Exploring the world beyond our borders creates unparalleled learning opportunities. Travel exposes you to different cultures, languages and perspectives. Dedicating a summer, a semester or a month to studying abroad deepens the benefit, forging lifelong skills. Not just an option for juniors and seniors at four-year institutions, community college students also enjoy this valuable experience through many study abroad destinations. 

Most students who study overseas describe their time abroad as formative, changing their view of the world, building their confidence and expanding their independence. For some, it is the first time navigating public transportation, speaking a foreign language and eating unfamiliar cuisines. You can learn a lot just by taking a train trip from one country to another. How do I buy tickets if I don’t speak the language? Where can I exchange the currency? What do I do if the youth hostel is full? This is really a master class in problem solving. 

Studying abroad brings tangible rewards as well. A 2012 study in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology found that students who have lived and studied in foreign countries develop higher creative thinking skills. Developing advanced language skills, an expanded worldview, and cultural sensitivity make job applicants who have studied abroad more attractive to prospective employers. 

College is the perfect time to devote weeks or even months to learning about another country and its culture. According to the Institute of International Education, the 2010-2011 academic year saw nearly 275,000 students study abroad. The most popular destinations were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China. You should target a destination and a program that fits with your academic and personal interests. For some that may mean exploring your heritage, and for others a country with future international business opportunities may be a better fit. Whatever the motivation, researching the country and program is the critical first step toward a positive and rewarding experience. 

Waubonsee Community College partners with the Illinois Consortium for International Students and Programs (ICISP) to offer programs located in England, Austria, Costa Rica, Ireland and Japan. Students with at least 15 semester hours of college credit and a 2.75 grade point average are eligible to apply. If you are interested, I encourage you to contact Waubonsee’s Counseling and Student Support department at (630) 466-2361 or advising@waubonsee.edu to learn more. 

We live in an increasingly interconnected, global world. Bringing diverse perspectives back to the Fox Valley helps students who have studied abroad to be more marketable to future employers. I’ve seen firsthand the problem-solving, creative thinking and independence gained by our students. Begin your journey and embrace the world of opportunities available to you.