Let’s face it, college is expensive. Everyday students are making decisions on whether to go to college and take on huge loads of debt, or skip college altogether. Some fall in the middle, where they decide to go to community college for a couple of years to keep costs low, and then transfer to a four year college or university.

But there is another option out there that many students overlook: studying abroad. Now studying abroad is nothing new. For decades college students have taken the opportunity to study for a semester overseas. Not only do you learn from a different school, you learn an entirely new culture (and language in some cases) as well. But what are the advantages and disadvantages to studying abroad? Below are some things to consider.

study abroad

Advantages of Studying Abroad

Growth: I touched on this one already, but it bears repeating. You grow personally as you immerse yourself in a new culture. Here in America, we have it good. The options for even basic things like cereal are almost endless. But in other countries this isn’t the case.

For example, my wife studied in Ireland. In the US, walk down the cereal aisle at the grocery store and you have what, 250 choices? Over there, not so much. You essentially have 3 choices: Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes. This was a wake up call for her!

As you live in another culture you grow personally because of the new environment that surrounds you every day.

Cost of Education: While many countries offer free education to students, it’s only to students from that country. So if you decide to attend as a foreigner, you will have to pay. The good news is that it can be less costly. Most European schools allow for you to graduate in 3 years instead of 4. There are some schools in Germany where you can go to class for free ñ even if you are a foreigner.

Cost of Living: If you are considering attending school in high cost of living area here in the US, you might be better off going overseas where the cost of living is cheaper. Just be sure to do your homework first as many European cities have a high cost of living.

Job Prospects: There are many employers that look highly to someone who studies abroad. Of course, you have to give them a valid reason as to why you went overseas in the first place. That reason shouldn’t be that the legal drinking age is 18. Tell them the truth and odds are they will be impressed.

Disadvantages of Studying Abroad

What about the disadvantages to studying abroad?

Cost of Travel: The cost of travel can add up very quickly when you study overseas. You will most likely need to limit the number of trips back and forth as much as you can, since the cost of airfare can quickly become prohibitive. It might make sense to just come home for Christmas and summer break.

Accreditation: You want to make sure the college you are considering is accredited. While most are, the last thing you want is to study overseas and earn a degree that holds no value here in the US.

Cost of Living: This can also be a disadvantage as well, depending on where you decide to live. Even some small towns can be costly in some countries, so again, I urge you to do your homework on the potential for this being your largest expense.

Taxing: No, I’m not talking about taxes here, but the toll living overseas can take on you. For example, let’s say you decide to study in Spain. While you are trying to complete your studies, even simple takes like going into the city or grocery shopping can be tough due to the language barrier.

We don’t put much thought into walking down to the corner store and picking up a few things. But when the language is different and the currency is different, it can take its toll.

For example, when I visited Ireland recently, I was amazed how many coins I kept getting back as change. I then realized that their $1 and $2 are coins, not bills. I had to make the adjustment to look through my change to see if I had enough money to pay for things this way as opposed to always just giving the cashier a $10 bill.

Additionally, you will be far away from friends and family for months at a time. While you can Skype or Facetime with them, if there is a medical emergency, the last minute flight home could be too much.

Final Thoughts

In the end, studying overseas is a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is why so many college students have done so for a semester at a time. If you think studying abroad for all four years is something you would be interested in, be sure to weigh out the advantages and disadvantages before jumping to an answer. There are many more factors to consider than just the school and the cost of tuition.