Become a Better Leader by Studying Abroad
Americans who study abroad have the opportunity to develop leadership and character skills that can help kick-start their future careers. When you live and study in a foreign country, you inevitably face situations and circumstances that challenge you to learn and grow beyond your comfort zone.
Studying abroad can help you expand your horizons by giving you opportunities to explore new cultures that have much to offer on a social, academic and professional level. Your experiences as a foreign exchange student could be the catalyst that propels you into a better and brighter future.
Key Benefits of International Study
The benefits of participating in an international studies program are many and varied, for both high school and college students. As a foreign exchange student, you will face situations that challenge you physically and mentally, prompting you to develop positive traits and skills that will help you overcome them. As you grow in such essential areas as communications, creativity, teamwork, problem-solving and people skills, you have the potential to become a strong and confident leader.
Studying abroad may be an expensive venture but the short and long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. Finding a host family to live with during your studies can help curtail some of the expense. It also gives you an opportunity to make new friends and experience a new culture at the grassroots level.
Many foreign exchange students have found living with a host family a delightful experience. Through living and studying with a host family, you can gain greater insight into your new environment, practice local customs and norms and learn to speak a new language.
Here are a few more ways in which international studies can be of benefit to today’s students.
In today’s global economy, it’s important for upcoming generations to develop a sense of global awareness. Studying abroad can help you develop an understanding of global affairs from alternative perspectives other than your own. As a foreign exchange student, you will be exposed to cultural differences, lifestyles, and viewpoints unique to your way of life. Such differences will give you a greater understanding of the world around you which will be a tremendous asset in establishing a career in an international firm.
An international studies program that promotes cross-cultural knowledge and skills can be an invaluable tool in advancing your career. International leadership skills can open many doors for employment within today’s ever-increasing global society. Individuals with strong leadership skills are among some of the most sought-after employees for management positions in top businesses today. Studying abroad offers numerous opportunities to hone communications, problem-solving and people skills that are essential to leadership.
Personal Growth and Development
Participating in a foreign exchange program puts you in a marvelous position to learn and grow on a personal level. Living and studying in a foreign environment requires that you learn to adapt to situations far different from your norm. In the process, you learn new aspects about yourself and discover abilities and traits you were unaware of before. There’s nothing like getting you out of your “comfort zone” to help you grow.
The more exposure you get to a new culture, the more opportunities you have to expand your creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. During your tenure as a foreign exchange student, situations may arise that require quick thinking and “out of the box” solutions. You may find yourself changing the way you operate or think concerning social, economic or political views. Open-mindedness is a valuable leadership trait as it fosters greater communication and teamworking.
Studying abroad can also boost your confidence and self-esteem as you learn to overcome challenges in your daily schedule. People are more apt to follow leaders who exude strong confidence in their abilities and skills.
Studying in a foreign country is bound to grow your people skills as you learn to get along with individuals from another culture, beginning with your host family. Learning to communicate effectively will make it easier for you to progress in your academic studies and make new friends.
Different countries also have different etiquette, customs, and norms. It’s important to learn what’s acceptable and unacceptable in your new environment so that you don’t inadvertently offend others during your stay.
An international study program has much to offer individuals who desire greater input from their academic studies. By studying abroad, you can develop strong leadership skills that will give you an edge over your counterparts in establishing a successful career.
Common Obstacles to Studying Abroad and How to Overcome Them
If you hope to one day travel abroad as a foreign exchange student, it helps to get sound advice from others who have trod the path before you. The good news is that millions of people have spent years studying abroad and know well the pitfalls and myths associated with this type of venture. Here are some of the most common obstacles and myths about being a foreign exchange student:
U.S. schools carefully screen overseas programs for safety factors. If there is any question about the security of visiting students, the program is either put on hold or canceled. This happens rarely because most schools are extremely selective in the first place when it comes to setting up study programs in other nations.
Still, you should expect to sign a routine release, stating you won’t hold your academic institution responsible for unexpected things that could happen to you. In reality, you’ll be in no more danger (and possibly less danger!) than if you were to simply stay at your homeschool in the U.S.
Many students have unwarranted fears about the cost of overseas programs. In the majority of cases, such year-abroad coursework is either less expensive or costs about the same as studying in the U.S. for the year. One reason for this is the typically low cost of tuition in European and especially Asian colleges.
Plus, there are dozens of scholarships and grants you can apply for as a prospective international student. Ask your college advisor about grants, scholarships, and any financial aid packages that are unique to your school. Many college students are pleasantly surprised when they begin to research the costs of studying abroad.
The fear of social chaos, not having any friends, being away from family and similar phobias are typical and widespread among students who intend to spend a year overseas. Fortunately, these fears are nothing more than the common human reaction to a new, unknown situation.
In fact, nearly every overseas exchange student meets more new friends than they expect to, and often begin several life-long relationships while studying abroad. The typical homesickness tends to wear off after a few weeks, as does the fear of general chaos.
Some students are afraid they’ll have no place to stay while studying abroad. Schools are very careful to make certain that each student has housing accommodations worked out before departure, so there’s really no need to worry about housing. Whether you live in a dorm with hundreds of other students, share a small house or apartment with someone, or reside with a host family, there are literally dozens of housing options for foreign exchange students.
Because English is the international language of education, it is easy to find coursework delivered in English for the entire year-abroad program, no matter where you go. Japan, Russia, France, Brazil, and even Iceland have international education programs for students where all the courses are taught in English. The so-called language barrier is really not a problem for U.S. students who wish to spend a year studying overseas.
Falling Behind Academically
With proper planning and the right amount of input from your guidance counselor, you can make sure all your overseas courses will apply to your graduation requirements at your homeschool in the U.S. Sometimes you might have to use up a number of electives, but there’s no common college major that does not lend itself to overseas study, at least for a year.
For students who want to spend more than one academic year overseas, special arrangements might have to be made, especially if you are a pre-med or architecture major.
Because every nation has a different kind of healthcare arrangement for its own citizens, U.S. colleges have been careful to make sure that overseas students are either covered by their own medical plans or are able to get a short-term medical plan under the auspices of the host country.
Most major medical insurers in the U.S., for example, offer regular coverage for students who are under their parents’ medical insurance. This is the case with most overseas students, who are almost always under the age of 23, a standard cutoff age for large, U.S.-based carriers who offer family coverage.
Before You Fly to Your Destination
Realize that every trip abroad is different, so you might not encounter every one of the situations mentioned above. However, it’s wise to become acquainted with as many of the possible challenges as possible before embarking on your incredible adventure as a foreign exchange student and discovering the wonders of international travel.
How to Get Mom and Dad to Let You Study Abroad
If you have always loved to travel, and your idea of a fun read is to browse through the world atlas, you may well like the idea of becoming a foreign exchange student. It’s one of the easiest and safest ways there is to not just travel somewhere new and exciting but to immerse yourself in a foreign culture for a year or so, and enjoy the experience of a lifetime while doing do.
However, you may have a hard time persuading mom and dad to let you out of their sight for that long to study abroad, especially if the furthest from home you have been up until now is the other side of your home state. Of course, all parents are naturally protective and to convince them that you aren’t going to be kidnapped or run off to get married if you become a foreign exchange student, you should try these strategies.
Getting a Job
You may not realize it but travel isn’t cheap! If you spend just a few minutes researching online, you will get some idea of how much it costs to fly to Europe or anywhere else in the world. And of course, the flights are just the beginning – if you are going to study abroad, you will need money for food and public transportation, as well as the inevitable souvenirs.
Even a foreign exchange student needs a day off every now and then, and some money to spend on that day off. There are also various study abroad fees that will need to be paid, and if you don’t have a passport, that’s another cost.
You are probably assuming that your parents are cheerfully going to pay for all of this, but it would certainly make a strong impression if you were willing and able to pay some of these costs yourself. And that means getting a job and systematically saving up money towards the costs of becoming a foreign exchange student.
Not only will this convince your parents that you are mature enough to travel and study abroad, having a job is the best way there is of understanding the value of money – how long it takes to earn it, what it’s worth and what it will buy you.
Save Up For Your Trip
Getting a job is all very well, but if all that hard earned money is being spent as soon as you have it, it doesn’t help you. Not only do you need a job, but you also need to save up money for all those costs we mentioned above. One of the best ways to do that is to simply open a separate savings account and make a point of depositing at least 30 percent of your pay in that separate account every week or month.
That may sound like a lot, but after a while, you won’t even notice that you don’t have that money. Mint and Pocket Money are just two of the useful apps available to help you to save if the concept seems too difficult. Think about how impressed your parents will be if you are saving up and you have a job – surely they just can’t say no when you mention that you are interested in studying abroad.
Research Your Program
Your parents are also more likely to say yes if they feel you have thought this whole thing through and properly researched it. That means looking carefully at different study programs and making a sensible decision based on the big picture, rather than how many parties you are likely to be invited to. And if mom and dad feel they have some input into the decision too, they are more likely to give you the go-ahead to study abroad and become a foreign exchange student.
Telling Your Parents
You can maybe see that it’s much better to let your parents know about your desire to travel and study abroad if you already have a job and are saving up money. The more you know about what you want to do, where you want to go and about how much the whole thing will cost increases your chances of winning the approval of your parents.
The goal here is to let them know that you really are mature and sensible enough to handle a study abroad program, even if you weren’t always the most sensible of children. And remember your parents may be reluctant at first – it’s up to you to show them just how serious you are and how much you really want this life-changing experience.