Where Should I go? 10 benefits of studying abroad (+ 7 reasons for choosing Japan)
Want to see the world and boost your personal development while you are at it? Studying abroad in Japan could be the perfect experience to add to your college student resume. You might find the idea exciting but wonder whether you’ll actually benefit from it, or whether your academic record (and wallet) will suffer.
We believe that studying abroad, and particularly studying abroad in Japan can bring many personal benefits, academic benefits and career benefits. Read on to find out more.
1. Better grades
You might be concerned that studying abroad might affect your grades or even delay your graduation. You could assume taking on the additional challenge of uprooting yourself and living in a foreign country to study in a new environment would be a disadvantage. However, several studies have actually found the opposite effect. Studies such as the GLOSSARI project and the California Community College Student Outcomes Abroad Research found that students who study abroad are more likely to complete a degree and earn a higher GPA than comparable students who stayed put with the former finding a 0.18 point gain on GPA (when controlling for variables).
2. Learn a language and get smarter
Studies have shown that gaining proficiency in a foreign language literally makes you smarter. Not only does it broaden and improve your way of thinking, bilingualism has been shown to improve your cognitive abilities in other areas (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341987/).
And, as you would expect, studying abroad enables you to learn a second language much more effectively (https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1062114.pdf). But not only will you be more able to master the language than if you learned at home, you don’t need to center your degree around language study. Rather than making the foreign language your major, you can learn the language while gaining specific skills in business, science, art—or in whatever area you choose, making you much more marketable.
3. Challenge yourself
Living and studying in a foreign country will be a challenge. No arguments here. You will need to figure out the public transport, your way around campus, where to find your favorite foods and how to cook with local ingredients, the currency...and the list goes on! And you’ll need to do this without relying on your usual support network.
No, we aren’t trying to convince you to stay at home where you are safe and warm, but we are being real about the fact that you will be challenged and face difficult situations. So why do it?
Facing challenges and growing in self-sufficiency is an important aspect of growing up. And with each challenge you face and successfully navigate you will grow in confidence which fuels your ability to take on even greater challenges in the future. Employers value employees who face challenges head on and find solutions rather than giving up. Having a study abroad experience on your resume shows the world that you are a person worth reckoning with—the type of person that any employer worth their salt should want on their team.
4. Gain soft skills and improve your employability
It’s no longer sufficient to simply achieve a high GPA and expect that to be your golden ticket to real-world success. The global economy is always changing, different skills are demanded as prerequisites for success, and it has been shown time and time again that soft skills are key.
Soft skills can’t be taught in a classroom, but many, such as communication, problem solving, adaptability, and interpersonal skills can be practiced and proven when studying abroad. In fact, studies have shown that the skills typically gained while studying abroad makes you more attractive to employers. This article, for example, found that “all stakeholders identify clear connections between international experience and employability given outcomes associated with the forging of networks, opportunities for experiential learning, language acquisition and the development of soft skills related to cultural understandings, personal characteristics and ways of thinking.”
5. Improve global awareness
Living abroad will immediately help you improve your global awareness and understanding of how locals are influenced by global trends. These days, internationally-minded individuals are in strong demand and in fact many companies across all industries specifically look for employees with experience studying abroad. The value for employers is even greater if you are able to learn the language. And for those interested in international business, overseas experience is all but a necessity. Various studies have attested to the fact with one study concluding that “at the very least, all business graduates needed an appreciation for cross-cultural differences and a global perspective.” (Kedia Kedia B.L., Daniel, S.J. "U.S. Business Needs for Employees with International Expertise." In the Needs for Global Challenges Conference. Duke University, 2003, referenced in the above-linked 2014 study by the same authors).
6. See the world
Studying abroad provides an opportunity to see a new corner of the world up close and personal. You will go beyond the typical touristy spots and become akin to a local as you find your favorite restaurants and hidden escapes and attach memories to nondescript landmarks around your neighborhood. It also allows you the opportunity to travel to other countries in the vicinity.
7. Expand your worldview
All of us are shaped by our cultural values and beliefs and hold certain biases. It’s unavoidable. Each culture has its own way of working and life and each has certain strengths and weaknesses. Getting outside your own bubble and exposing yourself to other worldviews gives you a new perspective. You can then mould your worldview for the better as you adopt positive practices from others’ cultures and abandon negative aspects of your own.
Personally, I have discovered many wonderful customs which I’ve since adopted since living in Japan. One such practice is the giving and receiving of omiyage (souvenirs). Whenever someone goes on a trip, it is custom to bring back a souvenir for their work colleagues, classmates, and teachers such as a small food item that the region they visited is known for. It’s a lovely way to say “sorry for my absence” and also to share positive experiences with those around us.
8. Networking skills
In our highly-connected economy, networking skills are vital. An absence of networking skills can limit your career options and trajectory even if you have achieved academic excellence. On the contrary, having these skills (and practicing them early) can act as your secret weapon to launch your career forward.
Heading abroad for study is a fantastic way to practice those skills as you will be starting from basically zero. You will have no choice but to learn to connect with people from all walks of life, whereas remaining at home you are more likely to stay within your own circle. Not only that, but as an international student you will have access to various international and expat groups which will allow you to build contacts from all over the world, not just in your host country.
9. Make lifelong friends
As well as improving your networking skills, you will likely make deep connections and lifelong friendships. This is a precious gift, the value of which cannot be overstated.
You will bond with other international students as you go through the ups and downs of studying abroad and the excitement of experiencing a new culture together. You will also forge friendships with similarly internationally-minded locals who you can exchange cultural insights with and receive practical advice from.
10. Discover new interests
Creating a new friend circle and discovering a new culture will also allow you to discover new interests and passions that will add richness to your life. You might even find new career aspirations.
Bonus: 7 reasons for choosing Japan
1. Japan wants you!
Japan is already an attractive destination for international students with over 200,000 students studying abroad, so you can be assured you will be in good company.
And not only that, the environment for international students is set to improve. The government has set a goal of doubling the number of international students by 2023. Some initiatives they have put into place to achieve this are to increase the number of programmes in English, providing Japanese language learning support, help with finding jobs upon graduation, and shifting program start dates to september (rather than April as is the norm for schools in Japan).
2. Language is no barrier
There are many programs offered in English, and, as mentioned above, special assistance in learning Japanese. Contrary to common belief, Japanese is also not a difficult language to gain proficiency in and you should be able to nail the basics within a few months of study and practice.
You might be nervous about navigating life without the language at first, but Japan is very foreigner-friendly. Most people know at least a bit of English and there are many fluent English-speakers around. Service and retail staff often know English and many city offices provide mult-lingual information and even free translators (especially in Tokyo).
3. Japan’s power economy
Japan currently has the 3rd largest economy in the world and is a global leader in areas such as IT and business. It is home to many large-scale, global businesses, meaning it is full of opportunities for you to make your mark.
4. Standard of living
Japan’s standard of living is amongst the highest in the world. Despite it’s vast population, it is one of the safest countries in the world and the public transport system is top-notch and reliable.
Beyond that, there is something for everyone: from its diverse nature, amazing food (Tokyo restaurants account for more Michelin stars than those in Paris!), unparallelled gaming culture, rich music and art scene to the year-round cultural celebrations and summer festivals and unique mix of tradition and modern living you can basically have any experience you want.
5. High educational standards
Japan has a long-standing strategy of prioritizing education to achieve wealth for the country. And it shows. In the most recent PISA assessment conducted by the OECD Japan ranked 3rd in academic performance across reading, science and math. Japan has produced 25 Nobel Prize winners and has 2 universities ranked in the top 50 worldwide (13 in the top 100 for Asia) according to the World University Rankings.
6. The Job market
The job market in Japan is very good for university graduates. In particular, the demand for language-skilled international-oriented people is strong. If you want one, you should have no issue finding a high-paying job after studying abroad in Japan.
7. Low tuition fees (and scholarships!)
Despite all the amazing benefits discussed, studying abroad in Japan is relatively cheap. On average, a year’s tuition at a Japanese university is around $US6000. Additionally, it is relatively easy to find a student-friendly part-time job (and your student visa will allow you to work up to 28 hours per work).
There are also many scholarships offered by specific universities, foundations, companies and the government to assist international students in their academic pursuits which can provide a big financial cushion.
Studying abroad in Japan provides a huge number of significant benefits for college students who are willing to take on the challenge. A next step might be to take on an internship. Read Internships in Japan: What to expect and how to find one and explore LeaddMe Campus to discover some useful resources.