You’ve already heard this speech: study abroad is an opportunity not to be missed. But only about 500 SF State students study abroad every semester, according to the Office of International Programs at SF State. This means the majority of SF State students will not have studied abroad by the time they graduate.
So although most of you have heard of this amazing, life-altering, fascinating experience, you still have reservations about doing it. We’re here to clear up some of those concerns.
The most obvious concern is that study abroad will prolong graduation. For some, this is true, but for others, with careful planning, it can give students the units they need. According to the coordinator of study abroad services, David Wick, study abroad can be helpful for students in impacted majors like psychology and business who can’t enroll in needed classes at SF State, but have no problem doing so in other countries.
If you’re at all interested in studying abroad (which you will be after reading this editorial), the best thing is to start researching what’s out there for you, and plan how you will enroll in classes until then.
Studying abroad gives you an edge in the global labor market. Right now there is a whole world of college students who are equally ambitious, equally talented, who can probably speak more languages than you do and are trying to get the same jobs as you. You might already be at a disadvantage, but studying abroad coupled with a semester of basic language skills can turn you into an ideal job candidate internationally. Employers are constantly seeking people who understand other cultures and markets.
To fully appreciate and be critical of our Western, American society, you need to have lived elsewhere for an extended period of time. Study abroad makes you, in essence, a better citizen — bringing back the best ideas from a different country, and making you an advocate of what is already done well here. Seeing other countries also makes you more aware of your own privilege as an American.
Study abroad gives you the opportunity to travel for a semester or more. After graduation, it is difficult to take time off from work to travel for so long, especially in your first years on the job. Many adults will not get the opportunity to travel again until after their kids are grown and they retire.
Study abroad causes students to be completely independent. Complete independence gives you the freedom to figure out who you are without friends and family’s expectations. You are forced to choose your own roles and purpose. Like the experience of leaving home for college for the first time, study abroad gives you the chance to find yourself.
And lastly, once you’ve spent a semester or two in some far-off land, you will become the cool, experienced, cultured world-traveler that everyone wants to talk to at dinner parties. You’ll have the best stories about riding camels through the countryside and bartering at exotic flea markets. You’ll have wisdom to share about other cultures and peoples. You want to be this person. You want to study abroad.