Study abroad myths & misconceptions
Misinformation and outright falsehoods keep many students from even
considering studying abroad each year. Too many students mistakenly
believe that there is no place in their academic plan or major for time
abroad or that study abroad is just a luxury that they can neither afford
nor benefit from. Au contraire! Below are some of the most common myths
students believe about studying abroad and, more importantly, the facts
that debunk them.
Myth #1: I have to study
in an English-speaking country because I don't know any foreign languages.
This is a common misconception. There are many study abroad programs
that require no prior foreign language instruction and will provide
you with intensive language classes at the beginning of your stay
abroad. Other programs require just one semester of a language before
you depart for a given country. It's true that the more language background
you have before you leave, the more immersed you can become once you
arrive. However, you shouldn't let lack of skills in a language stop
you from studying in a particular country. Study abroad programs in
English-speaking countries are far more competitive than those in
countries where other native languages dominate. This is in part because
so many students share the common misconception that their monolingualism
restricts their choices to English-speaking countries.
Myth #2: I'll have to
extend my studies or won't graduate on time if I take time out to
The fact is that you can typically earn college credits while studying
abroad, both toward fulfilling general education requirements as well
as toward your major. In fact, study abroad can give your language
skills such a boost that adding a minor or even a second major in
a language may require very few, if any, additional courses after
you return to your home campus. In addition to year-long programs,
many universities offer semester-long or summer programs. And if it
so happens that you must delay graduation for a few months to fit
in studying abroad, what you will gain from the experience far outweighs
what you think you'd be sacrificing.
Myth #3: I don't have
enough money to study abroad.
Studying abroad often costs the same or even less than spending the
same time at your home campus. Especially if you study in a country
that has a lower cost of living than at home, your day-to-day living
expenses may be far lower than those you are accustomed to. In addition,
if you qualify for financial aid, you can still receive this aid while
studying in an credit-earning study abroad program. Because your personal
contribution is assumed to be less while abroad (since it's not expected
you will be able to work while out of the country), you may even qualify
for more aid for your study abroad year. For the same reason, students
who have never qualified for financial aid may do so for the first
time when they decide to study abroad.
Myth #4: I can always
travel later once I have a job and am earning money. That is just
Easier said than done. Once you are locked into a job and responsibilities,
it's very difficult to get away for any length of time. You may have
a difficult time getting the time off from work and you probably won't
be able to afford unpaid vacation time because you will have locked
yourself into long-term financial responsibilities: a car, rent payments
or a mortgage, credit cards, and family responsibilities, for example.
In addition, traveling as a tourist is a much different experience
than living as an integrated part of a foreign culture. The two experiences
are incomparably different. As a tourist, you will typically be seen
as an outsider. When you live in a foreign culture and participate
in its day-to-day life, you become an immersed and daily participant
in the culture.
#5: Only language majors study
Study abroad programs are open to students of all majors, and in fact,
more social sciences, business, humanities, and arts majors study
abroad than foreign language majors. You certainly could add a language
major to your studies as a result of your study abroad units, but
you will also very likely be able to earn units for other majors as
well as to fulfill general education requirements at your university.
Myth #6: Study abroad
is not for everyone.
No matter what your major, gender,
ethnic background, or interests, studying in a foreign country can
benefit you personally, academically, and professionally. There are
a myriad of programs available around the world. There are sure to
be several that suit your needs and interests.
Myth #7: Study abroad
is a luxury.
If you talk to anybody who has ever studied abroad, they will likely
tell you that any worries or concerns they had before they departed
melted away once they arrived in their host country. They will confirm
to you that their experience was well worth any extra expense or time
it may have taken and that the benefits they have experienced as a result
are more numerous and lasting than they ever could have imagined.
Some students (and their parents) believe that studying abroad is
not really studying. Quite the contrary! It's true that the academic
setting will probably be different than what you are used to, but
that doesn't make it any less valuable. In addition to the formal
instruction you receive, numerous learning experiences will happen
outside the classroom - experiences you would never get at your home
college or university. The entire experience abroad will change your
life as well as enhance your resume and employment potential. In fact,
international experience is increasingly important for those seeking
a job in an global economy that relies on good relations and the ability
to communicate with diverse peoples around the world.
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