Studying abroad is usually a defining moment in a young person’s life and continues to impact the participant’s life for years after the experience, according to a survey of 3,400 alumni of study-abroad programs between 1950 and 1999 run by the International Education of Students (IES).
Big surprise? Probably not.
But it is interesting to note that in what areas participants in study-abroad programs said they experienced the biggest impact. No. 1 was in personal development (self-confidence, maturity and worldview), followed closely by intercultural development (understanding one’s own cultural biases, or making friends from other cultures). Slightly less of an impact was on an individual’s academic commitment. Coming in dead last was the experience’s relation to the participants’ ultimate career paths.
The study was described as the first large-scale survey to explore the long-term impact of study abroad on a student’s personal, professional and academic life. IES says it is a national academic consortium with over 155 member colleges that has provided students with study-abroad experiences for more than five decades.
In What Ways Did Study Abroad Benefit?
Increased self-confidence - Full Year 98%, Fall Semester 95%, Spring Semester 96%, Summer 97%, Total 96%
Served as a catalyst for increased maturity - Full Year 98%, Fall Semester 97%, Spring Semester 97%, Summer 95%, Total 97%
Has had a lasting impact on worldview - Full Year 97%, Fall Semester 95%, Spring Semester 94%, Summer 92%, Total 95%
Enhanced interest in academic study - Full Year 81%, Fall Semester 80%, Spring Semester 79%, Summer 84%, Total 80%
Influenced subsequent educational experiences - Full Year 91%, Fall Semester 85%, Spring Semester 86%, Summer 84%, Total 87%
Reinforced commitment to foreign language study - Full Year 88%, Fall Semester 83%, Spring Semester 85%, Summer 90%, Total 86%
Helped me better understand my own cultural values and biases - Full Year 99%, Fall Semester 97%, Spring Semester 97%, Summer 95%, Total 98%
Influenced me to seek out a greater diversity of friends - Full Year 94%, Fall Semester 88%, Spring Semester 89%, Summer 86%, Total 90%
Continues to influence interactions with people from different cultures - Full year 97%, Fall Semester 93%, Spring Semester 92%, Summer 92%, Total 94%
Acquired skill sets that influenced career path - Full Year 82%, Fall Semester 73%, Spring Semester 74%, Summer 71%, Total 76%
Ignited an interest in a career direction pursued after the experience - Full Year 70%, Fall Semester 57%, Spring Semester 59%, Summer 59%, Total 62%
Source: International Education of Students
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