Study Abroad: The growing number of students departing for ‘the experience of a lifetime’

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September is a significant time of the year for European students, marking the beginning of the academic year. With this comes the departure of many Australian students on their journeys to study abroad.

The number of Australian students committing to semester and year-long programmes at overseas universities is growing, with the Australian Government Department of Education reporting that there has been an average increase of 17.8% in study abroad experiences since 2013.

Data found by the Department shows that just 29,487 students had studied overseas in 2013, compared to 49,263 students in 2017. This highlights the greater number of students taking up this opportunity in recent years.

The concept is becoming more attractive to students in Australia for a multitude of reasons. Travelling to a foreign place to meet students from around the globe is an exciting and valuable experience for students.

Francesca Colubriale works for the study abroad and student exchange team at The University of Sydney. She says that her experience abroad helped her to evolve professionally and socially.

“Making friends with people from the other side of the world is so valuable. It opens your mind and helps you to break stereotypes you might have from your home country.” Francesca says she returned to Australia after her programme with newfound confidence and social skills.

2008 advertisement in ‘The Guardian’, University of California Paper. The ad was printed in a small corner of one of the last pages of the paper.

Studying abroad makes students more attractive to employers. This is another reason more students are utilising this opportunity. Scholar Larisa Kruze, working for the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University, is the author of “The Impact of Study Abroad on Business Students’ Career Goals”. She writes that: “Employers regard study abroad favourably and believe study abroad experiences develop highly-desirable skills for career advancement.”

Students who study abroad have a broader perception of foreign cultures. This allows them to view things with a global perspective and makes them able to demonstrate cross-cultural competence. These are both very attractive qualities in the workforce.

Students are forced to deal with great difficulties when studying abroad surrounding issues of culture shock and foreign language barriers. Through dealing with these hardships and overcoming them, students adopt skills of persistence, independence and confidence. These are all valuable qualities when demonstrated to employers.

Growing funding options has also seen a surge in the number of students going overseas to study. The introduction of the New Colombo Plan in 2014 has had a major impact on the number of Australian students studying abroad in the Indo-Pacific region.

The New Colombo Plan is a signature initiative of the Australian government. It aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific region in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region.

Data found by the Department of Education shows the growing enthusiasm of Australian students to study in Asian countries. It shows that 12% of all study abroad experiences are in the 2014 New Colombo Plan pilot countries Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Hong Kong – and that China is the second-most popular destination overall.

Students travelling to destinations outside the Indo-Pacific region also receive funding to support trip expenses. Students studying in all countries are able to apply for scholarships.

The number of scholarships offered by Australian Universities for study abroad students is growing, to prompt more students to take up the opportunity. Travel grants from universities, as well as Commonwealth supported grants are also provided to enable students of all financial positions to make the most of the rewarding opportunity to study abroad.

While the number of Australian University students going overseas to study is steadily increasing, the number of overseas students coming to study in Australia is much greater. The Government Department of Education reports a total of 630,247 international students studying in Australia in 2019. This is almost four times the number of Australian students studying overseas in 2019, which is just 61,976.

Listed as number 3 out of the top five English teaching destinations in 2017, Australia experiences an influx of international students. This tremendously boosts the Australian economy, creating more than 240,000 jobs nationally. Data from the Department of Education shows that international education is worth $35.2 billion to the Australian economy, benefiting the country enormously.

The benefits Australia receives from international students are not only monetary. International students bring part of their home culture to Australia, making it a more culturally diverse country. This enables Australians to learn about foreign customs and traditions, which is fundamental to the way that they view different cultural practices.

 

Whether it be Australian students going overseas or international students in Australia, both cultural experiences allow students to broaden their perspectives through learning about foreign cultures. These experiences challenge students’ thinking patterns, helping them to break stereotypes and combat the negative stigma that sometimes paints foreign cultures as intrusive.

Studying abroad is essential to the awareness and open mindedness of our future generations. These students hold the power to highlight to the future generations of the world that we are all human and that we all share similarities, regardless of culture, language barriers, social status and class.

Studying abroad teaches students that when learning to appreciate cultural differences rather than causing them to separate us, we unite and become global citizens. This helps our youth to understand the beauty of cultural differences, and their importance in giving character to each part of the world.

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