When I moved to a rural village in Japan, I was not expecting for my patience, mental stamina, and faith to be tested!
I am often asked, “why should I study abroad?” and “why should I learn another language?” A simple Google search of these questions tells us studying abroad ‘enhances your marketability to employers’, ‘helps you to have a well-rounded skill set and experience base’, and so on. These points while 100% accurate no doubt, stated alone are like a parent saying “because I told you so” when asked by their child why they have to clean their room. They are simply not enough.
Frankly stated, WE can’t afford not to. Let me say that again. Today – in the realities of the 21st century, we cannot afford not to have global exposure, global relationships, or at the very least learned another language.
While the rest of your American peers are seizing opportunities, breaking bread in other countries, building lasting connections and making life-long memories, we as African Americans aren’t even showing up to the table. And what’s worse is most of us aren’t even aware there is a table to show up to. For instance in the 2011-2012 academic year, only about 5% of all study abroad students were African American, whereas about 77% were White, and 8% were Latino*.
On our campuses, we are in the same classes with a few people who will study abroad for a semester, we are roommates with someone who is studying another language, and one of our coworkers has sights set on an international opportunity. While they are changing the lens in which they view the world and running laps around us, we are stuck at the starting blocks reveling in the bliss that we at least “made it” to this point. So many of us are comfortable and content just being in college. So to that I say, congratulations…and…now what? You are in school (and so are over 20 million other Americans), and…? Just ‘making it’ is no longer enough. Why settle for just getting by?
How Study Abroad can Impact your Life
Further, what reports and analytics don’t tell you and what perhaps may be one of the most valuable byproducts of global exposure and immersion experience is – you will learn more about yourself than you EVER intended. I went abroad knowing what I thought I knew, and understanding that I had to have these experiences in order to be taken seriously and considered in the same sentence as my peers when I began my career. Little did I know, my worldview and philosophy of life would be refined, and every decision I made after that experience would be influenced by my time overseas.
Later in life, I have found myself reflecting on my first time abroad and it hit me: how could I really be sure I knew what I claimed to know if it wasn’t tested? How do you know what you are really made of unless it is called into question? How do you know what you have to offer or what you can accomplish if you don’t even try?
How to study abroad?
Be reminded that studying abroad is more important and attainable than you may think. You are at the ideal point in your life where you can chose the path that leads to your ideal tomorrow, so why not take the necessary steps, maximize your time now and secure your seat at the ‘table’? If you do, be assured you wont regret it. Not only will you have that seat at the table, but you’ll be a stronger and more secure you once you get there.
*According to the 2011 – 2012 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report.
J.Renay Loper is a global education professional writer and speaker based in New York City. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or send questions on studying abroad to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make sure Ms. Loper gets your questions.