Can studying abroad change people?

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More and more students are studying abroad all over the world: there were 0.8 million international students worldwide in 1975, 4.1 million in 2010, and this number is increasingbyabout 12% everyyear. What can encourage young people to go and study abroad? What is the impact of such an experience?

I Students’ expectations

1 What could deter students from studying abroad


to deter sb from (+ V-ing):

dissuader qqn de

to weigh the pros and cons:

peser le pour et le contre

customs: les coutumes

a résumé: un curriculum vitae

to be willing to: être désireux de

When young people weigh the pros and cons of studying abroad, they usually worry about the obstacles they will have to overcome in a place they don’t know much about. They are apprehensive of leaving the comfort of their home to step into an unknown and unfamiliar environment.

They fear they might experience culture shock, have problems understanding a different language or adapting to new customs, and most of all miss their home, family and friends.

2 Why students choose to study abroad

But when they finally make the decision to go and study abroad, they understand this will be a great educational opportunity. They want to learn a foreign language or improve their proficiency in it and study in a better university or in different conditions abroad. They also want to learn about the country they have decided to go to, about its people, its culture and lifestyle.

They expect to come back home a semester or a year later having learnt something that will improve both their knowledge and their résumé. They know that this experience abroad will be noticed and valued by future employers and will make a difference for them in the future.

Madeleine Monaghan, the director of the English language Institute at the Sacred Heart University (Connecticut, USA) says that when people decide to go and study abroad, they also show that they are “willing to take a challenge” and be brave. That is why she asserts that “it’s quite an admirable event in one’s life to study abroad”.

Listen to Madeleine Monaghan:

II A life-changing experience

Most of the articles, blogs, posts about studying abroad experiences highlight these positive aspects but what they mainly deal with is the major unexpected benefits of this enriching experience.

1 Studying abroad changes people


a skill:une compétence

beyond: au-delà

taken for granted: considéré comme acquis

Indeed, exchange students don’t just learn new things or get new skills, they also and mostly change at a personal level. They become more independent, more confident, stronger and able to take their life into their own hands.

Besides, by experiencing new cultures and meeting new people, they go beyond stereotypes and prejudices, learn to see things differently, question their own taken for granted beliefs and learn to think “outside the box”. Studying abroad doesn’t only break down educational barriers: it also breaks all sorts of cultural barriers. Exchange students thus change into more open-minded, more mature, richer and better people.

2 …and makes them learn who they are.

The experience may give them two homes but it doesn’t make them feel they should choose between two different directions. Instead, it makes them appreciate their native country while seeing it in a new light. This gives them a new perspective on both cultures, but also on what they find valuable in life.

Most people who have studied abroad say they have learnt how to rebuild their life the way they want it. Instead of getting lost in an unknown country, they have eventually found out more about themselves: they have understood who they really are…


More on this topic


Erasmus (EuRopean Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) or, more recently, Erasmus + is a European programme for EU students who want to go and study in other European universities. By the years 2021-2027, it will give more than 12 million people the opportunity to go and study abroad.

Read more:

Max, an American student in his 20s who studied in Europe, explains how his experience has turned him into someone richer, stronger and more complex. He says nothing can stop him now…

Watch the video: