Studying Abroad: Personal and Professional Advantages

Abstract

This paper addresses the issue of studying in foreign countries and the advantages it brings to international learners and the countries that these learners are connected to. The paper claims and aims to convince the reader that studying abroad is a useful practice that, despite some disadvantages, brings numerous gains both to the learners and to the countries involved. The paper’s layout follows the Toulmin Model of argumentation, providing data related to the issue and showing how the data warrants the claim, naming possible counterarguments and rebutting them, and explicitly stating the restrictions of the argument made.

Introduction

One of the positive aspects of the modern world is the opportunity to study in foreign countries. Following the Toulmin model of argumentation, we will show that many advantages for both the student and their native country result from studying abroad, and even though there are certain disadvantages, they are often unimportant in comparison, which means that international studying is, generally speaking, a good choice for a person and a winning situation for their country of origin.

Personal Advantages of Studying Abroad

Young, Natrajan-Tyagi and Platt (2015) point out that people who have studied in a foreign country find this experience resulting in many personal gains (p. 180). The experience of living in a different culture allows the learners to reconsider and improve their character to adapt to this culture (Young et al., 2015, p. 184-185). Besides, international students not only get acquainted with their host culture but also get the chance to make friends with their peers from all over the world.

This changes the way one thinks, shows that many things they took for granted are not universal truths, thus opening completely new perspectives on the world and broadening the learner’s horizons (“Studying abroad”, 2014, section 4; “Brain drain…”, 2012, para. 5). Experience of international studying results in learners developing such characteristics as “openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability” better than their peers who choose home colleges and universities for their education (“What statistics show about study abroad students”, n.d., para. 14).

The opportunity to travel and live in a different country is valuable itself, for once a person has found a job and settled down, they are not likely to get such an opportunity anymore (“10 benefits to studying abroad”, n.d., section 10). The freedom a learner gets during their studies is also invaluable, as it teaches them to be independent and develops them as an individual (“Studying abroad”, 2014, section 3).

Professional Advantages of Studying Abroad

Some of the advantages an international student receives are connected to their professional development. According to statistics, most international students say their education has helped develop skills that have proven useful in the job market; that their experience has made them flexible, allowing to adapt to different working environments; that studying abroad resulted in higher levels of satisfaction from their work (“What statistics show about study abroad students”, n.d., para. 5-7).

Therefore, it is not surprising that international graduates can find a job nearly twice as fast as home graduates; that unemployment rates among the former are about 20% lower than among the latter; and that international students often receive higher salaries (“What statistics show about study abroad students”, n.d., para. 2, 10, 3). Another fact is that studying abroad improves the academic performance of the learners (“What statistics show about study abroad students”, n.d., para. 12). Therefore, studying abroad definitely provides learners with better working perspectives.

Advantages for the Countries that International Students Are Related To

The practice of international studying also brings advantages to the countries involved. According to Sood (2012), international students contribute a large amount of money to the economy of their host country; e.g. in the USA, this amount is said to be nearly $20 billion each year (para. 8). The native countries of the learners also get advantages from their citizens’ studying abroad; for example, international graduates improve their native country’s education system (Sood, 2012, para. 8).

Lan (2004) claims that international graduates originating from China had a large positive influence on their native country, greatly accelerating its development throughout the country’s history (p. 32). This is true not only of China but for other countries as well, because the professionalism achieved while studying abroad is likely to add to any country’s industrial and cultural development.

Possible Counterarguments and their Rebuttal

Apart from its many advantages, studying abroad also has some disadvantages. But, as we shall see, these disadvantages, however important they are, do not outweigh the positive sides of studying in foreign countries.

There are some professional problems a person might experience upon returning home after having studied abroad. For instance, Lan (2004) gives an example of the fact that having studied at a top university in a country that is more developed than their own and received the latest knowledge in their professional sphere, international graduates sometimes find their home country lacking the resources they need to fully realize their skills (p. 32). On the other hand, the problem of the low level of development can only be solved by using new technologies and knowledge. Therefore, the very existence of such a problem demands highly qualified personnel, and graduates of top universities have the biggest potential to solve it.

Another issue is the personal difficulties that international students face both while studying abroad and upon returning home. Min (2002) gives an example of how people might miss their home when they face living in another country. Furthermore, having come to their host country, people are not used to their way of life and may experience cultural shock (“Disadvantages of Studying Abroad”, para. 4). Another problem that might add to this one is the language barrier, which makes understanding both in casual communication and during classes more difficult; it places the learner into a disadvantaged position compared to that of the other students.

As the process of studying is very difficult even without additional problems, this results in even more stress (“Disadvantages of Studying Abroad”, para. 3). Besides, Thompson and Christofi (2006) argue that international graduates who return home face serious difficulties even there; they find out that they have changed during their stay abroad, and are not used to their mother culture anymore. This is rarely expected and often results in the re-entry culture shock, which is usually stronger than the culture shock one feels when they come to a different country (Thompson and Christofi, 2006, p. 21).

Although these personal difficulties are not minor, they are temporary. Despite initial cultural shock, one eventually gets used to their host culture, learns to cope with the feeling of missing home, and overcomes the language barrier. This might not always be easy, but the permanent benefits one gets from studying abroad are worth it. Regarding the re-entry culture shock, Thompson and Christofi (2006) point out that returned graduates eventually manage to reconcile both cultures they have become a part of and find an effective way to combine them, which, again, brings them different benefits (e.g. the benefit of versatility) in the end.

A large problem faced by mother countries of international students is the risk of brain drain (“Brain Drain”, 2012). Having graduated from a foreign university, people sometimes choose to stay and work in their host country. On the other hand, it should be the person’s own free choice to live and work wherever they wish. Besides, this situation is preventable if the mother country provides overseas graduates with enough job opportunities. Another solution is balancing the outflow of learners with the respective inflow of students from other countries, and involving these students in the country’s economy. Anyway, some overseas learners still return to their home country after graduation, or combine working in both countries, and, as Lan (2004) shows, are still able to contribute to their country’s development greatly.

Therefore, even though the disadvantages of studying abroad might sometimes be serious, they are, as a rule, outweighed by numerous advantages that international studying results in.

Restrictions

Our paper often uses the method of generalization, the basis for which is, in some places, separate cases; however, we believe that these cases are typical. Another important restriction is that we focused mainly on international students who received an education that is at least not worse than the education they could get in their motherland. Therefore, many of the paper conclusions might not be true of learners who studied at colleges or universities that are worse than those of their mother countries.

Conclusion

As we have seen, studying abroad brings many advantages for both the students and the countries involved. International graduates get the chance for personal development and better job opportunities, whereas the countries involved receiving either money (the host country) or professional workers (the homeland). Even though there are some disadvantages to studying abroad, they are generally outweighed by received advantages. Therefore, we would recommend studying abroad as a useful and valuable practice.

References

Brain drain remains a concern as overseas education gets popular. (2012). Web.

Disadvantages of studying abroad. (2015). Web.

Lan, X. (2004). Studying abroad is no myth. Chinese Education and Society, 37(2), 31-33. Web.

Min, Z. (2002). Recollections of studying abroad. Chinese Studies in History, 36(1), 55-60. Web.

Sood, S. (2012). The statistics of studying abroad. Web.

Studying abroad: The benefits. (2014). Web.

Thompson, C. L., & Christofi, V. (2006). Can you go home again? A phenomenological investigation of Cypriot students returning home after studying abroad. International Journal for the Advancement of Counselling, 28(1), 21-39. Web.

What statistics show about study abroad students. (n.d.). Web.

Young, J. T., Natrajan-Tyagi, R., & Platt, J. J. Identity in flux: Negotiating identity while studying abroad. Journal of Experimental Education, 38(2), 175-188. Web.

10 benefits to studying abroad. (n.d.) Web.