Expanding Horizons: Why Study Abroad?

Today, our world is one of constant and ever-accelerating change. With this increased change comes a greater interconnectivity. Never before in human history have the borders between nations and cultures seemed so easily broken down.

As the social climate continues to evolve towards greater integration and globalisation, there are even greater demands on higher education institutions around the world. Today’s universities and colleges are being tasked by employers with producing not just well-rounded, work ready individuals, but global citizens. Citizens who are able to move beyond the comfort zone of their own home country and embrace an international outlook.

For an economic powerhouse like China, this has led to a massive increase in the number of citizens choosing to study abroad.

Whilst Chinese domestic universities and colleges frequently score highly on the world rankings, they haven’t quite yet earned the international fame and reputation that the Likes of Harvard, MIT and Stanford enjoy in the US, nor the prestige that comes with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK.

For the greatest chance to secure the best positions, with the highest profile employers, both at home and abroad, Chinese students continue to look west to the US and the UK to give them the edge on the domestic talent pool.

Of course, it is not only about the end results. Besides benefiting your future career prospects, studying in the US or UK affords those fortunate enough to do so a variety of other benefits too.

For example, let us look at the method of instruction.

In most traditional universities in China, teachers and lecturers tend to subscribe to a more traditional, Confucian teaching methodology. Following this teaching pattern, most learning is done via a lecture format. Students listen, they observe, they make notes. Very little time is given to discussion or debate. The teacher, or lecturer’s learning outcomes are presented as “matter of fact” and students are not encouraged to question or seek clarification directly from their teacher.

In the UK and US, asking questions and debating outcomes is seen as a vital element of “Enquiry Skills” which in many disciplines are given an equal weighting to “knowledge and understanding” when it comes to final assessment.

More importantly, these skills also foster a greater sense of self-awareness and independent thinking in students which will serve them well in their future careers, especially if they wish to embark on any kind of entrepreneurial or creative enterprise in the future.

On the subject of independence, this is of course another great reason to study abroad. Living independently, in a new place, surrounded by new people and without the safety net of friends and family close at hand can be one of the most empowering experiences of your life.

As someone who has lived outside of his country of origin for the past 10 years, I can say without any doubt that moving to Asia, to seek my own independence was one of the best decisions I ever made. It made me confident, determined and it enlightened and empowered me in more ways than I could ever express in simple words.

Simple things, like learning to communicate in a foreign language, getting to grips with a radically different culture, with differing societal norms and expectations, will give you an exhilarating rush like no other.

There is also the chance to rub shoulders and exchange ideas with the future leaders of the world.

Take for example, the current government of the UK. More than 60% of the current front bench cabinet attended the same finishing school, Eton. Likewise, almost all of them went on to study at Oxford. The networks they built up during those formative years have carried them all right through to the very highest levels of UK society.

Likewise in the US, you will find that the likes of Harvard, MIT, and Stanford also boast a great number of high ranking members of present and former US governments amongst their illustrious alumni.

Whether you think it is fair or not, the fact of the matter is that in today’s world, those who study at the top schools have the best chance of landing the highest profile jobs later in life.

Even if you decide not to follow on into a multi-national firm after you graduate, should you decide to go with a domestic company or even strike out on your own, the friends, contacts and social network you will build at these elite schools and colleges will serve you well throughout your working life.

At a simpler and more base level, studying in the UK or US will greatly enhance your English skills. Communicating every day, in English, at an academic level for the duration of a 4 year degree will, hopefully leave you with a near-native level of speaking, reading and writing ability. You will also develop a better sense of correct usage and appropriacy, which can come only with consistent, native level interactions on a daily basis.

So in short summary, studying abroad will benefit your personal development, your language abilities, your self-confidence, your communicative and interpersonal skills, and most of all, your future career prospects.

At AF we offer a complete one-stop service to help you make the best choice of where to go for your study abroad program. Come see us today for a consultation and take that all important first step towards realising your full potential.

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