When my daughter Akshita told me she would like to ‘study abroad’, I was really perplexed. Isn’t the act of pursuing one’s education in a country other than one’s own studying abroad? I told her, ‘I thought you were already studying abroad? You are a Singaporean of Indian origin studying in the United States- how much more abroad can you get?’ She was not amused- she thought I was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t.
Apparently ‘study abroad’ is a big thing in the US and all American University students would like to study abroad during their undergraduate program, preferably in Europe or Africa. In keeping with my ‘understanding mother’ persona, I decided to get to the bottom of this study abroad thing.
“It will change your life. You’ll come back a new person.” For years, the benefits of
study abroad have been described in these words. Everyone in the study abroad field
believes it could greatly impact a student’s life. In the age of globalization, an intimate understanding of a foreign culture is both a valuable academic asset and an enriching personal experience, say proponents of the study abroad theory. The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), www.iesabroad.com, surveyed alumni from all IES study abroad programs from 1950 to 1999. Regardless of where students studied and for how long, the data from the more than 3,400 respondents (a 23 percent response rate) shows that studying abroad is usually a defining moment in a young person’s life and continues to impact the participant’s life for years after the experience.
Study abroad has been found to help in personal development (increased self-confidence, increased maturity, lasting impact on world-view), academic commitment (enhanced commitment to course work, increased interest in study of foreign language), intercultural development (help better understand cultural values and biases, have a positive influence on interactions with people from different cultures) and career development (acquiring skills that influence a career path).
Akshita’s University, Tufts has been offering study abroad programs for four decades, and at present offers its own programs for juniors and seniors to study in Chile, China, Ghana, Hong Kong, Japan, London, Madrid, Oxford, Paris, and Tübingen, Germany. In addition to this, students may also choose from hundreds of approved programs run by non-Tufts providers.
Students who wish to study abroad should begin planning early in their academic careers in order to meet the various course and language prerequisites. Majors in all departments are encouraged to consider study abroad. Almost half of Tufts undergraduates take part in full-year or semester-long foreign study programs. Tufts students have studied in countries all over the globe, from Argentina to Vietnam, Australia to France, Botswana to Great Britain, Egypt to Israel.