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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.

Reasons to Study Abroad

Exploring 5 Benefits of Studying Abroad in College

If you’re like the majority of undergraduate students, heading off to college was your first big test of independence and first time living outside the family home. Maybe you shared an on-campus dorm or rented a house in town with friends. What matters is that you suddenly had more freedom to make your own decisions, plus responsibility for the outcomes.

Now that you’ve had a semester or two of experience, you’re ready to take on a whole new kind of challenge: studying abroad. But you’re not quite sure if studying abroad in college is really worth it or if it’s right for you. Keep reading to learn about what you could gain from taking your education international.

5 Reasons to study abroad in college

Aside from the excitement of exploring a new place, there are many overlooked advantages that come with studying abroad. Consider the following:

1.    You’ll hone your language skills

If you’ve ever studied another language, you know that vocabulary flashcards and Duolingo sessions only get you so far. While memorizing grammar tables and watching foreign movies with English subtitles are great ways to build comprehension, these activities don’t quite compare to an immersive experience in your target language.

Studying abroad, absorbing another culture and interacting with native speakers are some of the best and fastest ways to become fluent. You’ll get the chance to practice speaking, listening, writing and reading every single day alongside peers who are also motivated to learn and improve their skills.

For college students pursuing undergraduate degrees in Spanish, Bilingual Education or other languages, going overseas can be immensely beneficial. Not only do you get the chance to practice your second language, but you also experience the music, food, landscape and culture.

In recent years, Spanish-speaking students at the University of St. Thomas – Houston (UST) have traveled to several countries, including:

  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Spain

2.    You’ll build confidence and self-reliance

At its best, college should be a transformational experience for a student. Becoming more independent and self-sufficient requires challenges. You need exposure to unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking to grow as a person.

Participating in a study abroad program gives students ample opportunities to try new things, make their own decisions and be wholly responsible for the outcomes of those choices. Whether traveling as a solo scholar or in a group of peers, UST students still have the support of the university study abroad advisors to help guide them when needed.

The benefits of learning abroad aren’t just anecdotal. A 2017 Study International article found that students who studied abroad are more resilient, independent and confident in their capabilities compared to those who were educated locally. They are also better at dealing with stress, more likely to reach their personal goals and have higher levels of life satisfaction.

3.    You’ll impress potential employers

When it comes to job hunting, having international experience on your resume can be a game changer, especially if the business has a global component. Employers highly value students who have studied abroad for many reasons. In fact, one study found that employers are 23 percent more likely to hire somebody who has studied abroad than someone who has not. And 41 percent of employers are more likely to offer a higher salary to study abroad participants.

Let’s think about this from the perspective of a hiring manager. An applicant who has significant study abroad experience might be more culturally aware and possess better communication and problem-solving skills than a similar candidate who has never left the country. They also might be more adept at taking calculated risks and easily adapt to new and challenging circumstances.

All scholars can benefit greatly from studying abroad, regardless of their major. Some UST programs, such as the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, even require students to complete an academic trip overseas in order to graduate. If you’re pursuing a business or economics degree, studying abroad in Taiwan or China could be an excellent way to learn about international trade.

4.    You’ll become more empathetic and culturally sensitive

When you are a guest or tourist in another country, the onus is on you to adapt to the customs, beliefs and living conditions. According to one report, even a short-term study abroad trip can increase a student’s ability to empathize with and relate to people from other walks of life. This enhanced intercultural sensitivity is extremely beneficial in all aspects of your personal, academic and professional life.

The long-term impact of international academic programs is also very compelling. According to an IES Abroad report of former study abroad students:

  • 95 percent said it had a lasting impact on their worldview.
  • 98 percent shared that studying abroad helped them understand their own cultural values and biases
  • 82 percent said that it helped them develop a more sophisticated way of looking at the world.
  • 94 percent stated that their study abroad experience continues to influence interactions with people from other cultures.

5.    You’ll make lifelong friends

Whether you spend a few weeks touring the Costa Rican rainforest or an entire semester appreciating ancient art in Rome, you’ll make lots of great memories with your fellow study abroad classmates. When you think about it, a study abroad trip is the perfect setting to make friends.

Not only will you bond over the common interests that motivated you to sign up for the program, but you will also experience new, exciting and challenging things together. In fact, more than 50 percent of the IES Abroad survey respondents are still in contact with U.S. friends they met when studying abroad and often see them during summer travel.

Studying abroad at UST

UST’s Center for International Studies offers a wide variety of short and long-term options for students to choose from. For individual students, we arrange formal semester, year-long and summer exchange programs with universities around the world. Our advisors help you fulfill the host university’s financial, academic and administrative requirements to ensure your time abroad is both memorable and educational. Any courses you take at these partner institutions will be evaluated with grades, in addition to credit granted by UST.

 Some of the most popular destinations for individual exchange programs include:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Poland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

UST also provides faculty-led programs where you can discover new worlds with your classmates while on summer or winter break. We offer 2- and 4-week programs for groups of undergraduate and graduate students from any major. Along with your peers, you’ll be accompanied by faculty to the destination of your choice. Popular past locations have included England, Italy, China, Greece, Israel, the Czech Republic, Chile and Jamaica.

Discover your purpose while studying abroad

The University of St. Thomas – Houston believes in the many benefits of studying abroad in college. In fact, nine percent of UST undergrads spend time studying abroad — more than four times the national average.

Want to learn more about UST’s many options for international travel in an academic setting? Check out our program page, contact our study abroad program coordinator or call 713-525-3535.

Ready to take the next step?

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About UST

The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the religious, ethical and intellectual traditions of Catholic higher education. For more than 70 years, we’ve been graduating students like you into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more – throughout Houston and across the globe.

Learn more about what UST has to offer.