Studying Abroad: Is it worth it?

Way back in October, the New York Times published a sort of cost/benefit analysis series about studying abroad as Americans. As this obviously directly applies to me, I took an interest in it.

Supporters of studying abroad mainly argue that Americans have much to gain by experiencing other cultures in an increasingly global world. Although this is a wonderful ideal, I can still see why students wouldn’t want to make the jump on this alone. After all, I didn’t come to the U.K. to gain new language skills (though I’ve certainly expanded my English vocabulary) nor did I intend to move here for good (I wouldn’t object to it – but I also wouldn’t object to moving somewhere else. Honestly, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.) I did make the decision to study abroad because I figured it was the best, and probably only, chance I’d have to do it.

Detractors say it is simply an unnecessary expense. Curtis Chin says it can be an “expensive waste of time.” Well… I don’t disagree. In fact, I was kind of afraid that that would happen to me – but in the end, I think it comes down to the kind of person you are, and what you hope to get from it. I guess if you go into it only hoping to get a fun year in a country with  a lower drinking age, and that’s what you get, it might not be a waste for you – but it’s easy to see how it could be considered a waste for those paying for that year. For me, personal development is #1 on the to-do list for the year – sort of a way to reflect on the direction my life is going, now that I’m transitioning to living away from home. I also did a lot of research before coming, and I’ve made sure that this plan is affordable – very affordable, in fact. So far, I would say everything I’ve done so far has easily made it worth it, and I’m only about halfway done.

In the general case, I tend to sit on the fence between the two sides. I don’t think everybody should study abroad, no more than I think everybody should play a musical instrument or everybody should know how to use Linux. But I do think that, with the right mindset and proper planning, it can be incredibly beneficial. All I really know is, I don’t think I’m ever going to regret my decision, and I would strongly encourage everybody to at least look into it.