Studying, interning, or researching abroad is one of the most life-changing experiences you can have as a student. The opportunity to learn, grow, and live in a different country and experience a different culture is incredibly eye-opening.
According to coordinators in the Programs Abroad Office, some of the top skills students learn from an international experience are academic enhancement, soft skills needed for future employment, and personal growth.
Students come to a university to learn, and going abroad allows you to take that a step further. Participating in an international program provides you with more diverse courses that are not necessarily available at UT, exposes you to local history and culture, and enhances your knowledge of your major or minor with an international perspective.
“I had the opportunity to take a class called Capitalism vs. Communism. It was very interesting to be able to learn about communism from a country that had experienced it firsthand,” said Rachel Moore, a student who studied in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.
Receiving a college education gives you much more than the facts needed to do a job well. UT takes a holistic approach to education, and students are taught skills beyond their major. An international experience will strengthen those skills tenfold. Being immersed in a new culture will improve your nonverbal communication skills, especially if there is a language barrier, it will also improve your ability to understand and empathize with people different from you and to deal with ambiguity.
“I got much better at dealing with language barriers through my study abroad experience. Most people either study abroad in an English-speaking country or are studying abroad in order to better their second language skills, but I had never taken a single German class. I just went for it and worked through it little by little,” said student Azsha Preanor, who studied in Marburg, Germany.
Personal growth through going abroad will happen whether you are aware of it or not. It will begin before you leave! Planning your trip will improve your time and stress management skills. Conquering your inevitable nerves about going abroad will improve your confidence and poise. Interacting with a new culture and people will lead to making lifelong friends and the development of personal and professional goals.
“You learn to be very independent and self-confident while abroad because you are on your own. You can’t just call your parents because of the time difference, plus international calls are expensive! It can be challenging, but it is worth it,” Moore noted.
Some key tips:
- Start early – begin researching programs while considering academics, location of program, timing, and finances and schedule a meeting with Programs Abroad Office coordinators sooner rather than later.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare – Once you are on track for going abroad, start considering everything you may need to pack and how and when you will travel to and from your destination. Do as much research as you can on your country of choice generally and your specific program.
- Relax – After you get there, you’ve made it! The process was stressful and time consuming, but the experiences ahead of you will be worth every second.
- Enjoy – Go out into your town and explore, plan trips beyond your program’s location, and make new friends!
If all of this still seems intimidating, take advantage of the Programs Abroad Office’s info sessions. The sessions are held every weekday during the academic year at 2 p.m. in the Programs Abroad Office Resource Room. These sessions will teach you the basics about going abroad and provide you with an opportunity to ask questions and speak with other students who have already been abroad. If you cannot make the 2 p.m. session, feel free to stop by the Resource Room during business hours. A peer advisor will always be available to help you.
The Programs Abroad Office will also host the Study Abroad Fair from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, October 5, in Hodges Library for you to learn more about international opportunities. You also can apply for your passport at the fair for the first time ever.
The Programs Abroad Office is located at 1620 Melrose Ave. There are many different programs in almost every country around the world for you to explore. The friendly peer advisors, students who have studied abroad and returned, and programs abroad coordinators are there to answer any questions you may have.