"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 believed it could greatly impact a student’s life, but the exact long-term benefits were unknown—until now.
The first large-scale survey to explore the long-term impact of study abroad on a student’s personal, professional, and academic life shows that study abroad positively and unequivocally influences the career path, world-view, and self-confidence of students.
The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), www.iesabroad.org, 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.
% Full Year
% Spring Semester
Served as a catalyst for increased maturity98%97%97%95%97% Has had a lasting impact on world view97%95%94%92%95%
Enhanced interest in academic study81%80%79%84%80%
Influenced subsequent educational experiences91%85%86%84%87% Reinforced commitment to foreign language study88%83%85%90%86% Intercultural Development
Helped me better understand my own cultural values and biases99%97%97%95%98% Influenced me to seek out a greater diversity of friends94%88%89%86%90% Continues to influence interactions with people from different cultures97%93%92%92%94% Career development
Acquired skill sets that influenced career path82%73%74%71%76% Ignited an interest in a career direction pursued after the experience70%57%59%59%62% Personal Growth
“Overall, I learned a lot more about myself in that one semester than I did in the three and a half years in my home school because of the unique space in which I learned, experienced, and spent exploring another culture,” says Carolyn Valtos (IES Adelaide, 1992).
An overwhelming majority of respondents echoed Valtos’ feeling. When asked about personal growth, 97 percent said studying abroad served as a catalyst for increased maturity, 96 percent reported increased self-confidence, 89 percent said that it enabled them to tolerate ambiguity, and 95 percent stated that it has had a lasting impact on their world view.
Findings also show that study abroad...