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Studying abroad may be an abstract concept to some. It may also seem like something that only well-to-do students can enjoy, with little to no benefit but having the chance to learn in an exotic location.

Second Language Learning

This is, however, not the case, as study abroad programs can offer very concrete benefits.

Study abroad can help you achieve a higher GPA

Researchers in Georgia began collecting information on study abroad students who attended one of the 35 schools that make up the University System of Georgia. The Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative (GLOSSARI) studied over 19,000 students who participated in study abroad in the University System of Georgia and compared it with a control group.

According to the students who studied in different countries had a mean cumulative GPA of 3.24 before their study abroad trip. It rose to a mean cumulative GPA of 3.30 after they returned. The control group saw a rise from a mean cumulative GPA of 3.03 to 3.06.

Study abroad can make you a more creative thinker

Recently Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, spoke to graduating students at the University of Michigan. She told a fictional story about the hiring practices of a nameless lead engineer. In the story, the engineer said that she fills a bathtub full of water, offers the potential employee a teaspoon, a teacup, or a bucket and asks them to choose which one they would use to empty the bathtub. Which one would you choose?

The correct answer: none of the above. To empty the bathtub you just pull the drainage plug.

An answer like that may not need the brainpower of someone who has spent time abroad, but it is a very good look at how people think about simple problems. The ability to think creatively is important for businesses. Creative thinking is where innovation comes from, and being able to look at problems from different angles can speed up the process of solving them. Having experience abroad has been proven to help people develop better problem solving abilities.

William Maddox, associate professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD, produced a study that showed that "People who have international experience" end up being, "better problem solvers and display more creativity" than people who only study or work in their home country.

Study abroad can help raise graduation rates

GLOSSARI also found that graduation rates rose for Georgia students who participated in study abroad programs. The four-year graduation rate for the study abroad students was 49.6 percent, while the students in the control group had a four-year graduation rate of 42.1 percent. When the numbers are broken out by race African-Americans had a 31 percent jump in their four-year graduation rate when participating in study abroad. Non-white students as a whole saw an 18 percent increase in four-year graduation rates.

Study abroad can help you learn a new language

Schools in the U.S. usually have a requirement that students take a foreign language such as Spanish, French, or German. What better way to learn a foreign language, though, than by residing in the country where that language is spoken natively?

While a teacher can communicate the basics in a classroom, true immersion can best take place while surrounded by native speakers. An article in Forbes magazine talks about the best ways to learn a second language. The first is being trained in the desired language as a child, when learning it is much easier. The other way,as mentioned by experts interviewed for the piece, is to be around people who speak the language every day, as well as constantly speaking it yourself. This experience in language immersion can help students who are interested in earning a degree in international business and who plan on working for multinational corporations.

Those are just a few of the benefits of study abroad programs. There may be others depending on whether you travel through your college of university or sign up through an independent program.

"How To Learn A Second Language," Laura Keen, September 27, 2010, http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/27/learn-second-language-lifestyle-travel-study.html
"What embattled General Motors CEO Mary Barra told students about handling a crisis," Max Nisen, Quartz, May 5, 2014, http://qz.com/206117/general-motors-ceo-mary-barra-told-students-about-handling-a-crisis/
"Be a Better Manager: Live Abroad," William W. Maddox, Adam D. Galinsky, and Carmit T. Tambor, Harvard Business Review, September 2010, http://hbr.org/2010/09/be-a-better-manager-live-abroad/ar/1
"How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter," Annie Paul Murphy, Time Magazine, April 29, 2014, http://time.com/79937/how-studying-or-working-abroad-makes-you-smarter/
"Study abroad may lead to better GPA, graduation rates," Elizabeth Redden, USA Today, September 14, 2010, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-07-14-IHE-study-abroad-benefits13_ST_N.htm

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