Weighing the benefits of studying abroad

By Ben Pattavina 

For 20-year-old Tarpley Herlihy, a marketing and finance double major at the University of Georgia, studying abroad in Cortona was a no-brainer.

“Ever since learning about the concept of studying abroad, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I love traveling and was very excited about the idea of traveling to a different country with other UGA students,” she said in an email interview.

Herlihy isn’t alone in thinking this way. In the 2018-19 academic year, 347,099 students in the United States participated in study abroad programs, according to data from Open Doors, a service of the Institute of International Education. This was the last set of academic year data before the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed travel.

Colleges offer several options for students to travel to many different countries. According to data from Open Doors, European countries dominated the rankings for the most popular destinations for studying abroad. Spain ranked first, with Italy, the United Kingdom, and France following suit. Australia rounded out the top five.

While Australia is a top five location, it holds the less glamorous title of being the most
expensive destination for studying abroad. The United Kingdom and France are the second and fourth most expensive options, Open Doors reported.

Students who aspire to study abroad can expect to shell out serious money. For example, according to travel site Go Overseas, the average cost of tuition for studying abroad in Spain through direct enrollment ranges from $1,500 to $5,500. Through a third party provider, the average tuition cost jumps to between $10,500 and $13,000. Students must also consider other factors that contribute to the overall cost, including travel expenses, meals and insurance plans.

But what are the benefits students get in return?

For Grace Hackett, an advertising major at the University of Georgia, her trip to the Cannes Film Festival opened her eyes to the beauty of people from diverse backgrounds coming together to celebrate creativity.

“Something was really amazing about looking around at people from all over the world, jaws dropped in unison at a powerful piece of creative work,” she said in an email interview. “I loved watching people come together who, outside of the advertising universe, have nothing in common.”

Research suggests a large majority of people who participate in study abroad programs are satisfied with their experience. A survey conducted by IES Abroad revealed that 76% of participants said that they acquired skill sets that influenced their careers. Meanwhile, 97% said that studying abroad helped to accelerate maturity.

Herlihy had only positive things to say about her experience.

“You will eat new foods, make new friends, create new memories, and experience new cultures. If study abroad is at all possible, take the opportunity and you will not regret it,” she said.

If studying abroad is something of interest, understanding your options for financing is important, said Dean Lyman, a certified financial planner and founder of Your Financial Planning.

“I would look for all the other options before you go to the loans, whether it be a grant or a scholarship or something associated with the program,” Lyman said.

“Colleges will almost always offer you some loan options, so of those I would recommend first the federal options. Those ones are obviously with the best interest rates, some of them are even subsidized, meaning you don’t have to pay that interest while you’re in school,” Lyman said.

Ben Pattavina is a journalism student at the University of Georgia



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