The Joys of Studying Abroad


I have what is politely called a chequered educational background. Dropped out of school at 15, ended up at night school a few years later (after a lot of travelling), fell into university in London, became an EF Tour Director, then went back to university to do a Master’s programme for my own entertainment. My graduate studies were in a class that contained 15 other students from 14 different countries. I was the only Brit; it was superb. The range of ideas that people brought added so much to the general approach to learning.

There is not much better for the college student than the chance to study abroad. We at EF, rightly, bang on about the educational benefits of as little as eight days outside your own country. Imagine doing that for anything from a few weeks to a few years. Not only that, you would be doing it pretty much on your own terms. It can even be cheaper than college at home; a year in the UK can cost approximately $10,000. However, cost shouldn’t be a factor; there are all sorts of grants and exchange programmes available.

I am such an advocate of studying abroad that I even have statistics.

  • More than 250,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2009.
  • The UK (33,300 students), Australia (11,000 students) and Ireland (6,900) are in the top 10 study abroad destinations. Other countries in the top 10 are Italy, Spain, France, China, Mexico, Germany and Costa Rica.
  • Around 36% of study abroad participants go abroad during their junior year.
  • More women study abroad than men. About 65% of participants each year are female.
  • About 40% of those studying abroad do so for a semester or a quarter. Only 4% of those studying abroad go for a whole academic year, down from 14% over ten years ago.
  • The majority (56%) of study abroad participants choose to study abroad for eight weeks or less, either sometime during the academic year, a January intersession or in the summer. An EF language course is a great way to study abroad for a shorter period of time and practice your language skills while exploring a new country.
  • Only 6.2% of students studying abroad are foreign language majors. A greater number of students have majors in social sciences, business fields, humanities, the arts and physical or life sciences.

The variety of courses is amazing. International Student is a great resource for finding different types of courses as well as a lot of information on funding and loans. The UK Council for International Student Affairs offers a whole range of info on how to get to the UK, where to go and rules on working. Both sites have lots of very useful links and forums.

Think about it, studying for the love of studying and doing it overseas. Go on, search for a course; see where your imagination takes you.

Photo: Royal Holloway college at the University of London, where I studied history.

Read more blog posts about the impact of study abroad here.