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12:59 PM

Studying Abroad: Is It Really Worth It?

To study abroad or not study abroad? That is the question many students grapple with as they weigh the value of the experience and its benefits over time against the immediate cost.

Amy Schoenberg, Study Abroad Coordinator at Governors State University, encourages all students to explore the possibility of studying in a foreign country. “You will develop a global perspective. When you go outside your comfort zone, you increase your intercultural competence,” she said “Also, you stand out and are more marketable to employers and even grad school panels when you study abroad.”

A recent survey conducted by IES Abroad backs Amy’s point. The Chicago-based company found that 97 percent of the students who had taken advantage of an international learning experience found a job within one year of graduation. A control group of students who had not studied abroad had a 49 percent job placement rate after one year.

Schoenberg recently accompanied a group of thirteen GSU students on a service learning trip to Nicaragua. For seven days, the students partnered with local trade workers in the El Salto farming community as part of a public health brigade to improve sanitation in individual family homes. They built sanitation stations for family homes and installed concrete floors to reduce infestations of disease-carrying insects.

“In the beginning,” Schoenberg said, “(the students) were quiet and trying to absorb the culture and the differences, but then they opened up and started building relationships with the families and the other workers.”

Schoenberg describes daily rides from their lodgings in Esteli—nearly three hours from El Salto—in which the students, many of whom were having their first international experience, watched verdant landscapes and distant volcanoes rising over paved streets that gave way to dirt roads edged with small, clay-walled homes.

“Towards the end of our project, I could see such a difference in the students. They had an appreciation for this way of life that some people might see as poor, but they saw richness in their values and simplicity.”Janee Rubio, a senior at GSU in the Community Health degree program, agreed. “It was such a humbling experience altogether to go to another country and see the spirit of humanity there. It really put things in perspective for me as to how blessed I am, but it also taught me what community means to them. It made a lasting impact on me. I want to bring that spirit wherever I go.”

Another student, Jessica Roberson, echoed Rubio’s reflection on the experience. “The most important lesson I learned in Nicaragua was the power of a good, rich, human spirit and family. Although I was well aware of the work we were going to do, I was impacted by the family unit and how they worked together. The families in the villages worked alongside us. Mothers and daughters, grandparents and children, all pitched in to help each other. It was a reminder of how important the family unit is and to always value it.” Roberson is in her second year of graduate studies in Social Work at GSU.

The personal gain from stepping outside of your own experience and working and learning in a different culture is immeasurable, and, according to the IES Abroad survey, the financial boon can be counted and seen, too. The same survey showed that, on average, study abroad alum had post-graduate starting salaries approximately $7,000 higher than their peers.

Schoenberg said that the study abroad program at GSU is in a state of growth. Recently, there were faculty-led trips to England, Brazil, South Africa, and Thailand. In the spring, the university will offer a Community Health program in Sweden.

If you want to study abroad, the Office of International Services can help facilitate the education abroad process for both GSU students and faculty. Click here to learn about the latest study abroad opportunities.