Take advantage of UH’s study abroad program

For many students, studying abroad seems benign or unnecessary. This idea could not be more inaccurate.

Multiple studies have found that studying abroad actually improves academic performance, increases graduation rates and enhances understanding of various cultural customs.

The Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative researched the outcomes of over 19,000 students studying abroad compared to a control group within their university system. Their research found that the four-year graduation rates increased by 7.5 percent for white students, 31 percent higher for African-American students and 18 percent higher for other nonwhite students who’d studied abroad in comparison to their peers in the control group.

The conventional wisdom that “more is better” has been upheld by almost every study abroad program.

Representatives Mary Dwyer and Courtney Peters from the Institute for the International Education of Students Abroad not only encourage simply learning abroad, but to take an extended stay of at least six weeks. They found that students who travel, and do so for a longer period of time, actually have been “enormously successful in producing important academic, inter- and intra-personal, career and intercultural development outcomes.”

There are an incredible amount of opportunities available through UH’s learning abroad programs that make studying internationally accessible and affordable. But despite the campus providing students with the opportunity to study abroad, only a select few students have taken this opportunity to improve their well-being both academically and personally.

UH offers learning over abroad programs to Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and Latin America, the Middle East and Oceania. Anticipating sophomore, Savannah Baker, is taking advantage of these programs and said she plans to study in Japan in Spring 2016.

Initially, Baker decided to study abroad because textbooks were an insufficient way to fully grasp all she wanted to learn from her courses. She said she “wanted to actually go see what she was studying about” to hopefully return “evolved and transformed.”

Baker said she hopes to acquire “broader horizons” and fulfill her dream of being bilingual in Japanese.

“Experiencing different cultures helps you grow as a human being,” Baker said.

An op-ed in the New York Times said that studying abroad “teaches students to appreciate difference and diversity firsthand,” and also allows them to distinguish and consequently dismiss stereotypes of never before encountered persons. Learning and interacting with foreign cultures “equips future leaders in all sectors to address urgent (and universal) issues.”

Studying abroad doesn’t just improve retention; it also fosters an appreciation for differentiating cultures. The programs also supply students with international tools for any potential occupation.

The world has grown so interconnected that there’s no reason to not give studying abroad a chance.

Opinion columnist Courtney Gigant is a business sophomore and may be reached at [email protected].

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