even entering college, I would have been able to devote more time to studying the language and assessing options of what to do with my Spanish speaking skills. Other career paths students may discover include international business, diplomacy, and the natural sciences, just to name a few. When you have the opportunity to discover a new career path, you are given the chance to discover a new passion and develop a new set of skills. The earlier in life you have the chance to recognize this, the better.
Representing Your Culture Abroad
Just as there are many preconceived notions about minorities in the U.S., prejudices exist in the minds of some people abroad. Often, stigmas minorities carry have been perpetuated by the media and lack of representation of the true richness of our various cultures. Also, racism and xenophobia are often connected immigration issues and lack of exposure. When young minorities are given the opportunity to study abroad, they can interact with the youth abroad and begin to educate them on how those stereotypes that they may be familiar with are not at all a general representation of minorities as a whole. By simply being yourself, people abroad can begin to appreciate a broader range of your culture. You will also learn what it's like to be a teenager in their country and culture. You can potentially reach a younger generation of people and begin to move us towards a better position for generations to come.
The many benefits of a study abroad experience during high school for minority students are innumerable. Studying abroad should be viewed as an opportunity for the beauty of our differences to be better understood globally. It should also be recognized as a chance for underrepresented youth to be presented with more career options and to be better prepared to face the world around them.
Christina Golson developed a passion for travel and language learning from her study abroad experience that began in college. She obtained her Masters in Spanish language and literature from Saint Louis University’s campus in Madrid, Spain and spent 3 years being immersed in the Spanish culture. She now teaches Spanish language, literature, and culture to high school students and enjoys sharing her experiences with other young people.