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Why do people like to study abroad?

Living near a university, I have seen advertisements that various agencies will pay families for hosting international students. I am interested. I also wonder why even high school students want to travel far from home. Are there no good schools in their home countries? Are they trying to sneak out and break family rules? Are their home countries terribly oppressive or poverty-stricken? Are they trying to get away from broken hearts, dodge paying debts, or escape from enemies? Are there special benefits of studying abroad for normal, job related reasons? Or do they all hope to immigrate?

Frank Nichols

in Study Abroad

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Jennifer Patterson on June 25, 2018

Yes, students these days are advised to pursue career-related benefits from studying abroad. (And were you trying to get your question posted here by wording it in such an imaginative way?) You may, like me, have attended a college that offered only three or four international study programs, all language immersion programs for language majors intending to work as translators. Times are changing. According to the BBC’s statistics, the number of students spending at least one term overseas is increasing by about 12% each year < http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20120926-the-statistics-of-studying-abroad >.

Today, as it was a hundred years ago, international travel is often seen as part of a course of education all by itself. To some extent studying abroad is beneficial for future job seekers because it’s expensive; a successful year overseas proves that a student can handle money. However, some schools that are committed to keeping education affordable are bridging the gap with scholarships that may cover the cost of the international experience.

Top ten lists of reasons why students study abroad still include language immersion, usually near the top of the list, and sightseeing, and reconnecting with their ancestral culture. Students also look for opportunities to take different types of classes. Employers view successful international exchange students as people who can learn quickly, adjust to different rules, and work through cultural differences. Teachers usually recommend their higher-achieving students for foreign exchanges.

Some students’ essays about their term or year abroad do mention “adventure” and “independence,” but acting stupid is seldom the “adventure” students selected for exchange programs have in mind. As examples, high school students mention “proving” they can sleep without a night light, or write real letters instead of phoning and instant-messaging constantly. For university students, adventures may include volunteer nursing or teaching work.

Yes, of course there are good schools around the world. Exchange programs tend to link schools that are ranked on similar levels: Harvard to Oxford, your local community college to the University of Bristol (< https://search.isepstudyabroad.org/FindAProgram/ >). If you decide to host international students, you can expect them to be similar to, or slightly higher achieving than, the local students at the nearby university.

Finally, many national governments are actively encouraging this interest in global exchange programs. International contacts, language fluency, and intercultural understanding tend to promote international peace—and can also be useful in the event of a breach of international peace. < https://studyabroad.state.gov/ > 

Jeffrey Rodrigueza year ago

My parents received compensation for hosting international students when I was in high school. It was fun! Of course the students were older than I and mostly ignored me, but some really were the brothers and sisters I never had. Some of them came to the rescue when a date with an American high school boy turned ugly. Some of the food and music they brought into the house grossed us out, and some became family favorites. I smiled when my daughter wrote for a school paper that listening to Indian music was nostalgic for her, although we’ve never lived in India; that shows the influence my friends from India, especially Sundar and Asha, still have on our family. How many of them even wanted to immigrate to the United States? None. Times have changed, but all of my housemates had vowed to use their education in their own countries. 


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