Many have said studying abroad broadens your horizons, is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and looks great on a resume. So why don’t more students choose to study abroad?
There are thousands of reasons why students should study abroad, but many students still choose not to study abroad for many reasons.
Some of these reasons are leaving their comfort zone, graduating as soon as possible, hard to fit study abroad in their schedules, and for a lot of students, money.
Students, however, need to worry less about these influences on not studying abroad, and need to think more about the returns of studying abroad.
Leah Bauer is currently a student at UW-Eau Claire who studied abroad for a semester in Madrid, Spain and said unlike others she knows, she always knew she wanted to study abroad.
Bauer said students at UWEC majoring or minoring in a language study are required to study abroad which helped her pursue her dream of studying abroad because even though she knew coming in to college that she wanted to, she needed to be pushed.
After studying abroad, Bauer said she found out so much about herself that she would not have found by staying in UWEC.
“Anyone can study abroad if you challenge yourself,” said Bauer. “You can surprise yourself with what you can do.”
UW-Platteville student Ashton Brusca studied abroad in Newcastle, Australia and said his favorite part about studying abroad was finding out more about himself.
“I knew who I was as an individual before going abroad,” said Brusca. “But I truly found myself and my passions while abroad half way around the world with only a couple of people that actually knew who I was.”
Even after studying abroad and saying how amazing of an experience they had, Bauer and Brusca had to admit money was in the back of their minds when choosing to study abroad.
Students tend to believe that studying abroad costs more than their already high tuition at their home college, but in some cases, this is not the truth.
Global Experiences Coordinator Dan Colleran said most of the programs and expenses that students experience abroad are the same by staying at their school. Colleran said everyone pays for a dorm or an apartment just like they would at a school abroad and everyone has to pay for their expenses at home just like they would abroad.
Colleran said his biggest regret was not studying abroad when he had the chance to when he was in college. Not only was study abroad cheaper back then, he also received a scholarship but thought he was already too in debt to go.
Some students may choose a direct exchange program which means students will pay the same tuition abroad as they would if they stayed at their home college.
UW-Whitewater student Vicki Gramse, who is currently studying abroad in Hertfordshire, England, chose this option because she was determined to study abroad no matter what the cost.
“I told myself whatever it cost I was going to pay it because I heard from friends and family that they let money be an issue and never went, so I didn’t let it be an issue,” said Gramse.
Other students who did not choose a direct exchange program said they thought the cost was not too different from what they were already paying.
Taylor Hebel is a student at UW-Madison and studied abroad for an academic year in Madrid and said her costs were similar to going to school in Madison.
“My program fee was very comparable to UW-Madison,” said Hebel. “I worked a lot before I went and continue to do so after returning from study abroad and I planned ahead.”
Planning ahead is always something students should consider before deciding where to go abroad. By planning ahead, students can decide how much money they have to work with and how much they still need to work towards.
Kyle McLean is currently studying at UWP and said before he studied abroad in Ireland, he really wanted to go to Australia but money would not allow this.
“I was originally going to go to Australia,” said McLean. “But it ended up being too much and I chose Ireland instead, which still ended up over budget for me.”
Global Experiences Coordinator Mikaela Auerbach said the Center for Global Education (CGE) at UW-Whitewater is doing everything they can possible to put study abroad in students’ minds before coming to UW-Whitewater.
“We want study abroad to be a part of people’s minds before they come to Whitewater so they can be informed and know more about the process to start planning early in their college career,” said Auerbach.
Auerbach said they see students come in to the CGE as a senior wishing they had known more about it before because they think it is too late as a senior to study abroad. This is why they work hard to inform students early on.
Besides planning ahead or choosing a direct exchange program, there are several other ways to overcome money issues when thinking about studying abroad.
Colleran and Auerbach explained several ways students could receive more money through financial aid, scholarships and grants and said even though money is a big factor, students need to know these are just a few of the main ways to overcome that factor.
If a student knows they want to study abroad they can talk to their financial aid and find packages they can bring abroad with them.
Auerbach said there are some scholarships designed specifically for study abroad students through UWW and through study abroad programs.
The CGE website shows different scholarships students can apply for and has resources about grants and other ways to help fund students study abroad experiences.
Auerbach said she believes a lot of students just see the “sticker price” of how much studying abroad can cost and think this is out of their reach, but by applying for scholarships, grants and loans, students will start to see that it is not.
U.S. students are not alone when money factors start becoming an issue on whether they should study abroad or not. International students studying abroad in the U.S. also have this same problem.
They have many reasons for not studying abroad just like U.S. students, but like U.S. students, money still seems to be a major factor.
Alicia Haley is the International Student Advisor in the CGE offices and said it is expensive for international students to study abroad here.
Haley said international students have to prove a lot of different things when they choose to study abroad and one is that they are financially stable to study abroad.
Most international schools do not have financial aid like students do here and end up having to pay out of state tuition which is not cheap.
The current exchange rate is hurting students studying abroad from the U.S. and internationally but this makes other countries gain popularity because they may be cheaper to travel to.
Australia is one country that has started to gain popularity within the recent years because not only is it a little cheaper than some places in Europe, but it also is an English speaking country.
Haley said English speaking countries are starting to become the top study abroad countries because of globalization and companies starting to go global.
English speaking countries are a popular destination for U.S. students also because they may be worried about the language barrier that comes with traveling abroad.
Bauer said studying in a country where everyone speaks Spanish made her a little nervous, but after her semester there, she seemed more confident about her Spanish.
“I knew of someone who studied abroad in Spain for ten months and when she came back she had become so fluent in Spanish,” said Bauer. “I know she couldn’t have become that fluent unless she had been there for that long.”
Students can find many returns like Bauer and Brusca said previously how they found who they truly are and Bauer becoming more fluent with a different language. But another return is being able to travel around the world and discovering more about different cultures.
Hebel said while she was in Europe she took full advantage of being close to several different countries and learning about their cultures.
On the other hand, traveling around outside your country can lead some students back to the issue of money.
Gramse said she only has classes two times a week which gives her plenty of time to travel, but at the same time she is limited to where she can go by how much it costs.
“Money has affected where I travel to and how much I travel because transportation is not cheap,” said Gramse.
McLean did not allow cost to be too big of an issue on his traveling while abroad.
McLean took a ten day trip while on his winter break to six different countries in Europe. He also traveled all throughout Ireland while in school.
Money will always be an issue for students just like getting out of your comfort zone or finding time for study abroad, but students need to realize these benefits of going.
Colleran said, “If you have the ambition and the will, the money will come.”
Everyone interviewed has said studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity and students need to get out there and do it!
There are more options than semester and year programs if students think they cannot afford them.
According to the Institute of International Education’s “Fast Facts” found on iie.org, there is a steady increase in the amount of students studying abroad.
Last year there was a 5.7 percent increase making a record high of more than 764,000 students studying abroad between 2011 and 2012.
Colleran said the new trend for students is traveling for the summer, during the winterim or choosing to take a travel study class where they are only abroad for a couple weeks or a month.
This is increasing the amount of students study abroad, it just is not for as long as time as it used to be.
Auerbach agreed with Colleran and said there is a big upward trend of students starting to study abroad with a decrease in how long they are staying.
Auerbach said this can be due to money issues but she has found students who have the money and want to study abroad do not have the time in their schedule to go abroad for a semester. She said it does still get people out there, but students could be getting a better experience by staying longer.
Hebel studied abroad for ten months and really got to live within the Spanish culture.
“Study abroad gives you such a unique experience that you will not get in your everyday life,” said Hebel. “I think it’s important for all people to learn about other cultures and to gain a different perspective about the world.”
Colleran, Auerbach and Haley have all said with all of the different returns students get from studying abroad, the most important thing to think about is how it will look on a resume.
All the returns students get from studying abroad comes back with that students and makes them a more well-rounded person.
Colleran said future employers are looking for someone who is willing to challenge themselves and “immerse” themselves in different cultures. He said studying abroad “not can, but will help your future career.”
Brusca said students should not think twice about studying abroad and should just do it because they do not know what they are missing until they go.
“Once you are abroad and ask the people how they doing and if anything is new with them at home, their answer is going to be ‘No, nothing new, I’m doing fine,’ 90 percent of the time,” said Brusca. “On the flipside, you will have made so many lifelong memories that you will never ever forget and will love to share them with the people back home.”
Students should not let money or any other factor keep them from something they only get a chance at once in their life. Gramse said students cannot put a price tag on their experience which everyone else interviewed agreed on.
McLean said there is nothing like the study abroad experience.
“It is worth it,” said McLean. “After it’s all said and done, it’s impossible to replicate the experiences you had on your own while abroad. You learn a lot and meet different people who you can’t meet at home.”