Getting the opportunity to leave your college campus for a semester and explore a foreign country can seem both exotic and intimidating. According to the University of Georgia, more than 200,000 U.S. students study abroad each year. Spending a semester studying abroad comes with a variety of benefits, both personal and educational. It may even serve as a springboard for your career.

Basics

Studying abroad transforms the traditional college experience into one that can be life changing. A study abroad program converts the typical classroom experience into a hands-on learning environment where you visit culturally significant sites, see famous paintings up close, debate politics with locals or practice a foreign language with natives. While every study abroad program has its own format, a well-designed program comes with benefits that can last your entire life, such as helping to launch your career or bring about a new level of cultural awareness.

Launch Your Career

Finding a job after college graduation can seem daunting but having the study abroad experience on your resume might give you a leg up on the competition. According to Meredith University, employers and graduate schools place increasing value on overseas experience. These potential employers and admissions officers see that the study abroad experience builds confidence, flexibility and poise, all character traits they look for in candidates.

Improve Your Academics

When you set off to a foreign country, potentially the farthest you have ever been from home, you may be forced to mature and gain a new level of self-confidence. You will be placed in unfamiliar situations that you must navigate through. This personal growth can spill over into your academic career. According to research conducted by the University of Georgia, students who study abroad have improved academic performances upon returning to their home campus and a higher graduation rate than students who do not study abroad.

Gain Cultural Awareness

The longer you spend in a foreign country, the more you will be exposed to its culture. Stepping outside of your own culture for a semester can change how you view the world for the rest of your life. IES Abroad is a team of study abroad professionals aiming to create educational experiences that focus on an authentic global education. The company, which is headquartered in Chicago, offers 100 study abroad programs in 36 locations each year. According to a study conducted by IES Abroad, 82 percent of students who studied abroad say that this experience helped them develop an increase in global knowledge or an increase in understanding the dynamics of how things are interrelated and interconnected in the world.

Build Friendships

When you study abroad, you are often grouped with other international students. You are all going through a similarly interesting yet foreign experience. This environment can help you build lifelong friendships. Compared to your friends at home, chances are that these new friendships will be with people of various cultures and backgrounds. According to the IES study, 52 percent of students kept in touch with their new friends after returning home.