Benefits of Study Abroad
"At its best, study abroad: Enriches and diversifies undergraduate education by offering courses,
programs, and academic learning of the sort not available on the home campus; provides U.S. students
with a global outlook that emphasizes the ties among nations and cultures, the universality of human
values, and the necessity of working together; enhances career preparation by teaching cross-cultural
and workplace skills of value to today's employers; and deepens intellectual and personal maturity,
fosters independent thinking, and builds self-confidence."
~ Dr. William Hoffa, International Education Consultant
Like the college experience itself, the benefits of a study abroad experience are potentially life-changing but difficult to measure. For years, study abroad professionals relied on personal anecdotes of participants, often relayed years after the study abroad experience. More sophisticated research - both qualitative and quantitative - has categorized and, in some cases, tracked, study abroad benefits. These include:
- Academic Performance. In a recent longitudinal study conducted by the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), 87% of respondents said that their study abroad program influenced their subsequent educational experiences. Researchers at the University of Georgia are finding that an academic experience abroad can reinvigorate or even greatly improve a student's GPA. At Clark, we also enhance the overall academic experience by offering study abroad programs at universities that offer additional courses and particular academic strengths.
- Global Outlook. This is one of the most important potential benefits of a study abroad experience. Noting that Americans typically score very low on culture and geography tests, researchers have more recently termed "global competence" as a necessary component of a college education. Study abroad is an important way of enhancing that component. In the IES study, 82% of respondents said that study abroad contributed to their developing a more sophisticated way of looking at the world. Most Clark students indicate a similar response on our program evaluations.
- Career Preparation. Martin Tillman of The Johns Hopkins University's writes, "In a ever more globalized economy, educators need to assist students in building a sophisticated 'toolkit' to market the value of their varied portfolio of international experiences to employers." Employers look for skills like intercultural sensitivity, adaptation to new surroundings and ability to deal with ambiguity - skills that can be gained from study abroad and other international programs.
- Personal Growth. Perhaps the most recognized benefit of study abroad, the idea that study abroad promotes personal and intellectual growth, dates back hundreds of years, even before "study abroad," as we know it today, existed. Today, educators have traced the impact of study abroad on student development. The IES study found that 97% of respondents said study abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity; 96% reported increased self-confidence; and 73% said study abroad continues to influence the decisions they make in their family life.