K. Paige Reuter is a proud graduate of Duke and Georgetown Universities, has an MA in International Security, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Jordan. She is a Mary Kay Consultant, runs a nonprofit for Christian missions called Abandon Ministries, heads the DMV Female Entrepreneur Network, and plays violin and does freelance writing on the side. She currently lives and works in the Washington, DC area with her cat, Nina.
At some point in their college careers, a lot of women find themselves pondering the following question: Should I take a summer, semester, or year, and study abroad?
The answer is easy enough for those studying a language, international politics, or a related field. But what about those in business? Engineering? Dance? Is studying abroad still relevant to them?
I may be biased–I have an insatiable passion for traveling–but I cannot stop thinking about the many and various ways that study abroad is not only an amazing experience, but an investment in one’s future. Allow me to extrapolate:
If you’re in college, I’m assuming you want a career. I’m assuming you don’t really want to work at a convenience store once you graduate.
These days there’s significant education inflation across the U.S. What’s to separate you from the droves of other students with 2- and 4-year degrees?
Your study abroad experience can do that for you nicely.
When you study abroad–be it in England, Australia, Guatemala, Morocco, or China, what you gain is exposure. You gain an experience with a place dramatically different than anything you’ve previously known. Even if it’s not your first travel experience, it puts you up close and personal with an all-too-obvious other. First you question why “they” do what they do. After a while, you start to question why “we” do what we do. You learn a lot about yourself–how you hold up under stress, how you deal with unfamiliar environments, and often you pick up indispensable foreign language skills as well (that can be used as handy party tricks if nothing else).
Additionally, though maybe you don’t realize it quite yet, your experience will help you greatly when you’re networking for that golden job opportunity in years to come. People will talk to you who otherwise wouldn’t. “Oh, you’re from Zambia? I was in Zambia in 2015 doing study abroad. We developed a water treatment plan for a rural village.” “Oh really–you’ve been to Zambia? How fascinating! We should do lunch sometime! I want to hear all about the project you worked on!” BAM, new connection. Maybe career advice. Maybe new job.
Don’t underestimate the street cred study abroad can bring you. This is one experience you DEFINITELY don’t want to miss out on.