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Why do so many schools offer study abroad programs?

I’m told that at the top universities in Australia some students are competing to get into abroad study programs that let them study in Japan. Is foreign travel, all by itself, considered a course of study? Do students get higher grades by going overseas, or are they given bonus points for just taking classes taught in a foreign language? Do Australian exchange students have to take classes taught in Japanese to get this benefit? Or are these students just looking for opportunities to do things they hope their parents won’t find out about?

Alexa Spicer

in Study Abroad

1 answer

1 answer

Ralph Lopez on June 18, 2018

The short explanation for the popularity of programs for studying abroad, which most colleges and universities offer, is that travel is an educational experience in and of itself.

While making friends in other countries is a big part of the international student exchange experience, national governments regard these experiences as protecting national interests. Obviously everyone hopes international friendship will promote peace and diplomacy; foreign language skills and foreign contacts can help students’ home countries achieve those goals.

Concerned parents can afford to relax: Students selected for exchange programs are usually “emotionally mature” students, whose teachers expect them to be less interested in raising their parents’ blood pressure than in improving their language skills, exposing themselves to different cultures, adding the international experience some employers like to see on résumés, expanding their career networks, and (in some cases) connecting with their ancestral heritage.

Some organizations, like the American Institute for Foreign Study, even offer a “service learning experience” where students do some volunteer work. Most of these programs are less interested in high schoolers than in pre-professional and graduate students, especially in the health care professions. By the time they’re enrolled in master’s degree programs, students really have something to offer their host countries.

Several programs, like and Southern Cross Cultural Exchange, place students from Australia in Japan. Australia’s top universities, such as Australian National University, also send students to Oxford, McGill, Trinity, and other schools worldwide; ANU alone exchanges with 24 colleges in Japan < >.\

Currently Japanese schools are particularly interested in recruiting native speakers of English as teachers. This may explain why Japan actually offers scholarships, and opportunities to live as guests in private homes or at temples, for Australians, Canadians, Americans, etc., studying in Japan. (Students staying at temples may be asked to lead a monastic life, but they get 12 to 15 weeks of language immersion classes and free lodging in places where the cost of living is relatively cheap.

While all the “best” universities boast of their exchange programs, there is a traditional belief that culture shock will have a slight adverse effect on a student’s grades. International students are expected to keep up with regular classes at the host school. These may meet, exceed, or fall below their own schools’ standards. If students lose their “top” status while abroad, they can usually recover it at home. 

Cynthia Baker2 years ago

One other thing about study abroad programs is that they cost a lot of money. This is also considered to have educational value. Of course most of the money is likely to be coming from parents and sponsoring organizations, but even so, participation in these programs tells future employers that a student has grown up around large amounts of money! This is considered to indicate that the student is “financially responsible,” credit worthy, able to raise funds to finance the international study program, and so on. For international students, access even to the entry level jobs other students may be doing for pocket money is likely to be restricted. If jobs are open to these students, they will be part time and minimum wage, or special student labor wage, kind of work. So the student can afford a little shopping and sightseeing, but probably not afford a party oriented lifestyle! 


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