It’s been over seven years since I studied abroad in Rongai, Kenya, and I’m still talking about it. My time in Kenya broadened my perspectives and gave me the passion to explore more of the world.
Studying abroad can be a daunting adventure on which to embark, but at the end of your student’s journey, they’ll emerge a new person.
According to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors study, in 2016, there were 325,339 US students who studied abroad, while 1,078,822 international students studied in the United States.
There’s a common misconception that studying abroad is only for college students, like only they can venture into the world to be inspired while atop the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru.
Sending a minor abroad may seem early to some, but there are in fact many benefits to having kids set out on a trip before they get to college—thanks to their malleable and eager minds, ready to soak in new knowledge and experiences.
Whether your student is traveling on their own or with your family, there are more than a few reasons why you should study abroad. Beyond that, though, there are also a number of benefits to packing bags long before students reach university level.
So, if your student has already been bitten by a travel bug or is still on the fence about studying abroad, consider these reasons, both academic benefits and personal growth advantages—and carpe diem!
Reasons to Study Abroad
1. Discover new cultures
Studying abroad not only diversifies your child’s cultural understandings, but also presents them the opportunity to practice that second language they always wanted to try (more on this point below!), or experience that authentically prepared dish they’ve been dreaming of.
There’s really no better way to practice than to be fully immersed in the environment, and no more perfect way to taste a culture than through their food.
Connecting with locals and travelers alike also means your child might just find their new best friend.
One of my favorite moments at iD Tech is when an Italian camper contacted us to help find his American camp buddy from the previous year so they could attend our summer programs held in the Boston area together again. (We totally got them in contact and they did, in fact, attend another session together!)
And, traveling abroad as a 12-year-old is a vastly different experience than that of an 18-year-old. Primary or secondary students will have less pressure to maintain the academic obligations of a structured university program. With this potentially extra time, younger students have more opportunities to venture out of the classroom and explore new environments.
Being introduced to the international scene at a younger age also allows students to experience the niches of different cultures, which college students might often miss. For instance, when international students travel to the United States, they can attend football games, school dances, and even talent shows to get a preview of how kids here grow up.
At iD Tech’s summer camps for international students, participants get to experience American camp culture, including everything from dressing up as Superman for superhero day to getting involved in a game of capture the flag.
So, no matter if your student is attending camp at Arizona State University or The Chinese University of Hong Kong, they’ll be immersed with students from all around the world, and leave with new friends spanning from California to Australia. (In 2017, we welcomed students from 121 countries!)
2. Explore history
From prowling the tombs of Egypt where the first record of classical cryptography was found, to touring Silicon Valley tech companies where the latest encryption softwares are being developed, your student can witness the progression of advancements throughout history.
Studying at a foreign university means your child doesn’t need to go far to find hidden gems. Did you know the Hogwarts-like Guild Building of Imperial College London dates back to 1845? No matter where your student goes in the world, there’s so much history to learn.
See if you can spot my travel robot companion, Cozmo, getting up close and personal with a dragon from the Forbidden City!
3. Experience personal growth
A German study found that students who studied abroad showed improvements in five core traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. Being abroad forces your child to adapt as they open themselves to new experiences and growth.
Summer camp offers a number of benefits, with students not only learning intellectually but also socially, as they stay in university dorms and learn how to live with others. Whether it’s leading their team, overcoming robotic challenges, publishing and selling their own mobile game, or raising awareness of animal shelters through a video documentary, it doesn’t take long for students to shake off their nerves and realize their potential as a leader, entrepreneur, and activist.
As students gain more confidence in themselves, they learn to be independent and self-sufficient. From learning to ride the subway to effectively budgeting time and money, traveling abroad can provide valuable life skills that continue through life long after the travels are over.
4. Acquire new skills
There are so many study abroad options that cater to different interests: language, art, sports, technology, and much more. Add to your child’s future résumé and help them learn a new skill!
Encourage them to venture out of the conventional classroom and into the streets of Spain to get their Spanish immersion, or attend summer camp in Silicon Valley to get hands-on experience with the latest tech.
Studying in different countries allows your student to explore different learning methodologies than they receive in school. Experiential learning has been proven to help students overcome their fear of failing, which in turn increases their interest and progression in complex ideas.
5. More specifically, learn a second language
Studies have shown that younger students find it easier to learn a second language compared to their adult counterparts. Reason being, children have less developed habits of pronunciation and grammar, so it’s easier for them to adopt new habits.
Being immersed in a different country provides younger students with less competing distractions, as well as greater social pressures to adapt to the language they’re hearing around them.
Further studies have shown students who pick up a second language gain more grey matter in their brains, which links to higher intelligence.
Studying abroad while young allows students to take advantage of what researchers have deemed the “critical period” for kids to learn a second language.
6. Travel at a reasonable cost
Traveling as a primary or secondary student is a lot more affordable, because younger adventurers have less personal financial obligations. College students have more to juggle when abroad - from rent to loan payments to groceries - resulting in a much higher cost of living.
There are also many different program options available to younger students. For instance, many high school students travel abroad during the summer, with programs of various durations. Parents who would rather their children only spend a week abroad (rather than the entire summer or large chunk of the summer) have the option to do so!
7. Set a Pathway for success
While college may still be a ways away for some primary students, it’s never too early to start prepping for college and developing skills that might benefit them in the future. Creating the pathway for your student is essential for them to be prepared not only for university, but also for future careers.
Research conducted by the American Institute of Foreign Study showed 34% of study abroad students claimed that studying abroad helped them when selecting their career field.
Potential reasons why? Being abroad exposes students to new ideas and experiences that they may not have at home. They’re able to get a head start on building their portfolios and developing career interests—which are benefits your student can reap long after they return from their time abroad.
At iD Tech, our students aren’t just attending for a week or two of summer fun, but are developing their tech skills through the iD Tech Pathway at the same time. One-week student experiences at our tech camps often progress to two-week sessions at our Academies, as students gain mastery in their genre of study.
What are you waiting for?
Sitting with a circle of shoshos (“grandmothers” in Swahili) as they wove baskets and spoke of their lives as leaders in their community, I not only learned about the vibrant and diverse Kenyan culture, but was also inspired to pursue a career in international studies.
There are so many benefits to attending summer camps for international students, but one of the greatest is sparking a passion your child never knew was there. On their next adventure, they might just find their aspirations to become an engineer, artist, or athlete—the opportunities are endless.
Now that you’re ready to help your child pack their bags, stay tuned for our next post in our Study Abroad series!