The Psychology of Studying Abroad

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This post is not for the people who have already decided to study abroad, this is for those of you who are thinking about going, but just can’t seem to justify the cost.

I’m not going to lie, studying abroad will be more expensive than a normal semester. If you decide to go for the summer it will also put a dent in your pocketbook; you won’t be working and you’re going to be traveling (double whammy).

We’ve gone over the expenses of studying abroad, but how in your right mind can you justify the costs? You’re already in debt and now you’ve got this maniac telling you to go a little deeper.

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If you’re going to ask me how can I justify the cost of studying abroad, I am going to ask you how can you justify the cost of college? The point I am trying to make is that you’re already here, why not go a little further. In my opinion, its a drop in the bucket long term.

The Med School Examples

I have two friends who are now doctors. They both finished their undergrad at Michigan, took the MCATs, and neither of them got into medical school. Did they give up their dreams of becoming doctors? No! One spent half a year volunteering in South Africa and one spent a year as an EMT on the southside of Chicago.

If you have ever tried to volunteer for something you usually have to pay to do it. I’m not talking about a few hours at your local soup kitchen, I am talking 3rd world country stuff. There are three major costs: your flight, room & board, and your time.

Just like studying abroad there are services and programs that handle this kind of thing.

Back on point; my friend needed a major credential boost on his resume in order to compete, so he spent half a year of his life in Africa.

The other Wolverine who spent a year as an EMT made huge investments as well (mainly time and safety)

If you’re not aware, EMTs don’t make much. So living in Chicago with his entry level salary did not stretch too far. The result? They both got into really good med schools and now live in vibrant cities doing what they always wanted to do.

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Change Your Psychology

For years studying abroad has been viewed on campuses as an activity for the wealthy kids to get cultured. This is simply not the case anymore.

Medical school is extremely competitive. To even get in the ballpark you have to have a good undergraduate GPA at a decent school, and do well on the MCATs. But as we now know, sometimes even that isn’t enough.

If these two guys drastically altered their lives to get where they wanted to be, why wouldn’t you do the same using a semester abroad to bulletproof your resume?

You need to stop thinking about it as a frivolous semester to do some traveling, and start thinking about it as a way to be a competitive candidate in whatever job you want to get upon graduating. The adventures, memories, and friends just happen to be a big bonus.

Do The Math

From the graphic above we know that:

  • 70% of college students graduate with debt
  • They owe $29,000/each
  • Which equals $300/month over 10 years

Let’s assume the average debt is $36,000 because you studied abroad. Ok, fine. But study abroad students earn more on average than non-study abroad students…

A British study found their study abroad graduates out-earned their peers by 17%. This equates to approx. $7,000 annually for U.S. students and £3,120 for UK students. Maintaining this earning advantage translates to earning an extra $567,500 over one’s career in the United States. — purdue.edu

The question isn’t how can you afford to study abroad, but how can you afford not to?

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