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Today’s students face perhaps the greatest challenges of any generation – including a highly competitive job market. Set them up for success by helping them explore their options of studying abroad.
Why is studying abroad important? What’s the point of travelling far and wide for higher education, when opting for a domestic university can save time and effort with things like visa applications and long journeys?
Although you’re probably already well-versed in the value of studying abroad, you may have students asking you whether it’s really worthwhile.
Here at BridgeU, we know studying abroad is important for all kinds of reasons: students’ self-development, cultural enrichment, language learning – not to mention it’s an incomparable opportunity for adventure!
But having some structured, quantifiable evidence of why studying abroad is important is helpful for getting students on board. It’s also great to have on-hand when speaking to parents. Having their children quite literally fly the nest for far-flung lands can seem heart-wrenching, but they’ll be much happier knowing how beneficial it is!
One easy way to help your more hesitant students to take the plunge and explore universities overseas is with a free BridgeU account for your school. The platform makes international university research easy: every student is guided towards their tailor-made shortlist (from our library of over 28,000 universities), and has access to weekly personalised content.
In the meantime, here are some of our top reasons why studying abroad is so important – particularly in 2023.
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Studying abroad is important if students want their perfect-fit degree
Although there are many factors at play when it comes to deciding on a university, the academic side is always going to be a biggie.
And the fact is, most students don’t have the good fortune to live a stone’s throw away from a university that has:
- High-quality teaching
- Cutting-edge research
- Excellence in the student’s chosen subject
- An approach to learning that fits with the student’s aptitudes and preferences
To maximise their chances of finding all of these criteria (and more!) in one single university, most students need to broaden their horizons.
Different regions are right for different students
For example, students who want to specialise right away and are also quite independent learners might look into studying in the UK.
On the other hand, students who prefer a broader degree programme and more teacher-led learning could research options in the USA.
Or if students are after cheaper, but equally prestigious, degrees, the EU is a good bet. It’s also perfect for students with the travel bug (as student visas tend to unlock EU-wide travel).
Alternatively, students could refine their searches by thinking about the subject they hope to study or the career path they’re pursuing.
For example, those who shine in STEM may want to consider universities in Asia, a continent that has world-leading institutions in those fields and is home to trailblazing tech and engineering companies.
It’s also important to remember that each country has its own areas of expertise and teaching styles. Even what is ostensibly the same subject can be taught drastically differently between different countries and even universities. For the best possible match and most enjoyable, beneficial experience, students need to cast a wide net.
That’s why students really shouldn’t limit themselves by only considering options in their country of residence. If it’s academic excellence they’re after, a quick glance at the top 100 universities in the world will show them just how geographically widespread it is!
Studying abroad is important for helping students graduate with the best possible grades
Given that studying abroad can place students at world-class universities that embrace their preferred teaching methods and excel in the areas that interest them, it’s no wonder that it can lead to better academic performance.
But there’s more than intuition to back up this claim. In fact, countless studies have found that students who study abroad perform better than their domestic counterparts. For example, at Indiana University students who studied abroad earned a higher average cumulative GPA than those who remained in the USA.
In fact, it’s not just the grades they graduate with that are improved; the overall chances of graduating at all have been consistently found to be much higher for students who study abroad!
Of course, the point of university is to graduate, so that’s great in and of itself. But it also speaks to students having a more enjoyable and rewarding experience that they’re motivated to see through to the end.
Studying abroad is important for employability
Now we reach one of the biggest reasons why studying abroad is important.
Many of us are familiar with the idea that our world is shrinking; globalisation means that distance is no longer much of an obstacle, and we can connect with people around the world in the blink of an eye. There’s no denying that globalisation is affecting how we work and the skills employers are looking for.
To make sure students are equipped for a new world of work, and have the capabilities that employers most need, it’s important to study abroad.
While the benefits of doing so are too vast and varied to list in full, these are some of the key ways that studying abroad boosts employability.
Of course, one clear benefit of attending a world-leading university is earning a degree that’s globally recognised.
If students want to impress employers straight off the bat, then having a degree from a celebrated university – wherever it may be – is a strong start. And that’s as true for students who plan to return to their home country as those looking to relocate abroad permanently.
Passion and a can-do attitude
As we mentioned, studying abroad isn’t always the easiest of all the options students have upon leaving high school.
Their willingness to put in the work in order to experience the best possible instruction of their subject shows that they’re passionate about the area, and ambitious enough to seek out the best for themselves. Those are big pluses for employers!
Managing all of the documents and deadlines that studying abroad requires is an organisational achievement in and of itself!
Add to that securing accommodation overseas, opening a foreign bank account, researching a new language and culture – all while studying for the biggest assessments of their lives – and international students are proving themselves to be highly organised.
The additional challenges of studying abroad don’t necessarily stop when the student visa is granted. Moving to a brand new country – often one where students don’t have any family – can be daunting.
In fact, it’s a pretty remarkable feat, particularly at what’s already a nerve-inducing transition period. The fact that international students find their feet, create new social circles, immerse themselves in an unfamiliar culture and deal with all the attendant admin speaks volumes to employers.
These are clearly competent, confident people capable of working autonomously and taking initiative – all hugely employable traits.
“Those who spend time studying abroad enjoy enhanced graduate employment prospects and gain important transversal skills that are particularly highly valued by employers.”
The European Commission: Erasmus Impact Study
You’re likely tired of hearing this, but it’s said so often because it’s important: in an increasingly globalised world (and economy), having a global perspective is vital.
Studying abroad is one of the best ways to develop this way of thinking. In fact, studies show the gains in this area to be tremendous.
A huge majority of students who have studied abroad report learning a significant amount about:
- Current political/social issues outside of their home country
- The people of another country
- The history and culture of another country
- The geography of another country
- Living as a foreigner
These students also felt they grew in leaps and bounds in areas that the study defined as:
- Cultural sophistication
- Awareness of international issues
Curiosity and open-mindedness
Because our world is changing so rapidly, particularly in terms of job roles, out-of-the-box thinking is crucial if students are going to carve their place and make themselves indispensable.
Exposing themselves to different ways of thinking and problem-solving, different ways of understanding the world, different ways of communicating all go a long way in helping them think flexibly and creatively.
And those are going to be some of the definitive traits of success moving forward: creative problem-solving, active learning, and flexibility are some of the most cited characteristics when employers are quizzed on what the ideal employee will look like in the coming years.
By being in the centre of excellence and innovation for their chosen field, students get the chance to rub shoulders with the movers and shakers in their industry.
They’ll also be learning alongside future leaders and trailblazers, and be able to spark up long-lasting partnerships!
Do employers really value studying abroad? There’s no doubt these all sound like brilliant benefits for your students, but you might be wondering how much of a real-world impact studying abroad will have on their chances of employment.
Well, all the figures suggest it has a huge impact.
The skills that employers predict will be the most needed by 2025 all fall within a category often referred to as transversal skills. The ones most lauded by employers include:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Active learning
- Resilience and stress tolerance
- Working with diverse groups of people
- Openness and curiosity towards new challenges
- Tolerance towards the values and behaviours of others
As we’ve seen, studying abroad demonstrates and develops every single one of these qualities!
Other studies point to how widespread the demand for such transversal skills is. 92% of 80,000 employers across 32 countries said they were a driving force in their recruitment searches.
Researchers have even conducted tests before and after students study abroad and concluded that the experience leads to higher values of these personality traits.
It’s not surprising, then, that those who studied abroad were actually found to be half as likely to face long-term unemployment, and study abroad students’ unemployment rate was a massive 23% lower than the European average five years after graduation.
So there’s no doubt about it: studying abroad is one of the most sure-fire ways to improve your students’ employability.
“The top skills… which employers see as rising in prominence… include critical thinking and analysis, as well as problem-solving and skills in self-management… active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.”
World Economic Forum: The Future of Jobs
Studying abroad is an important chance to see the world
Now that we’ve covered all the academic and professional reasons why studying abroad is important, we can think about some of the more personal ones.
We won’t try to quantify the benefits of travelling in general – there are so many, and you already know them well. Unfortunately, though, most people don’t get too many opportunities to travel extensively for a prolonged period of time. Limited time off work, budgetary constraints and personal responsibilities tend to encroach increasingly on our ability to jet off as we get older.
And of course, lots of independent travel before students leave high school is unlikely – they’re generally too young to navigate it alone!
Studying abroad offers the perfect sweet spot for long-term, independent exploration. Students have an opportunity to travel around the country they’re studying in, as well as the surrounding region.
For example, a German student who undertakes a degree in Japan can explore the beautiful country itself during weekends or days they don’t have classes. They might then make the most of longer breaks between terms to venture further afield in Asia, or even jet to Australia, New Zealand or the USA’s west coast!
Similarly, students who opt for EU universities have many thriving cultures, ancient histories and beautiful landscapes right on their doorstep.
Studying abroad is an important opportunity to meet new people
There are a whole host of personal, social benefits of studying abroad.
Students get to interact with a varied bunch of people, both within and beyond the university. They’ll meet lots of like-minded spirits who share all the same values that compelled them to study abroad, and probably make fascinating friends for life.
And as a bonus, whenever they do get to continue their travels post-graduation they’ll likely have friends (and professional contacts) all over the globe that they can catch up with.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, the driving force behind many students’ decisions to study abroad – and the reason they’re so encouraged by parents and advisers – is that studying abroad is important for self-exploration and growth.
By facing the challenges and taking the opportunities that studying abroad brings, students will get to know themselves like never before. They’ll see how they react to adversity and stress, how they feel around new people and cultures, how they choose to fill their spare time in an unknown city…
This will help them develop all of the wonderful qualities we’ve outlined (and many more!) all whilst going on the adventure of a lifetime.
How to help students embark on their academic adventure
Once you’ve shown your students the importance of studying abroad, it’s time to turn their excitement into action. And to help them make their research as simple, effective and enjoyable as possible, you’ll want to provide them with the right tools.
So why not give the free BridgeU platform a go? Our intelligent matching and data on over 28,000 universities match students with their perfect-fit courses all over the world, and help them craft the strongest possible applications to each one.
The platform also makes the guidance and application process much smoother for counsellors and their colleagues!
To find out more and get started, click the link below.
Book a free demo
Learn how BridgeU can help deliver better outcomes for your students and improved results for your school