Studying Abroad Improves Critical Thinking, Increases Creativity


There is such a romantic notion of studying abroad – going to another country, experiencing new sites and sounds, meeting new people from different cultures, and just broadening your horizons. Now a recent study has uncovered that international study contributes to one’s skill development as well as overall personal and professional growth.

A recent study by Duke University uncovered that those students who study in countries other than their own – interacting with others from different nations – experience positive impacts on global perceptions about the world as well as improvement in a variety of skills. Students involved in this study revealed that building relationships with others from different backgrounds came easier, their independent learning skills greatly improved, an increase in creativity as related to problem solving occurred, technical (computer) skills were enhanced, and each gained an increased understanding of the role of science and technology in society. Moreover, students learned another language and improved both their critical thinking and analytical skills.

More Students Studying Internationally

According to Project Atlas, a group of national agencies, country representatives, and others that collect and analyze data on student mobility worldwide, it is estimated that 4.1 million students are studying abroad. According to the Institute for International Education, over 273,000 U.S. students studied abroad in the 2010/11 academic year with over 760,000 students coming to the U.S. to study in 2011/12. Over the past year, the number of students attending school in the United States has increased by 5% with most students coming from China. The trend for studying abroad is expected to increase in the coming years as globalization continues to expand.

Yet studying abroad should not be entered into lightly. Rules, regulations, entrance requirements, and a plethora of other items vary from country-to-country and from university-to-university. As Kingsbury explains, each of the top five countries where U.S. students go to study vary in terms of offerings and requirements. For example, studying in the U.K. costs about the same as it does in the U.S. however it is more difficult to change your major. Students are drawn to Canadian universities not only due to its close proximity and equivalent cost, but also because of strong programs in math, science, and engineering. Although German universities charge no tuition, one needs to be proficient in the German language. Engineering, the natural sciences, and business are highly rated programs offered by German higher education institutions. France also has relatively low cost tuition – under $650 for public universities – however, you need a minimum of 2 AP (Advanced Placement) courses (including one in French) or one year in college plus passing the French proficiency exam. Room and board can also be quite costly. Australia, another top destination country for study abroad, has similar tuition costs to those of the U.S., offers strong science programs, as well as provides generous scholarships.

Research Your Options

There are several credible sources where you can obtain accurate, reliable information about studying in other countries. EducationUSA, a U.S. Department of State supported network of advising centers located throughout the world, provides current information for students on studying abroad in 170 countries. This resource guides you through the 5 Steps to Study including 1.) researching options, 2.) completing your application, 3.) financing your studies, 4.) applying for a student visa, and 5.) preparing for your departure. In addition, the United States and the United Kingdom have established a global university partnership. Known as the ‘UK-US Global Innovation Initiative’, 40 trilateral partnerships will be developed with 120 universities worldwide over the coming year. The focus of the Initiative is on science, technology, and engineering specifically in the areas of climate change and sustainable development. International internships and other ways for students and faculty to collaborate are being developed.

Go For It!

Studying abroad is an exhilarating, exciting experience. You will grow a lot both personally and professionally. You will develop lifelong friendships and build important networks that will help guide you through your career and through life. The best advice is to research all of your options, obtain as much information as possible before deciding where to study, talk to those who have gone before you to obtain the plusses and minuses of their experiences, and really think about what you expect to gain by studying in a different culture. Once you have decided on a location and institution, work with experienced educators and agencies to make sure that your educational experience is as easy and carefree as possible, so that you may absorb everything you do to its fullest extent.

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