The Benefits of Pursuing Higher Education Abroad

An analysis of study abroad programs.


This image shows the belltower at the Trinity College Dublin, otherwise known as the Campanile of Trinity College Dublin. This grand English architecture is the main entrance into the university. (K. Mitch Hodge, Unsplash)

With the excitement of college or the college process nearing, many graduating and upcoming seniors are itching to embark on traveling adventures and do so by applying to international universities or study abroad programs in United States colleges. 

In today’s world, travel is easy, relatively inexpensive, and very fast. To get from New York City to London, you would find yourself seated, granted not so comfortably, on a 6-and-a-half-hour plane ride. You would probably read a book, catch up on work that you have been putting off, or more likely binging five movies while eating junk food that you would never touch outside of a plane. Our world is made smaller through speedy and efficient transportation, the perfect excuse for students to pick up and live in a new country. 

Many high school juniors and seniors explore the option of studying abroad because of the thrill that comes with it. 

Beyond getting a higher education, students have the opportunity to network with other undergraduates from around the world, explore a new country, and essentially vacation for up to two years. After college, it is more difficult to travel while occupying a steady job.  

This is the St. George Campus at the University of Toronto, Canada. The image shows the historical architecture that can be found at the University of Toronto. (Narcisso Arellano / Unsplash)

From learning a new language to hoping to move to another country in the future, the motivations for study abroad programs are many. Taking such a big and jarring step requires an immense amount of motivation paired with easy execution. Brian Jeffrey Fogg, a behavior scientist, author, and founder of Stanford’s Behavior Design Lab, created a design on the components of behavior. He says that, “Behavior happens when motivation, ability, and prompt converge at the same moment.” 

His tested theory is that what prompts an action is the right amount of motivation paired with the right amount of ability. The Fogg behavior model allows one to visually see how behaviors exist, with each behavior — at a high enough motivation or ability or both — falling above the action potential line. 

Why is this important?

This model can help explain the influx of abroad undergraduate students in the past decades. Travel was always considered a privilege, one that the everyday person could not afford. In theory, there was always a motivation or desire to travel, it was just not within one’s abilities. However, with recent accessibility to air travel, students have achieved the ability to study abroad. But what do students think about this shift towards studying abroad?

Ellington Fagan ’22 is attending Williams College in the fall of 2022. He mentioned that he wants to study abroad at Oxford University. “They place students in a social atmosphere that holds different social norms and values. Students can internalize this and benefit from this exposure.” 

Study abroad programs allow students to gain insights into new cultures. Since most of these programs recruit students from all different universities around the world, the environment becomes an international crossover of various cultural backgrounds. This nurtures an environment that is welcoming to different nationalities and fosters new and unique experiences for all students and faculty. 

Yilinna Collmar ’22 will be attending Northeastern University. She is spending her first year studying abroad in London, through an international study program at Northeastern called Colmar said that, “Going abroad allows for true independence, and it gives students the opportunity to see the world from another lens.” 

However, with the newfound independence that abroad students receive, she said that she believed that study abroad programs are a lot of work, specifically noting that, “Students have to get visas on their own, they need to figure out cellular plans abroad, currency conversions, travel and luggage…and so on.” Her thought is that in addition to attending a university for the first time, “now not only are they living on their own, but they are in a foreign country with few to no friends. It’s an amazing opportunity, but getting there and getting settled can be very stressful, which may deter a lot of students.”

University study abroad programs come with their developmental advantages and time-consuming disadvantages. Despite gaining a new perspective on an entirely different culture, creating a new international community, and gaining life-experience and independence, it’s vital to take into consideration all of the steps required to see an abroad program through.

When planning your time abroad, it can feel overwhelming and not worth it. But many students who come back from their time abroad find themselves changed in many positive ways. In NAFSA’s “Independent Research Measuring the Impact of Study Abroad,” researchers found that students come back from studying abroad with a deeper understanding of global dilemmas, superior communication capabilities, and the ability to foster intercultural connections. 

This is the Roeterseiland campus at the University of Amsterdam, a beautiful glass building on the Nieuwe Achtergracht canal. (Fons Heijnsbroek / Unsplash)

Our world today is only getting smaller. Students’ opportunity to study abroad as an undergraduate is only becoming easier. As a graduated senior myself, heading off this fall to pursue an international double bachelor’s program, I can wholeheartedly say that this next chapter of my life will change me in ways beyond my imagination. 

In NAFSA’s “Independent Research Measuring the Impact of Study Abroad,” researchers found that students come back from studying abroad with a deeper understanding of global dilemmas, superior communication capabilities, and the ability to foster intercultural connections.