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Dean of Students

Studying abroad: An opportunity more students should explore

College is a unique experience because of the amount of freedom we, as students, ultimately possess. Because of this freedom, we operate completely under our own discretion. We carry out our daily lives with little input from our parents and elders, and make decisions that can change our future forever. One decision that we can make that is exclusively unique to the college experience is studying abroad.

Here at Illinois State University, students have the opportunity to travel to the outskirts of the globe and study their discipline in foreign countries. This is ultimate freedom, and essential lessons can be learned along the way that can completely change a student’s perspective.

That is why this editorial board believes more students should seize this incredible opportunity and study in a foreign country.

Let’s face it, studying abroad may seem terrifying to some students. A lengthy period of time away from your home country, while being surrounded by people who speak a different native tongue is a scary thought. What if you do not like it? How will you coexist with those you cannot understand? How will you be able to afford such a journey? These are the type of questions students ask themselves before fully committing to the program. These are valid fears, and addressing them with a study abroad counselor will easily quell such fears. Common misconceptions of the study abroad program (like the idea that studying abroad is unaffordable) have led to astoundingly low participation rates in the program. ISU’s Study Abroad Program page details the fact that generous number of programs are the same, or even cheaper than a semester here at ISU. Yet, students do not participate. According to NAFSA.org, in the 2011-2012 academic year, “only 283,322 students studied abroad for academic credit.” This figure represents about 1 percent of all students enrolled in higher education in the United States.

This number is far too low. Not only does studying abroad provide the student with experience outside his or her own culture, it looks excellent on a résumé. Employers love someone with experience overseas.

Spending time outside one’s culture could seem discomforting as well. The United States tends to be a bit cut off from the rest of the world culturally, and this centralized philosophy has seemed to permeate among its citizens, evident with the 1 percent participation in study abroad programs across U.S. universities. The world has an incredible amount of new opportunities to offer, whether it is different food, academic atmosphere or social interaction. Being cultured can only impact one’s psyche positively, because it makes one more aware of the differences that people possess.

Studying abroad can potentially be the most rewarding experience of your life. There may never be another opportunity in your lifetime where you can just pack, get up and travel to a foreign country for such an extended period of time. Late in life, people dream about being able to travel for weeks on end, why not seize the opportunity now when you are young?

 

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