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The Benefits of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad comes with a cost, but many students believe the benefits outweigh the price.

Emmie Rizvi was working on homework in the home of her host family when her phone lit up with a text message. As she read the message to herself, she began to fill with excitement. She had been waiting for this since she left America to study abroad in India: she was crashing a wedding. Emmie’s first instinct was to text her friend Muneeb. “Get ready, we’re going to a wedding” she said.

Emmie excitedly ran to her large closet and grabbed the single elegant outfit she had packed for her two-month-long program. The dress was hanging up in her large closet when she rushed to put on the long-sleeved red and black traditional Indian dress covered in gold gems.

In the rush to get ready she thought, “what are the chances?”

Emmie has traveled abroad twice during her time at Ball State University; once to Hungary for a week-long trip, and then to India for two months. Studying abroad was always something that appealed to Emmie, as college was about more than just classes for her. She wanted experiences to look back on.

Fewer than 10 percent of American college students study abroad while in college. Twenty percent of Ball State’s population studies abroad. That’s a high number for a state school, according to John Jensen, director of study abroad at Ball State University. While 20 percent is a large number, that leaves 80 percent of the student body not studying abroad. Jensen said the cost is what scares many students away. The average cost of studying abroad in 2013 was $17,785. While not inexpensive, John said there are plenty of ways to finance study abroad programs.

Scholarships are one way for students looking to study abroad to finance their experience. The Rinker Center also has a faculty member, Dr. Barb Stedman, who assists students in finding separate scholarships available through the government or other agencies. They work hand-in-hand with the financial aid office on campus in order to help students with the cost.

“If you compare the cost of coming to Ball State and studying, and you add up everything, most of the time our programs are pretty comparable,” John said. For the 2016-2017 school year, the estimated cost of attendance at Ball State is $18,589 for an Indiana resident. For an out-of-state student, the estimated cost of attendance is $34,363.

If a student wants to wait to travel abroad until after graduation, it may be more difficult than it seems. Trips abroad after college may be more costly, and students should factor the classes into the cost. When paying for a study abroad program, students are paying for the travel expenses, but they are also paying for those college credits which go towards their degree. In addition to added costs, time is also a factor to consider for recent college graduates. Holding a full-time job means limited vacation hours on top of responsibilities back home that may keep people from taking off for months at a time. Studying abroad after college takes out the possibility of earning credit toward a degree and experiencing culture at the same time.

While personal growth is an important factor in study abroad experiences, academics and professional benefits also come into play. According a study done by researchers in Georgia, four-year graduation rates are seven percent higher in students who have studied abroad than those who have not. The same researchers also found that the average GPA of students traveling abroad was 3.24 before traveling, and was raised to a 3.30 after returning.

John said this is because of a new outlook on academics. While they are abroad, students are no longer sitting in the same classrooms that they have seen every day for the last few years. They are learning about their field first-hand from the other side of the world.

“It gives you a whole different perspective on your major, which is a growing experience academically,” John said.

For many students, Emmie included, the benefits and experiences outweigh the cost. “It makes you grow up a little bit, traveling by yourself. You’re a little bit more responsible.” On her way to India, Emmie faced her first problem before she even left the country. It was her first time traveling alone, and she found that her bag was too heavy and her parents had already dropped her off at the airport.

“I had to throw random stuff away and stick stuff into my carry on that was already packed to the max. But I figured it out somehow,” she said.

Independence is one of the many qualities students gain while studying abroad. John said that students who study abroad are forced to think differently, become more mature and independent. Through study abroad programs, students are faced with challenges that are unfamiliar to them. For many students, this may be their first time traveling abroad or without their families. While difficult, these challenges and hardships are what cause students to grow, said John.

“The individual that comes back from a study abroad experience is a very different individual than the one that left,” he said.

It’s no coincidence that studying abroad is difficult, he adds, because that’s how students grow.

“It’s gonna be hard to study abroad. You’re gonna miss your family. You’re gonna be far away, but there’s only a certain amount of time in your life where you can drop everything and go travel abroad. College is the perfect time to do that,” Emmie said.

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