If your Instagram feeds have been dominated by college students galivanting through Europe, stories featuring foreign cuisines, and TikToks rating trendy cocktails, you might have delved into the controversial world of study abroad.
While study abroad is an ever-growing phenomenon for college students, many question the validity of its practice—does it actually help students to gain independence and learn about other cultures or is it just a 4-month excuse to party?
These discussions arose in the media recently when a New York University student came forward to proclaim the woes of her time spent studying in Florence. In an op-ed with Insider, Stacia Datskovska dug into the problems she found in her time away from the United States and lamented about the attitudes of Italians she encountered.
“I'm not quite sure whom I resented more during my stay in Italy: my American classmates or the locals,” she wrote. “The latter is often described as soulful, charming, and overflowing with hospitality, but I could provide concrete examples of them being hostile, inconsiderate, and preposterous.”
Throughout the piece, which was met with much fall out from study abroad students and administrators alike, Datskovska spoke about her classmates’ lack of “values” as they traveled to party destinations like Ibiza and Amsterdam.
“I watched as my study abroad classmates acted as if they could escape real-life obligations forever,” Datskovska wrote. “I wanted to confront my obligations head on.”
While many students travel on the weekends while studying abroad, the idea that these actions are consistent with a student’s lack of success or inability to have a career is not accurate.
According to statistics compiled by the University of California, Merced, “97% of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation, whereas only 49% of college graduates found employment in the same period.”
Additionally, “84% of study abroad alumni felt their study abroad helped them build valuable skills” when searching for a job and in terms of an academic career, “90% of study abroad alumni…got into their 1st or 2nd choice grad school.”
These numbers suggest that study abroad positively influences a student’s ability to succeed in the job market and beyond, and administrators of these abroad programs agree.
“This [experience] specifically is one that opens your mind and exposes you to different people, different cultures and habits,” said Simona diGiustino, Internship and Academic Coordinator for IES Abroad Rome, a study abroad program for students from all over the world. “It changes your life.”
“Study abroad changes your life forever in ways that you would not even imagine when you first get off the airplane,” Naike Valeriano, Customized and Extracurricular Activities Coordinator at IES Abroad Rome said.
Upon the publishing of Datskovska’s article, many students spoke out about the positives of the experience and how grateful they were to have the opportunity to go abroad.
“I think we are so privileged to be doing this,” Tatyana Masters said, a student with IES Abroad’s Rome program. “Getting to travel, meet new people, and discover the world beyond borders is something that has completely altered my perception of the world. I’ve gained independence, structure, and certainty about my future that I never had before.”
While these claims might be biased, the data is not. Students clearly value the experience, as 4.8 million students are currently studying outside of their home country. Additionally, 80% of study abroad students reported that their time abroad allowed them to better adapt to diverse work environments.
Overall, every experience differs in one’s time away from home. Being thousands of miles away from everyone and everything you know is a daunting task that requires a student to grow up quickly and make impactful decisions. This challenge can be met with excitement or a longing for the norm. While both are valid, taking that leap proves to be a worthwhile cause in the long run.
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My name is Tatyana Masters and I'm from Washington D.C. I can often be found with a book to read and camera on hand, looking for a new adventure or stranger to meet. I go to school in New York City, so in my free time, I like to ride the subway to different areas of the city and interview interesting people I meet for stories!