Myths and Benefits
Study Abroad Myths
|It will delay my graduation.||You can actually graduate faster when you plan ahead carefully. Did you know that you can satisfy the 9-credit Mason language requirement in a single summer session by enrolling in the French Language in Montreal?|
|It's not for my major.||Most majors allow study abroad. Some encourage it actively. If you cannot find a program in you major, consider taking a language class or participate in a program that fulfills the Mason Core Requirement.|
|It's too expensive.||Talk to your financial aid advisor about using your aid for a study abroad program. The Global Education Office (GEO) offers three distinctive scholarship awards, ranging from $250 to $1,000. Many NGOs, cultural organizations, foundations, and, of course, the U.S. government offer scholarships to help college students, graduate students, and researchers to fund their international experience. Learn more at Cost and Funding.|
|It's too long.||Study abroad is not necessarily a semester or entire year spent in another part of the world. Almost all winter break programs leave the U.S. for a mere two weeks and many summer programs operate in a four to eight week window.|
|It's just tourism.||It is often claimed that study abroad is more or less a vacation in disguise. However, almost all programs (cultural tours are an exceptions) are for credit and the academic demands can be quite rigorous.|
Benefits of Study Abroad
Study Abroad is a great resume-builder. It sets you apart from the regular crowd of job seekers, who have not participated in an international experience. You can enhance your Mason experience and benefit from studying abroad in various ways:
- Gain proficiency in a foreign language
- Adapt to new situations and apply them to "old" habits
- Develop an understanding for different cultures
- Learn how to manage ambiguity
- Become more self-confident as you grow personnally - and professionally
Entering a new environment and settling in can be both exciting and terrifying. As you adjust to a new, and often strange and unknown, setting, you gradually adjust: You learn to adapt. You may not be able to rely on irrefutable facts and longer. Punctuality is relative, for example. In some countries, you may be required to show up exactly on time, whereas in other places you may be expected to arrive 15 minutes or even 45 minutes later.
You learn to handle life in a new place – and, upon returning home, you will will find yourself in yet another place. Take Miyuki, a student from Northern Japan, who once spent an entire year at a school in Michigan. When she returned to her community, she realized that she had become more American than Japanese; her casual, jovial laughter and posture quickly become a trademark. Suddenly, she was known as the American at home.
Studying abroad involves a tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. You will be living in a country with different values and where people do things differently, sometimes even speaking another language. Especially at the beginning of your time abroad, you will be confused and even frustrated by situations and reactions from people that don't make sense to you. You will be uncertain of how to act and what to say. This is normal, and it is important to understand that it is even valuable. It indicates that you are undergoing a change, one that will open your eyes to the world and transform you into many ways.
Leave your Comfort Zone
Leaving your comfort zone is the first step in personal growth. Think about it: You have lived in the same culture most of your life. You know your friends, the bars and restaurants you often visit, the fresh smell of your clothes when you pick them up at the dry cleaner’s. You know how much money you spend on breakfast, dinner, or housing. You know your community. You know your comfort zone.
Stepping outside of this comfort zone forces you to reevaluate almost everything. Whatever you took for granted – “I have to tip when I go to a restaurant”; “I can drink tap water”; “my first name goes first and my last name goes last” – is no longer a given. You’ve stepped into a new world.
What is Tolerance of Ambiguity?
Individuals who are intolerant of ambiguity are described as “disinclined to think in terms of probability” (Frenkel-Brunswik, 1948, p 268) and have been found to solve problems without adequate information (Millon, 1957). Ambiguity tolerance may be… the “willingness to accept a state of affairs capable of alternate interpretations, or of alternate outcomes,” (English & English 1958). In other words, ambiguity tolerance may be a critical link in operationalizing a measurable and understandable personality trait which is central to creative thinking.
Source: Tolerating Ambiguity
You develop a sense of connectedness. Accepting and taking new viewpoints imbues your understanding with diversity you would never otherwise access, surrounded by people whose background you share. You may be called upon to stand for your country or question how your country is represented abroad.
This might be the most valuable aspect of studying abroad: you learn how to deal with situations that differ greatly from your own community. You have to adapt. You have to connect to another culture, to differern people you met. You encounter conflict, ambiguity, but also humanity. Your values may have been questioned and challenged, but you emerge from it having grown stronger and more confident than before. You gain an entire world of experience.
Being able to adapt to a new place, connect with different cultures, and grow both personally and professionally will eventually equip you with the tools to boost your changes in the ever competitive job market.
- Increased Hireability: Develop valuable job skills, such as language proficiency, cultural understanding, tolerance for ambiguity, adaptability, self-confidence
- Secured job more quickly after graduation: Nearly two-thirds of IES Abroad alumni secured their first job within two months of graduation
- Higher starting salaries: Study Abroad alumni earn an average of $6,000 more in starting salaries