For many students, the prospect of spending summer break inside a classroom might seem like a waste of good weather and free time. But what if it is also an opportunity to travel the world?
Summer study abroad programs provide students with several advantages: scholastically, professionally, and even personally.
For example, the University of Maryland surveyed alumni from the summer program at the Institute for the International Education of Students. Results showed that 97 percent of the participants believed that they were more mature after their summertime study abroad experience, and 96 percent claimed that it increased their self-confidence. Several studies have also shown that studying abroad increases a student’s likelihood of landing jobs after graduation, improves their GPA, and increases their chances of getting into the universities of their choice.
These benefits may be applicable for:
- High School Students, who are exploring their options for the future
- College Students, who are interested in improving their outlook after graduation
- Degree-Holders, who are interested in trying an overseas college experience before potentially pursuing a graduate degree in another country
Below are four more examples of how summer programs benefit international students:
1. You will be exposed to international cultures and practices.
Summer study abroad programs thrust students directly into new environments and cultures—often for the first time in their lives.
For many people, this total immersion is the fastest way to begin learning the local customs and adapting to the landscape. You will have the added benefit of exchanging ideas with classmates from around the world right away, in addition to everything you will be learning in the college program itself.
“Meeting people from all over the world helped me understand different cultures and beliefs, and made me a more open-minded person,” said Parthasarthi Suri, a participant in the [email protected] High School Global Young Leaders Academy.
Immersing yourself in different styles of living, beliefs, and languages will certainly make you more open-minded toward other people. But it will tell you more about yourself—such as how you tackle issues and the values you hold close.
“Stepping out of your comfort zone and being in a new place, [intellectual curiosity] and embracing knowledge—these are the stepping stones to becoming a leader,” said Diana Drake, managing editor of [email protected] High School.
Summer programs are also a little more relaxed than full-term study abroad opportunities. For example, organizers often plan excursions to local sites and eateries for students—which is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new city.
You will have the chance to learn about a new location, your international peers, your topic of study, and yourself, all at the same time. Think about how you will be different than if you had stayed at home!
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2. You will learn to overcome challenges and become independent.
Being away from home is a daunting experience. You have to share a room with a stranger, learn how to manage time between your classes, and—scariest of all—do your own laundry!
These responsibilities can be challenging and overwhelming. However, learning how to manage your own schedule will help you develop the mental and emotional skills to handle higher education and professional advancement.
Entrepreneur Anke Wright, who owns Delikatours, studied in Switzerland after high school. She remembers that daily chores like cooking, shopping, and getting her car repaired were important learning experiences. They also gave her the chance to practice her French.
“After a year in Switzerland, I came back home not only with good language skills (and a French certificate), but also self-confidence—because I had done it! I had proved to myself that I was able to organize myself, to live on my own, and to find friends in a foreign country,” she said.
It is also very helpful to spend a couple of weeks devoting time to your own personal interests. Those may be related to creative pursuits like writing and music, or more practical areas such as entrepreneurship and robotics.
Some people choose to use their breaks to pursue a passion for travel, exploring areas beyond the college town where they are staying for study abroad. You can learn a lot about yourself by getting to know more about the local culture, community, and your host country. It is also a chance to practice the common language more, as Anke discovered.
By balancing schoolwork with personal enrichment, not only will these programs look great on your résumé, they will help you feel more confident when you apply to college or enter your next job interview.
3. You will gain support from an international network.
The beauty of study abroad programs is that you are not alone. Just like you, quite a few of your fellow classmates will be thrust into an unfamiliar situation, far away from home. When family and close friends aren’t around, these strangers, who share your similar interests, will become your support system.
“It was very precious to see how we struggled to pronounce each other’s names on the first day, and now it was like we had found our long-lost families. It was great being in this program. I am extremely grateful for all [of the] friendships I’ve formed here,” said Ezgi Okutan, alum of the Global Young Leaders Academy.
Summer programs are also more relaxed than classes in normal university settings. Professors are usually less busy, meaning that they have more time to interact with you. If you explore this opportunity, and take the time to develop a few meaningful relationships, it could certainly help with future career opportunities or your college application process.
4. You will have the opportunity to collaborate with diverse teams.
Most summer study abroad programs are focused on a specific field of study. You will be among people who share your interests. But the class settings might be much more intimate than you are used to at your high school or college back home. This might mean that you will take part in a lot more group work.
However, this is a good thing. Research from the University of Sydney found that working in groups helps students practice skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, communication, critical thinking and conflict resolution.
Because they attract international students from all over the world, these programs promote diversity in a way that would put most standard college brochures to shame. You will have the chance to collaborate with people from all different backgrounds, expanding your own approach to challenges inside and outside of the classroom.
This kind of environment encourages everyone to share their experiences and skills. Belonging to an intimate group means that there is always room for introverted students to speak. You will see the way that everyone contributes to enrich the overall study abroad experience.
Summer study abroad programs introduce you to new perspectives and help you form creative solutions. Irrespective of the career path you choose, these skills are integral to succeeding in any working environment, as well as building richer interpersonal relationships.
By learning more about the world, you will be able to choose the future that is right for you.