Why Study Abroad? 10 Benefits of Studying in an International Environment

ORA students enjoying a lesson outside – Image Copyright Oxford Royale Summer Schools 2014 – All Rights Reserved

Here at Oxford Royale Summer Schools, we’re immensely proud of the fact that students come from all over the world to study with us.

This year, we’re expecting the number of different student nationalities to top 100, with students coming to us from as far afield as Angola, Azerbaijan, Nepal and even the British Indian Ocean Territory. This cosmopolitan mix of cultures creates a uniquely diverse academic and social environment for those who study with us, and the sheer number of different viewpoints makes for endlessly interesting academic discussions. In this article, we’re celebrating the diversity of our student groups with a look at the numerous benefits of studying in an international environment like Oxford Royale Summer Schools.

1. International connections

The international connections you make could be invaluable in future

One of the best things about studying in an international environment is that it brings you into contact with people from all over the world, meaning that you can create a global network of contacts. These international connections aren’t just a source of new good friends; they could prove invaluable, even years down the line, when it comes to your career. Among them could be the future chief executive of a major company in the industry you end up working for, or a future business partner or client. You never know when the contacts you make will prove useful in business, and having an international network of them is even better, because they have the potential to open up even more opportunities for you. In business, it’s still the case that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” – so the more people you know, and the wider the geographic area they come from, the better. What’s more, as well as the friends you’ll make, you may also make contacts who live in the city in which you go to study; these may also prove useful if you decide to come back to the same city on a longer-term basis in the future, at which point you’ll be needing someone’s advice about things like getting a job and where to find somewhere to live.

2. Exposure to different cultures and viewpoints

Learning about other cultures is fascinating

Mixing with people from all over the world exposes you to a variety of different cultures, not to mention viewpoints you might not previously have considered. Our cultural background can have a big bearing on how we respond to different situations or issues, and getting a variety of fresh perspectives on such things can be very intellectually stimulating, helping you look at things in a completely new way. By befriending people from other cultures, you’ll learn about how differently things are done or viewed elsewhere in the world, which teaches you about other cultures at the same time as widening your own horizons and broadening your mind. It can be particularly interesting, for instance, to discuss current affairs with those from the countries affected by the issues you read about in the news; the media puts its own slant on the world’s problems, and hearing about them from the perspective of someone who’s directly affected by them can be eye-opening and fascinating, not just in terms of the issues themselves, but also, more generally, in the way in which they are portrayed in a certain way by the media. You’d be amazed at how biased the media can be, and talking to people from the cultures affected will help you see the situation more objectively and be more questioning of what you read in the papers or see on the news. This is just one of innumerable examples of the interesting conversations that could spark up in an international environment.

3. Exposure to a different form of teaching

ORA follows the discussion-focused teaching style of Oxford University

Wherever in the world you end up studying, you’re likely to encounter different styles of teaching from what you’re used to. Different countries inevitably have different ways of doing things, so trying out the educational offering of another country will help you expand your academic horizons and develop your ability to adapt to different educational environments. This will doubtless help you adapt to the very different style of teaching at university. At Oxford Royale Summer Schools, our teaching style focuses on small academic discussion groups, which place emphasis on students expressing their opinions and engaging in debate. This develops your confidence in articulating your own views, challenging preconceptions and communicating clearly and persuasively – all skills that will stand you in good stead for university and beyond.

4. Studying abroad is good for the CV

You can put periods of study abroad on your CV, and it’s likely to impress employers, who like to see potential employees who’ve gone out and experienced things and actively developed themselves as people. What’s more, in the age of the internet, business is increasingly done on an international scale, so having some international experience can only be beneficial to your career prospects. International study reveals you to be a more well-rounded person who’s capable of taking on new challenges and seeing things on a global level. It’s also a good way to prove your language skills to a potential employer; those who can speak more than one language are likely to be more in demand for many kinds of jobs, particularly in industries in which additional languages are an advantage, such as the travel sector.

5. Enhance your language skills

You’ll get constant opportunities to practice your language skills in authentic circumstances

It goes without saying that if you’re going to study in a country in which the native language is not your own, it’s the perfect opportunity to develop your language skills like never before. For example, if you’re fairly good at English but it isn’t your native language, you’ll benefit enormously from studying in the UK and being able to converse in English, both in a social and academic environment. You’ll hear all sorts of new idioms and colloquialisms that you’ve probably not been taught before, and you’ll start to speak English more like an English person. Your pronunciation will come on in leaps and bounds, as will your vocabulary, and you’ll make more progress than you ever could from simply reading a book.
Studying in the UK also gives you the chance to develop your written academic English skills, which will come in very handy should you decide to come to university in the UK. Developing this style of more formal English will also come in useful in your career, should you decide to work in an international company or even get a job in the UK. A high standard of written English may prove useful in all manner of different business situations, such as writing proposals, presentations, emails, website pages, blog posts, newsletters, and other marketing materials. This means that the linguistic benefits of studying abroad are likely to go far beyond the initial boost it will give to your English.

6. Experience life in another country

You’ll get to know a whole new culture and way of life

In addition to the academic and career benefits of studying abroad, another major benefit is that it allows you to experience life in a different country. Living and studying abroad, even for a couple of weeks, will give you a much greater insight into life in that country than you would get from coming on holiday as a tourist, and it gives you the chance to live a little differently from how you’re used to. For example, if you come to Oxford Royale Summer Schools, you’ll call Oxford your home for the duration of your course, using public transport, getting to know the city, seeing a little of the rest of England and mixing with those who live in Oxford, namely our staff and faculty. You’ll notice all the quirky little things that make Oxford so unique, and you’ll witness first-hand many of the eccentric traits for which the Brits are famous (our obsession with the weather, for example). You can’t get a better way of discovering what it’s really like to live in Oxford, and you’ll come away with a much better knowledge of Oxford than most of the tourists who flock here.

7. Be a tourist

Make the most of the opportunity to be a tourist

Of course, as well as experiencing the realities of everyday life in the country you choose to study in, studying abroad also gives you the opportunity to be a tourist in that country as well. During your time off, of which there should be plenty scheduled into your timetable of work, you can do some sight-seeing and explore local attractions, such as museums and landmarks. At Oxford Royale Summer Schools, we take our students on several day trips to interesting tourist destinations such as central London, Blenheim Palace and Stonehenge; it’s a great way for them to unwind after a busy schedule of academic study, and they enjoy being able to shop for souvenirs to take back to their friends and families. Wherever you choose to study, though, it’s the perfect opportunity to see a bit more of the world and perhaps even cross a few things off your bucket list. What’s more, as a student, you’ll probably be able to get into lots of the tourist hotspots at a discounted rate, if not free – so going abroad as a student is the best time to see the sights!

8. Discover new foods

You’ll get to try cuisines you’ve never experienced before

One of the great things about studying abroad and making friends from other countries is that you’ll have loads of opportunities to discover tasty new cuisines. As well as sampling the local food in the country you study in, you’ll have made friends from other cultures who can introduce you to their favourite foods from their own countries. One of the activities we run on some of our courses is a cooking competition, which gives our students the perfect chance to show off both their cooking skills and the delicious foods originating from their country.

9. Boost your confidence and maturity

The idea of studying abroad may seem daunting at first – and it’s understandable if you feel a little nervous as well as excited as you board the plane bound for your course – but you’ll soon discover that there’s nothing to worry about. Overcoming this initial difficulty in turn develops your maturity and your ability to handle new situations. I spent time abroad when I was at university, and I have no doubt that these periods of my life helped to shape the person I am today. The whole experience of going abroad for a period of time to study will be an enormous confidence boost, as you’ll find out what you’re capable of coping with, and you’ll find that you can thrive even in these new and very different circumstances. What’s more, as we’ve already seen, if you’re going to a country in which the language is not your own, it will also boost your confidence in communicating in another language – something that many students find nerve-wracking to begin with.

10. New friends to go and visit

Going abroad gives you the chance to make friends with people you might never have met otherwise

Studying abroad, or in an international environment at home, will enable you to make friends with people from all around the world. These are people whom you could go and visit in their own countries, so you could well end up experiencing even more of the world than the country you initially went to study in. There’s nothing like visiting a country with a local; they’ll show you what it’s really like to live there, not just the side that the tourists see. You can also return the favour, of course, and invite your new international friends to come and stay with you in your own country; then you’ll get to show an outsider all the things you love about your own country. Their fresh perspective on your home country will likely be quite eye-opening and will help you see your own country from a different point of view. And it’s always good to get a different perspective – it keeps you challenging your own opinions, an essential tenet of academia.
Hopefully this list has shown you that studying abroad is tremendously beneficial in a great many ways. If you’re thinking of studying abroad yourself, why not come and study with us in the scholarly environs of Oxford University?

Image credits: train; carnival; Oxford; street; croquet; photos; food; friends