The Top 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Study Abroad, as told by Mandi Barringer, Sociology PhD student, on our study abroad trip in Belize.

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Study Abroad as told by Mandi Barringer, Sociology PhD student, from our study abroad trip in Belize.

After a day of data collection on Caye Caulker.

After a day of data collection on Caye Caulker.

If you’re not ready to transform your life then you’re not ready to study abroad. The experience abroad challenges students to examine their own beliefs and values, forcing them to step outside their comfort zones. And let’s face it, it is called a comfort zone for a reason, as many of us do not like to venture outside our norms. Most people will you tell you that students who study abroad will return home with a new perspective on life. Studying abroad changes you, and when this happens (and it will) there’s no going back. So, here are the top five reasons (not supported by empirical evidence) you shouldn’t study abroad if you’re not prepared to:

1. Learn about yourself and your positionality: Study abroad is often a life-changing experience for students as it promotes diversity and understanding. Students will have to check their preconceived notions about a country and its culture at the airport’s baggage claim. However, to do this, students will also have to examine their own positionality and how this influences their social lens and views of the world. And for those of you who think you have nothing new to learn about yourself, you will be highly disappointed.

Climbing the hills of San Ignacio in the field.

Climbing the hills of San Ignacio in the field.

2. Make new friends from around the world: Study abroad allows you the rare opportunity to connect with other people from around the world. You will not only create lifelong connections with your peers, but you may also have the chance to meet local students in the areas you are studying. If you are fortunate enough to embark on a study abroad trip as amazing as University of Central Florida’s GIS study abroad group, you will be afforded the opportunity to work with university students from another country.

UCF students at Xunantunich

UCF students at Xunantunich

3. Enhance your career opportunities: As the world becomes increasingly globalized students entering the job market with international experience will have a leg up on the competition. Students who have participated in study abroad convey to employers that they are independent, self-motivated, problem-solvers, and unafraid to conquer demanding situations. However, if you are not interested in distinguishing yourself from other job applicants then you shouldn’t study abroad.

4. Engage in cross-culture collaboration: One of the more unique aspects to participating in study abroad is the opportunity to participate in cross-culture collaborations. Depending on your own study abroad experience, you may be collaborating with other students and/or researchers. Collaborating with other students may be one of the most rewarding aspects to studying abroad. Students will not only break out of their typical classroom learning situation, they will be able to connect and share their lived experiences with their peers. And besides, what better way is there to learn about a culture and a country’s social issues than having it explained by students who live and study there?

UB and UCF working together on GIS fieldwork in San Ignacio.

UB and UCF working together on GIS fieldwork in San Ignacio.

5. Gain a global mindset: Students studying abroad will expand their worldviews while simultaneously illuminating your own held ideas and perspectives. Gaining a global mindset may mean various things to different people. However, most students will return home with a better understanding of how interrelated our actions and behaviors are with other societies. As each of us have our own lived experiences, studying abroad enables us to understand the similarities and differences between the experiences of others – both abroad and with our fellow classmates.

There you have it. The top five reasons (not supported by science – just real people) study abroad may change your life so long as you are open to it. If not, you will be missing out on the most profound benefits study abroad as to offer.
–Mandi Barringer, June 7, 2016 @ 8:07 am Belize time

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