Is Studying Abroad Worth It?

By Marcy Lovitch · March 11, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Is Studying Abroad Worth It?

The chance to study abroad offers unique opportunities and experiences you simply can’t get at home. Taking some time to attend a college or university in another country can be personally and professionally enriching, and even life-changing. These factors can make studying abroad absolutely worth it.

But going to school in a foreign country isn’t for everyone. Being away from home and loved ones can lead to homesickness and the feeling you’re missing out (FOMO) on important family or college events back on your home turf. Depending on where you study, there could be a language barrier that can be frustrating and the cost could be higher than staying at your home university.

If you’re thinking of attending school in another country, there are numerous factors to consider. Read on to learn about how studying abroad works, its benefits and costs, and how to decide whether or not it’s worth it.

What Does It Mean to Study Abroad?

College study abroad programs allow a student to pursue undergraduate or graduate study in another country. Each year, more than 300,000 American students study, engage in internships, or volunteer abroad for academic credits, according to the U.S. Department of State. Study abroad college programs typically last one semester or a full year, but can be as short as a couple of weeks.

You may be able to study abroad through your home university’s study abroad program. This is often the most straightforward route, since it will be easy to earn credits that will directly apply to your degree requirements.

However, there are other ways you can spend a semester or year attending college in a foreign country. One is by directly enrolling at a foreign university where you may be able to use those course credits towards your degree at your home college or university. Another option is to go through a third-party study abroad provider such as Academic Programs International (API), the Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE), or the American Institute for Foreign Study.

💡 Quick Tip: You can fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Why Study Abroad Is Worth It

Going to school in another part of the world can be an incredible opportunity. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of studying abroad.

It Can Change the Way You See the World

Studying in another country allows you to become a more well-rounded and worldly individual. Immersing yourself in a different culture, set of customs, and traditions can broaden your horizons and expand your worldview. Meeting and interacting with an international mix of people can help you gain other perspectives and a deeper understanding of global issues. It also helps foster tolerance, empathy, and more open-mindedness.

Learn a Foreign Language

There’s only so much of a second language you can learn in a classroom. A great way to gain fluency in a foreign language is by living in that country and conversing with the locals. Even if your abroad program offers classes in English, living in a foreign country can help you become proficient or fluent in another language. This, in turn, can expand your employment possibilities and attractiveness to employers, and might allow you to work abroad after college.

Broaden Your Social Network

Even if you participate in a study abroad program run by your home university, you’ll have an opportunity to meet new people — both from the U.S. and abroad. The connections you make can turn into life-long friendships and provide social contacts who may be helpful for networking after graduation.

Increase Your Self-Confidence

Living on your own in a foreign country, where you don’t have a built-in safety net, can foster more independence and self-reliance. Navigating everyday life somewhere unfamiliar gets you out of your comfort zone and you’ll most likely have to learn to problem-solve and make decisions on your own. Choosing to study abroad can result in more self-confidence than if you had stayed at your home school all four years.

Recommended: Using Student Loans for Living Expenses and Housing

Costs Could Be The Same Or Lower

Depending on the type of program and location you choose, the cost of study abroad could be comparable to your home university. If you choose your school’s study abroad program, the tuition may be the same as if you stayed stateside. If the cost of living is lower (or the exchange rate is favorable to the U.S.dollar) where you travel to, you could potentially end up spending less.

Generally, directly enrolling in a foreign institution is cheaper than study abroad programs run by American universities or third-party providers. In many cases, you can also use your financial aid package to study abroad.

When Study Abroad Isn’t Worth It

While studying abroad offers numerous perks, there are also some drawbacks. When mulling over whether or not you should study abroad, here’s some potential cons to keep in mind.

Risk of Homesickness

Living and studying in another part of the world can result in feeling intensely homesick. Even though you might have new friends and be surrounded by others, being far from your loved ones and long-time friends may cause you to feel lonely and depressed. If you’re especially close to your family, you may experience FOMO because you’re not able to get home for events, like birthdays, weddings, or family gatherings that occur while you’re abroad.

Recommended: A Guide to Making Friends in College

Language and Culture Barriers

In a foreign country, everything will likely be different — the food, the language, the architecture. Even the local customs and social norms may be different. While this can be a positive (and a reason to go), you might find it hard to acclimate and constantly feel like a stranger in a strange land.

Costs May Be High

While studying abroad may seem like a priceless opportunity, it can come with a hefty price tag. Semester abroad programs through a third-party provider can run between $15,000 and $22,000 depending on location. These programs usually include housing and sometimes meals.

Aside from tuition, you will need to budget for other expenses like housing (if it’s not included), meals, airfare, transportation, entertainment, and books and supplies.

If your financial aid package, including federal student loans, isn’t enough to cover the tab, some private student loans can help fill in funding gaps. However, private loans don’t offer the same borrower protections (like income-driven repayment plans) as their federal counterparts.

💡 Quick Tip: Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too.

International Credits May Not Transfer

If you go on a study abroad program run by your college or a major third-party provider, you likely won’t have any issues transferring credits, but this could be a problem if you enroll directly in a foreign university. Non-transferring credits could make it harder to graduate on time.

What to Know About Academics When Studying Abroad

Academically, studying alongside international students can offer a more diverse educational experience by exposing you to new insights, viewpoints, and ideas.

Studying abroad also gives you the opportunity to learn from professors who may use different teaching methods than American professors, such as greater use of group discussions or project-based learning. Plus, you may have the chance to take field trips to historical sights and museums as part of the curriculum.

Studying abroad also comes with some academic limitations. All majors may not be available as part of a study abroad program, even if your home school has an affiliation with a foreign university. For some students (particularly those with STEM majors), studying abroad could make it harder to complete all of their degree requirements within four years, leading to higher education costs.

The Takeaway

There’s a lot to take into consideration when thinking about whether or not you should study abroad, including cost, whether or not course credits are transferable, and how it will feel to be far from home for an extended period of time.

For many students, studying abroad is definitely worth it. Plus, there are scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options available to help offset the expenses. Ultimately, whether study abroad is worth the cost depends on your individual circumstances, goals, and priorities.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Is it a good idea to study abroad?

Studying abroad can be a fantastic opportunity for personal, academic, and professional growth. It allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture, gain a broader perspective, and develop valuable skills, such as independence and adaptability. It can also enhance your resume, making you more competitive in the job market.

However, it’s important to consider language barriers, cultural differences, and potential homesickness. Overall, if you’re open to new experiences and willing to step out of your comfort zone, studying abroad can be a life-changing experience.

Is study abroad worth the cost?

While studying abroad can increase the cost of your college education, many students find the experience to be invaluable. The benefits of studying abroad, such as personal growth, cultural immersion, and enhanced academic and career opportunities, often outweigh the financial costs. Plus, there are scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options available to help offset the expenses.

Ultimately, whether study abroad is worth the cost depends on your individual circumstances, goals, and priorities.

What are the pros and cons of studying abroad?

Studying abroad offers numerous advantages, such as experiencing a new culture, gaining independence, expanding your network, and improving language skills. It can also enhance your academic and career prospects, as employers often value the skills and experiences gained from studying abroad.

But there are challenges as well, including language barriers, cultural differences, homesickness, and the financial cost. It’s essential to weigh these pros and cons carefully and consider how studying abroad aligns with your personal and academic goals.

Photo credit: iStock/AlexSecret

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